Clothes Dryer Installation, Venting and Repair Issues
Here are some of the common clothes dryer questions and issues I've had to
deal with over the years. Hopefully they'll help you solve your own dryer
My clothes dryer seems to get very hot, but the clothes are not drying. Why?
Though the problem can be caused by a faulty thermostat or other mechanical problem, most of the time the cause is a blockage in your dryer's exhaust vent. Clothes dryers are not air-tight, and if a blockage in the vent occurs, the hot, damp air that would ordinarily safely blow out is instead trapped inside the drum, leaking slowly around the door and any other small exit points in the dryer body. The heating element, however, continues to warm the air in the dryer at full clip, causing the temperature within the dryer to soar, sometimes hot enough to damage delicate clothes inside.
I often get a call to do a repair, cleaning, or replacement on a dryer vent hose after the appliance guy has checked out the dryer and given it a clean bill of health!! Had the client called me first, they may have saved themselves a hefty bill for labor.
Do the following checkup before possibly wasting your hard-earned money:
How do I choose a dryer vent hose?
For many years, the material of choice for clothes dryer venting, and still widely used for bathroom exhaust fan venting, was common flexible plastic vent hose, 4" diameter. I have seen this material run across attic floors, basement ceilings, and even inside walls. There are two problems with this material. First, over time the heat can cause the plastic to stiffen and deteriorate. Secondly...
IT CAN BURN!!
Actually, this is a no-brainer when you consider the heat that a clothes dryer is generates, as well as the flammable lint that can accumulate in the hose. We must never use this material in any concealed area!
What are the alternatives to plastic vent hose? Most if not all local building codes restrict the use of plastic ducting to exposed locations only, and/or for use with appliances that do not blow heated air, such as bathroom vent fans. Fortunately, various manufacturers have developed products that are excellent replacements.
There are three commonly available types of dryer venting products: rigid pipe, expandable aluminum ducting, and flexible layered aluminum ducting.
A note about manufacturer recommendations on long runs of dryer vent hose...
Most if not all dryer manufacturers now routinely add to their list of 2 billion disclaimers the maximum vent hose length recommended for their machines. They also recommend the use of rigid pipe only. Obviously covering their "you-know-whats", they put 99% of all homeowners in immediate violation of their dryer's warranties by demanding hookup requirements that, in some older homes, are virtually impossible without great expense. Instead of supplying the homeowner with realistic recommendations and guidelines (such as given above) they leave most of you swinging in the breeze. Give a big country thank you to our litigious system for this state of informational constipation!
I have heard that disconnecting the dryer vent hose and allowing the dryer to vent into the house can be a good thing to do in the winter months. It both heats and humidifies the air. Any thoughts, NH?
When the energy crisis was in full swing back in the seventies, I purchased a type of combination air filter/valve that sat on top of the control panel of my clothes dryer. It was installed between the clothes dryer exhaust port and the outside dryer vent outlet. It had a moveable plate inside that you could switch to either let the heated air blow through to the outside, or block the flow to the outside and divert it through a small filter mounted on the front of the filter/valve. I haven't seen one in years, but they probably are still available.
A newer style (shown left) is attached to the hose between the back of the dryer and the exterior vent. There is a door that opens with a lever to divert the moist, heated air into your home. Not shown in the graphic is a lint cover, mandatory if you don't want a dust storm in your laundry room!
There is a third type (shown right) that is also used in situations where a home does not have an exterior vent. Damp dryer air is blown into an apparatus filled with water. The water traps most of the lint. Unfortunately, using this in the summer will warm your home and tax your air conditioner... unless you do what I do and hang out your clothes. Let Mother Nature do the drying!
Despite their potential drawbacks, since most people who live in colder areas find the need to seasonally add some moisture to the air in their homes , this type of apparatus could be helpful. There are, of course, three caveats: