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Close the door on possible dryer fires

Thursday, November 6, 2008

You could be heating up more than clothes in your laundry room.

According to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission, there are an estimated 15,500 dryer fires annually, resulting in nearly $100 million in damage.

The most frequent causes of these fires are improper ventilation and/or poor maintenance, which allow lint to accumulate.

When lint covers heaters, switches and motors in the dryers, fires can result.

Tips

According to the National Fire Protection Association, there are some things you can do to help prevent dryer fires:

* Avoid leaving the dryer running when away from your home,

* Clean the lint trap after every use,

* Don't dry oily rags in your dryer,

* Don't operate the dryer without a lint filter,

* Ensure that the dryer is plugged into an outlet suitable for its electrical needs, and

* Keep the dryer area free of combustibles such as clothing and boxes.

Adequate ventilation is key to not only the safety but the performance of your dryer as well.

The dryer duct should vent directly outdoors, not into an attic, crawl space or indoors.

Ducts should be kept free of lint and combustible debris to prevent a fire from spreading outside of the dryer.

Use only metal dryer ducts. Plastic ducts can collapse, causing blockage and lint buildup within the dryer.

Plastic ducts may ignite or melt, and will not contain a fire within the dryer.

Follow the manufacturer's suggestions on the length of ducting you should use, since appliances are tested and certified according to certain specifications. Make sure to consult your owner's manual for more information.

Hot Spots

While there are no sure signs that your dryer may catch fire, the following are some possible warning signs of trouble:

* Clothes, especially towels or jeans,

* Take a long time to dry,

* Clothes are hotter than usual at the end of the cycle, or

* The flapper on the vent hood won't open when the dryer is on.

Consider having a professional disassemble your dryer to clean the lint and debris covering the heaters, switches and motors in your dryer and help prevent fires from occurring.