When designers don’t put on their thinking caps.

I often find instances where it would appear that designers have lost their thinking caps or never had one to begin with.

largecondo1Take this 6 story building for example.  There are probably a hundred condo units in this building and every unit has a dryer.  All these dryers have to terminate at the exterior of the building somewhere.  The top units can likely pretty satisfactorily be vented through the roof for ease of maintenance/inspection (they were not however).  Even the second floor vents can likely be fairly easily and safely maintained by ladder from the ground.

But what about the floor levels in between?  These vents are going to be 30, 40, 50 or 60 feet off the ground!  It some areas they are even further off the ground due to the slope of the site.  While it is common for Condo Associations to have a maintenance schedule for maintaining these termination points, one has to wonder just how cleaning and maintenance gets done.  Even renting a cherry picker a couple of times a year would get expensive on a building this size.  It is amazing to me that building codes would even allow the vents to terminate where maintenance would be so difficult.

In this next picture I have circled some of the dryer vent locations that would be extremely difficult to maintain.

largecondo2

To add insult to injury all of the dryer vent terminations on this building had screens installed over the vents.  Even if this was a good idea (It is not and is in fact not allowed) it would only increase the number of times they would need to be inspected/cleaned due to the presence of the screens.

As you can see in the following picture some of the screens—this one 40 feet off the ground—is partially blocked with lint consistent with inadequate maintenance.

So all of this begs the question, “Why weren’t the vents terminated at locations where they could be easily maintained at virtually not cost?”  This could have been easily accomplished by terminating the vents at all the deck locations around the building—as some of them were.

Given that dryer fires are one of the most common types of fires in residential construction, it makes sense to have more sense as to where these vents terminate.

This stuff is not rocket science and yet we try to make it so at times.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Dryerja vu–around and around and over and over again.

I have done many posts about clogged dryer vents and the types of duct pipe used on dryer vents—and it is a subject that bears repeating.

While it is pretty easy to convince people for the need to vent their dryers outdoors, getting them on board with maintaining them is a whole nuther story. Many fires in houses are caused by dryers–by some estimates around 13,000 per year. If you want to know just how combustible dryer lint is–just take a match to it.

It lights VERY easily.

The cap at the exterior should never have a screen in it and the whole unit should be maintained free of lint so that the flap can open properly. Multiple flap type caps clog easier than single flap type caps. When you go to the hardware store to buy one of these vent caps, they almost all come with some sort of exterior screen–just throw that part away.

Even the ones with the BIG openings will clog with lint.

dryer-vent-fires1

The ones with little openings clog even more quickly.

dryer-vent-fires2

Besides the obvious fire hazard, of allowing all this lint to build up on the inside of the pipe and cap, is the fact that clogged vents will increase drying time ASTRONOMICALLY.

So far we are talking about electric dryers. Now if we complicate the issue by the dryer being a gas dryer, think about the gas burning away inside the dryer with no way to vent the gas fumes or the lint-laden hot air. Now we could have Carbon Monoxide issues, oxygen depletion issues, as well as the fire hazard.

Whether the dryer is electric or gas, if the dryer is allowed to heat with no way to vent that heat, the heat will build up in the dryer increasing the risk of fire.

It is simple.

Simply keep your dryer vent clean.

 

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

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Clogged dryer vent caps

I have blogged in the past about the fire hazards associated with dryer lint, and it is a very real hazard.

Dryer vent cap clogged with lint

Today’s post is about another problem with dryer lint.

    WATER

If you clog up the dryer vent cap with lint so that the air cannot escape, all that warm moist air will condense on the inside of the metal pipe all along its run to the clogged cap—especially in the winter, if the pipe is in unconditioned space and/or uninsulated.

Water leaks out of pipe at low spot

Water leaks out of pipe at low spot

Not only will it take WAY more time to dry your clothes and thus pick your pocket, costing you a lot more money to operate the dryer.

All that moisture has to go somewhere and will eventually leak out of the pipe and into the crawl space or some other place you don’t want it.  Over time this can amount to many gallons of water entering the crawl space.  It may  pond on the crawl space plastic ground-cover as can be seen in the following picture.

Puddle from leaking dryer vent

Puddle from leaking dryer vent

Large amounts of water in the crawl space is conducive to decay/rot, mold, and wood destroying insects not only in the crawl space but elsewhere in the home as well.

The bottom line is that this will result in increased costs to operate the dryer and possible costs to repair the house structure—all for the want of 60 seconds of maintenance.

How clean and functional is your dryer vent cap?

By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle

 

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