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When Was The Last Time You Checked Your Dryer Exhaust Vent?

For most Wisconsin homeowners, the only time their dryer exhaust vent even gets noticed is on a cold day when the hot air coming out of it turns to steam. As the exit point for the dryer's exhaust, people just don't give it much thought. After all, what could possibly go wrong?

Unfortunately, plenty.

From bird nests and lint clogs to a snow drift blocking the vent, a lot can get messed up at the exhaust vent. The good news, though, is it’s pretty easy to troubleshoot. Checking it on a regular basis is an easy way to avoid serious problems—including dryer fires.

Three Types of Exhaust Vents, Three Dangerous Lint Clogs:

Exhaust vent clogged Dryer exhaust vent grid clogged with lint Rooftop dryer exhaust vent clogged with lint
Louvered exhaust vent Exhaust vent with plastic screen Rooftop exhaust vent

 

If You Can’t Remember The Last Time You Took A Good Look At Your Exhaust Vent, Here’s What You Need To Do Before Your Next Load of Laundry:

While your dryer is running, walk outside and check to see if the dryer exhaust vent louvers are being pushed open by the hot air exhausting from your dryer. (Assuming you have a vent with louvers.) If you don’t see the vent flaps opening, there’s a problem. Either the exhaust vent is clogged with dryer lint (or some other obstruction), or there’s a blockage further back in your dryer vent that’s preventing the exhaust from exiting.

Solution: Work open the louvers with your fingers and pull out any dryer lint that’s accumulated behind them. If the flaps are stuck closed, grab the trusty can of WD-40 and try spraying around the hinge points. Sometimes this will loosen them enough so they’ll open and close freely again.

Some exhaust vents just have an opening, usually covered by a shroud on top. Take a look inside to see if there’s any dryer lint clogging the opening. If there is, just reach in and pull it out. Sometimes, these types of dryer exhaust vents have a plastic or wire mesh guard to keep animals out. It needs to be cleaned on a regular basis to prevent lint from building up on it.

But what if your exhaust vent is on the roof? If you're comfortable with climbing up a ladder to get to a rooftop exhaust vent, by all means do so. If you're not, though, our Dryer Vent Wizards will take care of it for you. We routinely handle dryer vent cleaning for multiple unit buildings (condos and apartment buildings), so we're used to climbing up on roofs to clear out lint clogs.

NOTE: If you have a gas dryer, it’s especially important to make sure the exhaust vent is working properly. Exhaust from a gas dryer contains carbon monoxide. If it builds up inside your dryer vent line, it will likely end up escaping into the air through small gaps in your dryer vent line. Because carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, it’s impossible to tell it’s even in the air.

What if there’s something living (or dying) in your exhaust vent?Small Animals Trapped in Dryer Vents

Don’t laugh, it happens more often than you think. Wasps and birds are the most common exhaust vent squatters. The interior of the exhaust vent provides a warm and safe place for them to build their nests. Great for them, not so great for you.

Squirrels get into dryer vent exhausts, too. Often, we come across piles of acorns they’ve stashed inside the vent line, and we've even had to extract dead critters that somehow got into exhaust vents and became stuck inside. Nasty business!

Obviously, you need to remove any critters or nests inside your vent. Or hire an exterminator to take care of it.

Disclaimer: We’re not professional exterminators. We cannot give advice on how to safely get wasps out of your dryer vent because if something goes wrong and you’re stung 1,000 times, we can be sued into oblivion. All we can do is advise you to have running shoes on.

Can't you just put a screen over the dryer exhaust vent to keep pests out?

Supremely bad idea. A screen will keep pests out, but it will also trap lint blowing out with your dryer exhaust. Over time, the lint will build up on the exhaust vent to the point it completely clogs the flow of air. Not only does this increase the risk of a fire starting inside your vent line (and possibly reaching your dryer and causing a house fire), but it also increases the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning if you have a gas dryer.

Dryer exhaust vent replacement Do You Need A New Dryer Exhaust Vent?

Exhaust vents are relatively inexpensive and pretty easy to install. You can find them at just about any home improvement store. We don’t schedule appointments just to install exhaust vents, but if we’re at your home for a vent cleaning and it’s apparent your old exhaust vent needs to be replaced, we’ll take care of it while we’re there.
 
For instance, in the Before/After photos to the right you see a dryer vent that was completely clogged with lint AND an ant nest. The circa 1962 exhaust vent was so dilapidated it had to be replaced, but first the dryer vent line had to be cleaned.


And speaking of dryer vent cleaning, perhaps you’re wondering…

How Often Should The Dryer Vent Be Cleaned?

If you run 2 to 3 loads of laundry through your dryer per week, the general consensus is that your dryer vent line should be cleaned once a year. However, businesses and large families that run 5 or more loads per week should seriously consider having their vent lines cleaned every six months. Dryer manufacturers and Fire Marshals concur that regular dryer vent cleaning is necessary to prevent fires from starting inside the dryer vent.

Let’s talk about your transition hose

One of the problems we find when we come to clean the lint out of dryer vent lines is that the transition hose (that small length of vent from the back of your dryer to the wall) is often a flexy vinyl or foil-wrapped vent line. These are easily crushed behind the dryer and will go up in flames within seconds if a lint clog blocks the flow of dryer exhaust to the point where hot exhaust ignites the lint.

All dryer manufacturers now put a sticker on the back of their machines warning not to use vinyl or foil covered transition hoses, and the building code has been changed to specify semi-rigid aluminum venting for transition hoses. Unfortunately, this doesn't stop many installers looking to do the job on the cheap.

If we’re at your home or business for a dryer vent cleaning and see your transition line is not up to code, we can easily replace it with a semi-rigid aluminum transition hose. It’s a pretty quick and easy fix, and we highly recommend having it done.

Need Help? Summon A Dryer Vent Wizard

Whether you're due for a dryer vent installed, cleaned or repaired, we're here to help. We are the only company in Wisconsin dedicated solely to dryer vents, so you can count on a job well done.

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Contact the Dryer Vent Wizard of Wisconsin Nearest You:

Northeast Wisconsin: Fond du lac, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Kewaunee and the Fox Valley Counties. 920-644-3797

North Milwaukee: All locations north of Highway 94 in Dane County, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Ozaukee, Washington and Dodge counties. 262-757-8368

Southeast Wisconsin: All locations south of Highway 94 in Dane County, Waukesha, Milwaukee, Walworth, Racine and Kenosha counties.  262-312-1991. For property managers and condo associations, call 262-501-5240.

Request a free estimate on dryer vent cleaning for your home or business.