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Dryers rely on heated air to dry off wet clothing. The heated air comes through a rotating vent. The air causes the moisture to evaporate, where it is then picked up, and with the aid of a fan, pushed out of the dryer. The warm air is then deposited outside of your house. In recent years, companies have experimented with ventless dryers, but these dryers take twice as long and are much more expensive compared to vented dryers.
While dryers have a lint filter, it is impossible to catch all of the lint during the drying process. This excess lint spreads through your ductwork and gathers in your dryer vent. In small amounts, this is not an issue, but as lint continues to build up, your dryer vent becomes dirtier. Failure to keep your dryer vent clean can not only cause your dryer to stop working, but it can lead to house fires when the heated air hits the lint blockage.
Warning Signs your Dryer Vent is Dirty
The general rule of thumb is to clean out your dryer vent once a year. There are several warning signs which indicate your dryer needs to be cleaned more frequently. The first warning sign is your clothing takes longer to dry, or does not dry fully at the end of the cycle. This can be caused by other issues with your dryer as well. Even if it is not related to your vents, you should have a professional check your dryer.
Another issue with dirty dryer vents is your clothing ends up hotter at the end of a drying cycle. This is because your vent is trying to compensate for the lint blockage by producing more hot air. A portion of the air is blocked by a clog, while the excess air heats your clothing to hotter temperatures. This can also cause the outside of your dryer to get hot as well. The humidity in your laundry room may also increase as a result of your vent becoming clogged.
A bigger warning sign is if your laundry room has a burnt smell after the drying cycle. This is caused by lint particles igniting from the hot air. If the lint continues to clog up your vent, this can lead to your dryer catching on fire. You can also check the outside exhaust of the vent for signs of a clog. If the flapper is unable to open, it may be because the vent is dirty.
Cleaning your Dryer Vent
Cleaning a dryer vent may seem easy, but it requires specialized tools. While there are many guides to clean your dryer vent on your own, dryer experts strongly recommend hiring a professional HVAC technician. There are several reasons you want to hire a professional instead of cleaning your vents on your own.
The first is it is hard to tell when your vents are actually clean. With larger lint buildups, you can see where the vent is being clogged. It is easy to disrupt these clumps, but getting rid of the blockage does not thoroughly clean your dryer vent. Lint particles are small and difficult to see. Depending on your vent, there may also be tiny ridges where lint particles can gather.
Another issue is cleaning a vent requires specialized tools. If you are using common cleaning tools, such as basic brushes or a vacuum, you are not going to get all of the lint. In some situations, you may even be making the dryer dirtier by scattering the lint particles throughout the vent. Lint particles are dangerous whether or not they are clumped up. Spreading out the lint by improperly cleaning can increase the chance of dryer issues. Professional HVAC technicians use specialized brushes and other tools to thoroughly clean out lint without letting it scatter in your vent.
A common tool HVAC technicians use to clean dryer vents is a compressed air system. They can snake a tube throughout your vent, using the air to push or pull lint particles. While these products are available for purchase, they are significantly expensive and still require experience to properly use. Another benefit of having an HVAC technician present is they can thoroughly examine your dryer and spot other issues outside of a dirty vent.
The cost varies depending on where you live and what company you choose, but on average, it only costs between $100 to $200 to clean your vents. In comparison, the damage caused by a dirty vent can cause electrical shortages or overheat your home, which drastically increases your energy bill and cause several hundred dollars in damage. In worst case scenarios, fire and smoke damage from a dirty vent costs thousands of dollars to repair.
Keeping your Dryer Vent Clean
There are several steps you can take to prevent lint buildup in your dryer vent. Even if you follow these steps, it is still important to schedule regular cleanings. First, make sure you clean off your lint screen every time before you use your dryer. Consider hanging up bulkier items to dry, such as bed sheets or pillows, since these items take significantly longer to dry, increasing the dryer cycle. Avoid using too many dryer sheets each cycle, as these cause chemicals to build up and disrupt the moisture sensor on your dryer, causing the vent to produce more hot air. There are some specials starting at only $20 per dryer vent.
Professional HVAC Services
There is a mix of both large and small HVAC businesses in every state. Websites like Homeadvisor and Angie’s List are excellent sources to find local technicians. These services may cost less than larger HVAC companies, but larger companies typically have a better reputation and access to better supplies. Before hiring a smaller company, look for reviews to get an idea of the overall quality of the company. The average costs of dryer vent cleaning services are $39.99 - $150.
You can also check whether the company is certified. The largest HVAC certification is North American Technician Excellence (NATE). Many electronic chains, including Sears Home Services and Home Depot, also offer HVAC services. Certain dryer manufacturers, such as Daikin Applied, also offer HVAC services, but only if you have their products.