For many of us, the fear of our homes catching fire and having our families and belongings threatened is daunting. We make sure that we have working smoke detectors and perhaps even a fire extinguisher handy in our residences. While fires can start from open flames, like candles and fireplaces, less attention is paid to the threat of home dryer fires. In this article, we look at some of the more common causes of home dryer fires. Additionally, we provide specific do’s and don’ts when it comes to using and maintaining your appliance. Finally, we offer some tips to help prevent a dryer fire from starting because no one wants to see their home go up in flames.
Home dryer fires in Canada
There are many fire hazards to consider throughout your home. One fire hazard that is often overlooked is dryer fires, and the causes of them. In Canada, we rely on these helpful appliances to help us stay well-kept when our busy lifestyle prohibits the time required to hang and bring in clothes from a laundry line. According to cbc.ca, every year approximately 15,000 fires* are caused by lint buildup in dryers. In the city of Toronto, on average, there are about 39 dryer fires each year. Simply put, the leading cause of dryer fires is the failure to clean them. It is important for everyone to know how to keep themselves safe, and this is a huge one.
3 leading causes of home dryer fires
1. Lint build-up
Lint is the leading cause of dryer fires. It’s highly flammable, and it’s everywhere. Lint naturally accumulates in your dryer and dryer exhaust system over time. This buildup makes the dryer work harder for each load. As a result, the lint can work its way into the heating element, which is bad news. If lint gets inside around thermostats, motors or heating elements, it can catch fire. So, it’s a good idea to have the interior of the dryer checked periodically. Experts recommend you clean your dryer ducts twice a year.
2. Crushed hoses
When your dryer is too close to the wall, or when the piping has a kink, it can be hazardous. By pushing it too far into the wall, you may end up accidentally crushing the exhaust hose. When the dryer can’t move the air, the resulting blowback of lint is dangerous.
3. Nesting animals
External venting creates pre-built “homes” for our animal friends. According to dryerbox.com, a cheap plastic external venting termination can be inviting for nest builders. When the duct is clogged with a nest, the lint can’t blow past, increasing the danger of a dryer fire. A good exterior closure will deter animals while providing a sleek look for your home.
5 warning signs to watch out for
Not sure what you should be looking for when it comes to maintaining your dryer? Here are five warning signs that indicate you should have your home dryer inspected:
1. Drying time for clothes is taking longer
When a dryer vent is clogged, the drying cycle can double (or triple) in time. If your vent is blocked by lint, your dryer will run longer, putting more wear and tear on it and therefore, cutting the machine’s life in half.
2. Your clothing and the outside of the dryer are very hot
If your clothing is very hot at the end of a cycle or the dryer is hot to touch, this warning sign means the vent is not exhausting properly.
3. You notice a burning smell
Lint, which is very flammable, can build up in the exhaust tube, lint trap, and even in the drum casing. If it gets too hot, it can catch fire, causing a burning smell. This is a warning sign to get your vents cleaned ASAP!
4. The vent hood flap doesn’t open properly
An outside vent that doesn’t open when the dryer is running means air flow has been restricted due to lint buildup.
5. It’s been longer than a year since your last inspection
Dryer vent ducts should be inspected at least once a year to reduce the risk of fires and carbon monoxide poisoning. One advantage to hiring an experienced professional is they likely have seen just about every make and model of dryer. They will likely have the appropriate brush and equipment to effectively do the job.
Prevention tips for home dryer fires
In most cases, an ounce of prevention beats a pound of cure, meaning being proactive about maintaining your home dryer is essential. Here are some tips to avoid lint and dust buildup, as well as prevent fires from starting, bycanadianresidential.com:
- Make sure the correct electrical plug and outlet are used, and that the dryer is connected properly.
- Periodically clean the back of the dryer where lint can be trapped in the venting system, as well as around the electrical outlet twice a year.
- Occasionally remove the lint filter and clean it with a nylon brush and hot, soapy water.
- Keep the area around and on top of the dryer clean and free of clutter.
- Have a qualified service person clean the interior of the appliance and venting system once a year.
- Use sheet metal venting material, never plastic.
- Try to use the shortest, straightest vent length possible, and use a box hood style to cap your vent outside.
- Put a covering on outside wall dampers to keep out rain, snow and dirt.
- Inspect the venting system behind the dryer and replace any pieces that are damaged or crushed.
- Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for installing the dryer and vent system.
- If you will be away from home for an extended time, unplug or disconnect the dryer.
- Did you see the video circulating of a man narrowly avoiding a dryer explosion at a laundromat? It was because someone left a power bank inside the dryer. Make sure to check and empty the pockets of all your clothes prior to putting them in the wash.
To help prevent home dryer fires, there are a few key facts to keep in mind while operating your dryer:
- Don’t dry clothes or fabrics that contain flammable solutions, such as alcohol, cooking oils, gasoline, spot removers, and dry-cleaning solvents. These substances give off vapors that can ignite and explode!
- Don’t overload your clothes dryer. This not only delays the drying of your clothes, but can also cause fires.
- Never run your dryer while you are out of the house. More importantly, make sure that you are not running your dryer while you are sleeping. It may be tempting to run it during non-peak hours, such as the middle of the night, but not paying attention to your dryer can have catastrophic results.
- Don’t dry anything containing foam, rubber or plastic. An example of an item not to place in a dryer is a bathroom rug with a rubber backing.
- Don’t dry items that have come into contact with anything flammable, like alcohol, cooking oils or gasoline. Dry them outdoors or in a well-ventilated room, away from heat.
Am I insured for home dryer fires?
Virtually every home insurance policy covers damage caused by fire, even if the fire began on a neighbouring property. As long as the fire is not started intentionally, coverage is available. In most cases, fire insurance is part of a standard home policy with contents coverage. The coverage typically pays to repair, replace or reconstruct your home in the event it’s damaged by fire (up to your policy’s limit). Therefore, an accidental fire that is started in your dryer will be covered under your home policy if it has been well-maintained. Fire, as one of the named perils in your policy, is always covered to a reasonable degree. Call your isure broker if you are unsure of your fire coverage within your home policy!
Home dryer fires: Tips for starting the claim process
At isure, we have 24/7 claims service, so you can start your claim at any time. Try to include as much detail as possible as to what happened, damages, etc. Make a list of all damages and try to take photos (if safe to do so.) This will be handy later in the claims process. Keep all receipts for expenses if you are living somewhere else while your home is experiencing repairs. Ask your broker what you are entitled to when it comes to fires and home insurance.
You can contact us toll-free at 1-877-514-7873 or email [email protected].