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Electric and Gas Clothes Dryers

Clean the lint screen thoroughly after every load. If it's filled and clogged with lint, the air won't circulate, the clothes won't dry, and the dryer runs far longer, which wears it out faster and wastes lots of energy dollars in the process.

If you have an electric dryer, never open the door mid-cycle without first turning the dial to the air-dry mode or advancing the timer to shut off the heater. Otherwise, if you stop in mid-cycle, the red-hot heaters allow heat to collect inside the unit until it triggers the thermal fuse. The fuse is a built-in safety mechanism that works only one time; after it goes off, a service technician has to fix it before your dryer will operate again. If you want to interrupt a drying cycle, always let the heater cool off before stopping. Otherwise you may wind up line drying your duds for a while.

Dryer lint is a big fire hazard. In addition, excess lint makes the dryer work extra hard and can take forever to dry a load of clothes. Therefore, the dryer duct should be cleaned at least twice each year. The easiest means of cleaning a short dryer duct is with a dryer duct cleaning brush. The brush looks like a mini version of what a chimney sweep might use. A stiff-bristle circular brush is attached to a flexible handle. The brush is moved back and forth inside the duct to dislodge. The brush along with a vacuum is a winning combination for cleaning almost any dryer duct.

If you have an excessively long (20-feet or more) dryer vent leading outside or to the roof, make a vent-cleaning tool by fishing a nylon line from outside to the vent hose mounting inside (after removing the big, plastic, accordion-type flexible dryer vent exhaust hose). Then tie a nylon brush (one that's big enough to brush the vent walls) to the line which can then be drawn up into the vent, leaving enough line on the other end to draw it back again. When finished, leave some line exposed outside and -- pulling the inside line off to the side -- reattach the accordion-type flexible vent hose and let the brush and excess line lay off to the side for the next vent-scrubbing episode.

A dryer duct should always terminate at the home's exterior -- never in the attic, basement, or crawl space -- to prevent damage due to excessive moisture. Most dryer ducts terminate at a hood mounted at an exterior wall. The hood contains a damper that is designed only to open when the dryer is blowing air through the duct. The damper prevents cold air and birds and rodents from nesting in the duct. However, crafty varmints often find a means of breaching the damper. If you have experienced such a problem, install a protective screen especially designed to solve this problem. If you already have such a device, make sure that any holes are patched so that it is doing a good job.

Regardless of exterior vent length, periodically remove the flexible accordion-type exhaust hose and clean it out by vacuuming. Lint buildup reduces efficiency, wastes energy dollars, and can cause a fire by not letting superheated air pass freely.

Better yet, replace any flexible accordion type exhaust hose (especially if it's vinyl) with sheet metal ducting. It does not clog nearly as easily and is a more efficient vent, making your clothes dry faster.

Excess lint in a clothes dryer exhaust system is an accident waiting to happen. Aside from the lint screen and the dryer duct, lint can accumulate at the bottom of the housing that contains the lint screen. An easy means of removing this lint is to construct a custom vacuum hose attachment using a short piece of rubber hose, the cap to an aerosol can and some duct tape. The cap acts as an adapter that fits over the end of a wet/dry vacuum hose. Make a hole in the center of the cap the size of the outside diameter of the hose. Insert the hose snuggly into the hole and attach the two using duct tape. Attach the cap to the end of a wet/dry vacuum and insert the hose into the filter housing until it reaches the bottom.