Home inspector Dwight Barnett answers your questions:
Q: My young son recently asked to see how the clothes look inside the dryer. I turned the dryer on with the door open and pressed the door latch button to mimic a closed door so it would operate. Now it takes two cycles to dry clothes. Did I damage some kind of timer in the machine?
A: A clothes dryer contains sensors to regulate the heat and drying cycle and some have auto-dry cycles. By overriding the door button, you may have inadvertently damaged a sensor.
The most common problem associated with extended drying time is one of the most dangerous and often the most overlooked part of the dryer: the dryer vent hose.
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When a hose is kinked or too long, the dryer cannot push the moist air out of the clothing. A dryer vent hose that is more than 25 feet in length or has too many turns in the pipe or vents vertically will cause the dryer to overwork, which can lead to a fire. The Consumer Products Safety Commission estimates that each year there are 15,000 fires related to clothes dryers.
Such fires result in 300 injuries and more than $90 million in damages.
The main suspect of all these dryer fires is lint buildup inside the dryer9s exhaust system. I have been told that lint is so flammable that Boy Scouts use it to start campfires. I have seen close-up the aftermath and devastation caused by a clothes dryer fire.
Here's a checklist to use to inspect your dryer:
-- Clean the dryer's lint screen after each load of clothes.
-- Check the vent pipe on the dryer to make sure there are no kinks, and make sure the pipe is not smashed against the wall.
-- Measure the length of the vent pipe or hose from where it is connected to the dryer all the way to where it exits the home. The dryer pipe should be 25 feet or shorter. If there are elbows on the pipes to make turns, the elbows restrict air flow and must be included in the overall length of the pipe. A 90-degree elbow is worth 5 feet of pipe, and a 45-degree elbow is worth 2.5 feet of pipe. If you have two 90-degree elbows (10 feet total) and one 45-degree elbow (2.5 feet), then the remaining pipe can be only 12.5 feet long.
-- The vent pipe must be metal. Never under any circumstance use plastic pipe or foil pipe. The pipe must have smooth walls on the inside except at the beginning and ending connections where you can use a flexible metal pipe.
-- The smooth-walled pipe has to be installed so that there are no edges in the path of the airflow that could trap lint.
-- Do not use metal screws to fasten the pipe sections together. Use a metallic tape or duct tape.
-- Clean the pipe monthly. Use a shop-vac where possible and only if the length of dryer pipe is accessible with the vacuum's hose. For longer dryer pipes, there are hand-held brushes and drill-powered augurs that will clean the inside of the pipes up to 25 feet in length. I was able to find cleaning tools and tips at http://repair2000.com/dryer.html or check your local appliance repair shop.
Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors. Write to him with home improvement questions at C. Dwight Barnett, Evansville Courier & Press, P.O. Box 286, Evansville, Ind. 47702.