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ON YOUR SIDE: Experts urge residents to clean dryer vents to prevent fires

Published: Dec. 8, 2021 at 6:22 PM CST
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GREENE COUNTY, Mo. (KY3) - Dryers are an essential appliance in most homes. If you don’t maintain them, it could lead to a catastrophe.

“It can cause a house fire, or even a dangerous gas coming into your home,” explains Courtney Shelton, a firefighter at Republic Fire Department.

According to the U.S. Fire Administration, nearly 3,000 house fires across the country are caused by clogged dryer vents. And a fire starting in the dryer vent damaged one Greene County home over the weekend.

“Dryers are not meant to hold that built-up heat. And if you have a gas dryer, that backup can cause carbon monoxide to flow back into your home,” says Shelton.

The fire department recommends getting the vent cleaned once a year, or every six months if you have pets or a large family. They also recommend calling a professional, which will set you back around $100, according to fixr.com.

“They are trained on how to do it, and how to properly get everything out,” says Shelton. “Whereas you might not get everything out and cleaned. Or you might hook something up wrong, or bump something in the back that didn’t need to be bumped. And that could cause another danger in your home.”

If cleaning your dryer vent is straightforward, and you’re competent, dryer vent brushes can be purchased from a hardware store for as little as $20 before tax.

“I always make sure that I have a back pressure on the dryer, so turn it on,” explains Drew Compton, a service technician with Air Services and All Service Plumbing. “I go one link at a time, and then go all the way until I get to the dryer. And then I pull it back out. Do that a couple of times, and it typically gets it very clean.”

There are times that a professional is a must. Tyler McGauley, the owner of LCS Keen-Aire, says he and his crew worked on a house on Wednesday that had no dryer vent. Instead, the dryer was venting underneath the house, creating a fire hazard. And it wasn’t the first time he’s seen this happen.

“If someone’s lived in a house for a long time and never had a reason to have it cleaned or whatever, or just haven’t thought of it, then they wouldn’t even know what’s going on,” says McGauley.

It is a problem he says could have been caught sooner if routine maintenance had been done.

“It’s an expense, but it’s a minimal expense compared to the possible outcome,” said McGauley.

Firefighters recommend checking your vent for small animals and birds that are attracted to the warmth. And say you should not run your dryer when you aren’t home.

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