We recently purchased an electric clothes dryer. When it stopped drying properly after less than a year, we were surprised. The first thing we checked was the 220-volt power outlet. A dryer can fool you; even though the drum is turning it might not be getting enough power to properly dry a load of clothes.
A dryer powered by 220 volts uses only 110 volts (half the circuit) to rotate the drum. However, it uses 220 volts (all of the circuit) to fire up the heating coils. So, just because the drum is turning and the light inside comes on, it doesn't mean that it is performing as designed. Much to our surprise -- and disappointment -- the circuit indicated that 220-volts was available and making its way into the machine.
The next task was to pull the dryer out and check the exhaust system and the wall ducting. We were amazed at what we found. We had a firetrap on our hands. The system was completely clogged with lint. It was as if someone had stuffed tons of lint into the exhaust duct with a cannon ram. The lint was so tightly packed that we had to chisel it out.
As an added safety measure, we thought it would be a good idea to hire a company to clean all the ducts in our home at once. We don't own the special vacuuming equipment needed to clean heating ducts. Because we wanted to kill as many birds with one stone as possible, we decided on a whole-house duct cleaning. After writing a check for several hundred dollars, we were certain our dryer would do a load in record time. When the load was ready we chucked it into the dryer. You could have heard a pin drop an hour later when the dry shut off automatically and we opened it to find a wet load.
What could it possibly be? The power was all right. The dryer was getting hot and the ducting in the dryer and the wall had been professionally cleaned. It was time to call in an appliance repairman. The dryer seemed to be running really warm, but everything inside was hot and wet after an hour of tumbling on high.
Here's what happened. No one had thought to check the dryer-duct outlet on the roof. In this case the dryer outlet exhausted through the roof. Up the ladder we went. And there it was -- staring us in the face -- a clogged weather cap. Lint was compacted so tightly that we had to pull it out a little at a time with needle-nose pliers. It took nearly a half-hour to get it clean. There is a moral to our story. When you clean your ducting, be sure to check both ends. We have decided to clean our own dryer duct from now on. Apparently some of the people who do it for a living have trouble counting to two -- the number of ends in a duct.
If you can count to two, you will enjoy creating your own duct-vacuuming system that can be used to ensure that your dryer is operating safely while operating at peak energy-efficiency. Even a partially clogged dryer duct is a fire hazard at best, and definitely reduces the appliance's energy-efficiency operation.
First, you will need a short length of garden hose and a plastic cap from a spray can. The cap and hose are connected to create a slender and flexible vacuum-cleaner adaptor. One end of the hose is cleanly sliced at a 45-degree angle (making it easier to feed around tight corners). The other end of the hose is fed through a hole in the plastic cap that allows the smaller hose to connect to the larger one on your vacuum. A tiny bit of duct tape is used to attach the plastic cap to the hose. Suction from your vacuum cleaner should hold the apparatus in place during cleaning. If not, duct-tape it.
Vacuuming the inside of your dryer will take less than five minutes and will immediately improve operating conditions when lint is removed. The same holds true for the duct in the wall. By the way, it's a good idea to check your dryer duct. Optimum conditions can often be achieved without a lot of hassle. Here's what to check for and some ways to improve things:
* Replace flexible ducting with the rigid kind. The flexible plastic type is especially bad.
* Make connections with metal tape -- not screws. For extra strength, strap ducting to the framing -- especially near duct connections.
* Use the fewest possible 90-degree elbows in the line. Each elbow reduces free flow.
* Insulate your dryer duct where it passes through unheated areas (crawl space and attic). This reduces condensation inside the ducting. Wet lint is kind of like plaster of Paris.
For more home improvement tips and information visit our Web site at www.onthehouse.com.
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