Angie's List: Is your clothes dryer a fire risk? - WKOW 27: Madison, WI Breaking News, Weather and Sports

Angie's List: Is your clothes dryer a fire risk?

MADISON (WKOW/ANGIE'S LIST) -- In this week's Angie's List segment, clothes dryers are a modern convenience many of us can't live without, but we don't always remember it needs maintenance. Dryers make our lives easier, but we often take them for granted.

If your dryer is hot to the touch, or take more than one cycle to dry clothes, you may need your vents checked.

"We need to maintain them and most importantly have their vents cleaned, because if we don't the dryer won't run as efficiently and it's a fire hazard," Angie Hicks, with Angie's List said.

The dryer is designed to exhaust both heat and moisture, but sometimes heat and moisture gets trapped. In those cases, experts say the dryer just sits there and keeps working itself, leaving you at risk of a dryer vent fire.

It is a serious problem and should be left to the experts.  "They have the proper tools and additionally, they know whether your dryer vent meets code," Hicks added.

Homeowner Brian Pinkins was surprised to see what his technician discovered.

"I turned the dryer on and he was outside looking to see what the airflow was like," Pinkins recalled. "So he called me out and he was like, did you turn the dryer on? I was like yeah, sure did, it's running."

But it wasn't running well, the tech found a large clog.

"About five minutes later a whole lot of dust and debris and dryer lint started coming out along with the bird's next," Pinkins said.

In newer homes, the dryer and laundry area are usually in a convenient, central place. That means the vent runs a long distance.

"The longer the vent, the harder it is for the dryer to get the lint out," technician Glen Mayfield said.  Mayfield also says it's also important not to leave your dryer unattended.

Angie's List asked consumers whether they kept an eye on their dryers and many people said that hadn't given it much thought.

"One woman, with a family of seven, says if she didn't leave her dryer unattended, she'd never get her laundry done," Hicks said.

It may be convenient, but technicians say you should never leave a dryer alone if you're not there. More than 15,000 fires a year are caused by unattended dryers.

"I'm sure it was just a matter of time before something would have happened," Pinkins said.

A vent cleaning typically runs between $100 and $150 depending on the length and location of the vent.

In addition to cutting the risk of fire, technicians say a cleaning usually pays for itself in less that a year because of efficiency and reduced drying time.

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