It’s COLD in the Chicago Area! This has all of us reaching for extra sweaters, thicker pants, blankets and more to keep warm. These heavier items keep us warmer, but also create more lint in our dryers, which can lead to dryer fires. That’s why it’s so important to care about your dryer vent maintenance during the winter.
Dryer fires peak in the colder months, with the highest number occurring in January, according to the U.S. Fire Administration. Many people are not aware of dryer fires because they are never reported. This is due to the fact that most are contained within the dryer vent, or the dryer itself.
Here is how you can tell if you might be at risk for a fire: When cleaning your vent line, opening the line for repair, or looking inside the body of the dryer; assess the amount of lint buildup, look for any charred lint which means fires are sparking in your dryer vent; indicating that the chance for a damaging fire is very likely.
To help keep your home safe, here are five preventive steps you can take to avoid a dryer spark or fire in your laundry room:
1. Clean or service dryer vents yearly: Tip: If you notice longer drying times your vent probably needs cleaning. Also check where the dryer vent exits the home to be sure that it is not clogged. Inside your home, slide dryer out, detach the dryer duct, and remove excess lint either by hand or with a vacuum.
2. Don’t run your dryer while you’re asleep or away. Because your laundry needs often increase in winter, you might be inclined to run a cycle while doing a quick errand or opt for late-night drying. However, steer clear of using the dryer when you are asleep or out of the house. It’s important to be home and alert in case a fire sparks so you can react in a timely manner and avoid excessive damage.
3. Avoid carbon monoxide buildup. Carbon monoxide is a toxic gas that is extremely hard to detect due to its colorless, odorless and tasteless form. In addition to being extremely flammable and hazardous, it can also cause flu-like symptoms and be potentially fatal. In your laundry room, ensure there are no disconnections in the vent line that would allow this harmful gas to escape and build up in your home. We recommend a carbon monoxide detector.
4. Replace your smoke alarms. It’s recommended that you replace smoke alarms every 10 years and change your batteries once a year. Over time, dust gathers in the detectors, causing the sensors to become desensitized and not work properly. When you change your clock for daylight savings, change your smoke alarm and carbon monoxide detector batteries.
5. Have an escape plan. As the saying goes, hope for the best but plan for the worst. Always make sure you are prepared in case of a fire. Create exit strategies for you and your family to ensure everyone’s safety during these fire-prone months.