NJ AIR QUALITY BLOG

How Can I Improve My Dryer Vent & Duct System?

ByMarc Silberberg

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It’s that time of year again, spring is here, and the trees are finally blooming here in the eastern United States. Those beautiful cherry blossom trees that last such a short time together with those precious tulips are joys to behold. It’s time to tackle that yearly task of spring cleaning indoors.

To each of us spring cleaning means something else. For some folks it means looking over clothes to see which pieces have to be sent to goodwill. For others it means cleaning out the basement and getting rid of old and broken toys. Those are clean and dry items that don’t make you dread the job at hand but there are other spring-cleaning tasks that are more cumbersome but unavoidable.

Even though you might be the most meticulous housekeeper there are certain places that just have to be inspected even more than once a year. There are two locations that I dread looking at in my home, and these are under the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the back of the clothes dryer. You might say that you can understand that I complain about cringing when bending to open the cabinet door under the sink. How many times have I found a leak that I knew nothing about under my kitchen sink? That’s not the worst of it. Scarier yet are those dreaded mouse droppings that portend the possibility of finding a dead mouse. Why oh why did I agree to have the exterminator put those sticky cardboard traps in the corner of the cabinet under the sink? Even the best housekeepers can’t ignore what’s going on under the sink whether it be inanimate grime or members of some rodent family.

The second worst place that I dread cleaning in my home is the mess of lint behind the clothes dryer. So much extra lint accumulates in the back of the dryer since the vent hose can be up to eight feet in length causing a space between the wall and the dryer. The dryer is definitely not flush with the laundry room wall and it’s unwise to push the dryer too close to the wall for fear of damaging the venting hose.

Yet, it is very necessary to check on your venting hose regularly since there are several things that can go wrong causing the clothes dryer to malfunction or not dry effectively. For example, a hole in the vent hose can not only cause a less efficient machine but is also a fire hazard. Many of us neglect checking and maintaining the dryer venting system and the importance of this monitoring cannot be overemphasized. On the slight chance that the homeowner does check in the back of their clothes dryer, there is a good chance that they will not like what they find. Globs of lint all over the floor, a stretched out or pushed together dryer vent and worse of all a hole in the vent hose itself.

Have you ever tried to roll up your sleeve and get into your elongated dryer vent hose to clean it out? Unless you have an unusually long arm you will not be able to reach all the way in. Also, unless you have telescopic vision you just cannot see inside the hose clearly to see what type of debris you are actually facing. Yes, it’s dreamy to think of cottony lint that you will just grab and slide out easily.

Although it looks innocent enough your dryer’s venting system is quite complicated, and we may tend to neglect the importance of keeping it clean and clog free. If you notice that your laundry is not drying at the same rate as usual there is something wrong in the venting ducts. In the case where there is absolutely no heat at all coming from the dryer that would be a case for a dryer repairman unless the gas simply went out if you own a gas dryer. But a decrease in efficiency is most likely a lint trap issue either in the front of the machine or the back. You must move the dryer away from the wall and find out what is really going on. Get your vacuum cleaner ready because there is an almost one hundred percent chance that there will be lots of lint scattered in the back of your dryer. Unfortunately vacuuming the lint from the floor will not solve the problem because the poor airflow is due either to a clog, or a buildup of a blob of moisture and lint.

You may be tempted to use that versatile household tool called the clothes hanger and bend it to look as straight as possible. If you decide to go that route of cleaning out your dryer hose you will be in for a sorry surprise, a hole in the ductwork! Once that happens unless you are so handy and can go out and buy a new hose and have it cut the exact length of the broken one, you will have to call in that expensive repairman.

Who can blame us for not wanting to check the back of the dryer? We try to clean the vent on the front of the machine regularly and some of us put up a sign for family members who might forget to clean the lint trap, stating, “please clean the lint trap before and after using the machine”. Along with that post might be another sign instructing the family members not to overload the dryer because it can break from this type of abuse. For example, some dryers cannot service sneakers, quilts or pillows and these items must be taken to a laundromat or left to dry outside of the dryer.

We may mistakenly think that a flexible vent hose makes a lot of sense since if your dryer is moved back and forth the pliability of the hose will decrease the chances of breakage. Experts as far back as 2003 alerted consumers that they recommend using metal ducts as a safety feature rather than flexible materials which were standard at that time. Written in clothes dryer manuals are safety alerts recommending regular cleaning of the duct path as well as getting into the dryer itself to clean out the lint. An excessively long duct path causes clogging of large pieces of lint which come together when moisture hits the lint. These globs of lint and moisture combined are hard to see with the naked eye since the dryer duct is not transparent. Basically, the faster the lint exits the dryer the more efficient the drying process will be. If there were a way to shorten the distance between the dryer and the outside wall of the home the dryer would work better and break less. Thankfully there is.

MagVent Dryer Venting System

The solution to trapped vent hoses is a shorter hose made of metal as opposed to a typical flexible duct made of plastic or foil. A clothes dryer is constructed so that it simply removes moisture from wet laundry by warming the air and blowing the clothes as they turn constantly in the machine. The moisture that comes from the wet laundry items is removed and sent to the lint trap and outside through the venting system.

There are several ways the venting system becomes restricted. For example, if the pathway to the outdoors is too far (such as in apartment buildings) or the vent route is vertical not straight there is a good chance that lint will accumulate in the vent pipe and if it mixes with moisture, you have a perfect combination for a major clog. Any time there is an impediment to the path of the duct the efficiency of the dryer’s performance is lowered.

We all know of some of the many advantages of magnets. Wonderful toys for children of all ages are made with magnets. Folks can get their internal organs checked by MRI’s instead of being exposed to radiation too often. Magnets are even used to help people with different types of back pain ,taping them to the sore spot or wearing magnetic bracelets.

The MagVent system will free you from the need to get in the back of your dryer to remove the lint buildup because with this system there will be no path for the lint to escape. There will be no excessive or bendable hoses to trap moist lint that will clog the system. The short stiff metal duct connects the dryer to the outside of the house flawlessly and will not dislodge when the dryer shakes.

MagVent comes with mainly two pieces, one for the dryer and one for the wall. The clearance is a mere four inches instead of those long and bulky hoses. MagVent is especially useful if you only have a small laundry closet. Once you install the two pieces, one on the back of the dryer and one on the wall, they will click solidly as magnets do without any worry of them breaking apart yet, if required they can be separated. This is so vital because if the clothes dryer needs repair, it will be much easier to pull away from the wall and unlike a regular foil or flexible hose it will not break when pulled. It comes in both straight and ninety-degree dryer vent paths depending on the exit of your lint hole.

Final Words

It’s so unfair that the hose that keeps your dryer working efficiently should be so delicate and easy to puncture or rupture. Shouldn’t such an instrument be made from stronger stuff? What about the length of the dryer vent hose? Why does it have to be so long? With such a long and delicate hose how is a homeowner supposed to keep their clothes dryer up to par?

Nothing is as annoying as going to put the next washer load in the dryer only to find that the clothes are still wet from the previous load. Especially if you are a busy person and have set a certain amount of time for laundry day then you will be quite annoyed to have to make another trip to the laundry room. If your typical load takes forty minutes, then that is exactly what it should take and if the clothes are still damp then there is something wrong. You will have to do the dreaded task of moving your dryer away from the wall but be careful, you might find something more serious than some loose lint; your hose may be ripped or punctured. It is such good news to learn that there is a product out there that is easy to install and made of strong material that will keep the dryer from breaking too often, MagVent with self-aligning magnets is a product worth investigating. Here’s hoping we all survive our spring cleaning and have time to enjoy the beautiful weather.

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