Bear with me—this post will eventually come around to “Fabric Softener.”
The objects below are called “box vents”—or just plain “roof vents.” I have also heard them called “turtle vents.” They come in lots of different sizes and they function as part of the roof/attic ventilation system.
When inspecting a roof, the ventilation system is always something the inspector should be interested in. Inadequate ventilation can result in moisture problems in the roof structure. These “box vents” will be open to the attic and have a screen to prevent vermin from having access to the attic. They are typically located high on the roof to provide a nice flow of air from the soffit vents through the attic space. If not compromised, they do a pretty decent job generally.
Sometimes ventilation fans from bathrooms will terminate near a box vent in an attempt to kill two birds with one stone. In this next picture the installation is killing three birds with one stone as it is also creating a pathway for rodents in and out of the attic—if that is, the installer’s intention is to also allow vermin into the attic. Because the vermin screen is missing, rodents have been using the vent pipe as a pathway. Can you see their grease marks on the duct?
There is a lot of lint in the exhausted air of a bathroom vent fan and sooner or later the roof vent screen will become clogged with lint and then will not function as either a roof vent or a ventilation fan termination point.
There is a pretty good chance that much of the air from the fan may end up in the attic anyway—without a “positive” connection. All interior exhaust fans should terminate at a cap at the exterior with a back-draft damper. This type of cap has been required for a long time in Washington State.
When inspecting the roof, I am always looking for these vent caps with back-draft dampers. I attempt to find one for each of the fans in the home. Of course sometimes they are not on the roof at all but instead are located on the side walls of the home’s exterior somewhere.
It is not hard to understand that these installation issues become even more critical when venting a dryer. In fact dryer vent caps are specifically prohibited from having any kind of screen in them because of the fire hazard associated with lint build-up in the vent system.
It should be obvious to even a novice that a dryer vent should not be directly connected to a box vent that has a screen in it—especially with no way to clean that screen.
As you can see in the following picture, the lower vent of the three vents in the first picture above is actually the dryer vent termination point.
Besides the fire possibilities associated with lint in the dryer vent, there is the tremendous increase in drying time that will result. If your dryer is taking longer to dry the clothes than it used to, you should consider the possibility of excess lint or blockages in your dryer’s vent pipe. Of course the filter in the dryer itself may just be clogged, and it is very important to keep that filter cleaned as well.
As a side-note (I told you we would get here), the filter can actually “look” clean and still not be functional!
Fabric softener sheets give off “crud” (less than technical term) that can clog the filter and prevent air movement. Take out your dryer’s filter and hold it under a sink faucet with the hot water running. If the water does not go right through the filter it is functionally clogged. You will need to routinely clean the filter of this “crud” or simply stop using fabric softener. A simple Google search of “Problems with Fabric Softeners” will give you plenty of reasons to not use them. They are bad for you, your clothes, your dryer and the environment.
Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
By Charles Buell, Real Estate Inspections in Seattle
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