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Your Crash Course in Dryer Vent Cleaning

It’s hard to believe that your home’s dryer vent is also one of its most dangerous fire hazards. In fact, more than 2,900 residential fires originate in dryer vents every year. Besides the fire risk, a clogged dryer vent mixed with the warm, humid air of your dryer can lead to mold problems, too. Luckily, preventing safety issues is easy as long as you keep the area free of debris. Keep reading to learn how to spot a dicey venting situation as well as the best dryer vent cleaning methods.

First, let’s break down how a clothes dryer actually works and why it needs a vent in the first place. Dryers help evaporate water by blowing hot air past clothes as they tumble in a drum. Depending on the size of the load and type of garments, dryers can eliminate up to a gallon of water.

If it weren’t for your external dryer vent, all that moisture, not to mention a good amount of lint and fuzz would wind up back in your home. This probably goes without saying, but all that moisture and lint is terrible for your indoor air quality, plus it makes for quite a mess (think a thick coating of gray dust. . .everywhere).

Here’s how to know if you’re facing a clogged dryer vent:

  • A burnt smell emanates from the laundry room whenever you turn the dryer on
  • Your clothes are hotter than normal at the end of the dryer’s normal cycle
  • Your clothes are taking forever to dry or aren’t fully dry after one cycle
  • The outside of your dryer is unusually hot
  • Your laundry room is hot and humid

How to Clean a Clogged Dryer Vent

If your dryer vent is less than three feet long and vents directly outside without any twists or turns, you can probably clean it yourself using these steps:

  1. Empty the lint screen like you normally would after a load of laundry.
  2. Unplug the dryer, then move it away from the wall to access the vent.
  3. You’ll notice a tube leading from the back of your dryer to a hole in the wall—this is the vent, and the tubing will have to be detached from the back of the dryer in order to clean it. It’s generally attached to your dryer with a set of four screws, which can be removed with a normal flat or Philips head screwdriver.
  4. Using the nozzle attachment on your vacuum cleaner, vacuum as much lint as you can, as far as you can down the tube and into the vent.
  5. Hook everything back up.
  6. Going outside, locate the escape vent and make sure it’s also clear of visible debris. Once the vent is clear, run the dryer and make sure hot air is flowing freely to the outside.
  7. You’re done!

If your dryer vent is long and doesn’t vent directly outside (say if your laundry room isn’t adjacent to an exterior wall), it’s time to call in the professionals. A professional dryer vent cleaning service can run anywhere from $89 to $179 depending on your area, but it’s well worth it to prevent a house fire.

How to Prevent a Clogged Dryer Vent

The best way by far to keep your dryer vent as clear of lint as possible is to clean the lint trap after every load of laundry. This captures the vast majority of lint before it can make its way into the actual vent. Even if you clean the trap every time, though, a little bit of lint will still make its way through. If you have the kind of tubing that’s made of flexible ribbed material, lint can build up over time in the ribbing and cause problems. You can replace your ribbed dryer hose with a smooth-walled metal one, which will go a long way to keep lint from building up.

National Property Inspections Keeps Your Home Safe

Your NPI inspector is here to keep your family safe and healthy in your home. We can identify potential issues before they become big problems, so call us today today to schedule an appointment!

December 2016: Electrical Safety

Ask The Inspector

Electrical Safety

During a typical year, residential electrical problems account for tens of thousands of fires and millions in property damage. Most of these fires can be traced back to “fixed wiring” issues within a home’s or business’s internal wiring system itself. Safety is one reason why electrical components are a big part of any property inspection service.

Ask The Inspector

A National Property Inspections professional will perform a visual assessment of the home’s electrical system starting outside with the electrical connection from the street to the structure. The connection to the home, called the service drop, and the utility meter will both be inspected. The inspector continues inside with the electrical panels, light fixtures and a survey of individual outlets.

Where visible, the inspector assesses wires for cracking and aging, checks for the presence of grounding and identifies the size of the electrical system. At the electrical panel, the inspector will review the overall condition of the panel, its functionality based on the number of appliances, estimated age and capacity. The inspector will note the use of fuses or breakers and check for updated safety items such as ground fault circuit interrupters which help prevent electrical shock.

Be Advised

Electrical protection: GFCI and AFCI

Advancements in electrical protection devices help keep families and businesses safe. These devices include Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI’s) and Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters (AFCI’s). Both help prevent electrical shocks and fires caused by erratic surges in electrical current.

Be Advised

GFCIs are designed to trip when they sense even a minor imbalance in current between the hot (black) and neutral (white) legs of an electrical circuit. They shut off power to the receptacle in a fraction of a second – fast enough to avoid a potentially fatal shock. In new construction they’re required in kitchens and bathrooms, and in other areas that might get wet, such as the garage and basement.

GFCI outlets have test and reset buttons. If you locate the GFCI’s in your home, it is a good idea to test them monthly to make sure they are operating properly.

As of 2002, AFCI’s are required to be installed on branch circuits that serve residential bedrooms in new construction only, not existing construction. A property inspector can help pinpoint areas where added safety measures such as AFCI’s or GFCI’s could help protect your family.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. It should not be on top of a roof
  2. It is slanted
  3. It is old

Correct Answer is 2. The condensation from the AC condenser caused the wood frame beneath it to rot. As a result, the unit is now overly slanted.

Noteworthy News

Holiday Light Safety

Electrical holiday lights and displays attract adults and children alike. But stringing and taking them down can cause accidents. According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), it’s estimated that 12,500 people go to hospital emergency rooms for falls, cuts, shocks and burns related to holiday decorating.

Noteworth News

Before stringing lights, inside or out, you have to take a few safety precautions. One thing you can do is check each set of lights, new or old, for broken or cracked sockets. You’ll also have to look for frayed or bare wires, and loose connections.

Another thing you can do is use no more than three standard sized sets of lights per extension cord. It may be obvious to not run cords through water, even ones labeled for outdoor use, but weather conditions can often change in the winter, so it’s something to be aware of.

Installing automatic timers ensures that lights get turned off at night, taking one more daily task off your list, and saving electricity at the same time. Also, when you string your tree, be sure that it’s fresh. Brown or brittle needles are more likely to catch fire, so keeping the tree well-watered and fresh is extremely important.

Protect yourself and your home by following just a few simple lighting safety tips. But most importantly, enjoy the holiday season and your great decorative lighting.

Maintenance Matters

Maintaining Clothes Dryers

The Association of Home Appliances Manufacturers urges clothes dryer owners to clean lint filters after each load, and check and clean vent systems periodically.

Noteworth News

This helps improve air flow and energy efficiency while reducing the chance of overheating and fires. Despite several improvements in dryer construction and safety, several thousand fires started by dryer lint occur each year.

Like the oven and stove, dryers use extreme heat on flammable materials. Although most people are careful to keep their eye on the stove when cooking, they think nothing of leaving a dryer in the basement, garage or utility room unattended for an hour or more.

Other tips for preventing dryer fires and improving appliance efficiency include:

  • Occasionally remove the filter and clean with a nylon brush and hot, soapy water.
  • Avoid drying clothes that have ever had any type of oil or other flammable liquid spilled on them, such as alcohol or gasoline.
  • Replace plastic or vinyl exhaust hoses with rigid or flexible metal venting.

Keeping your dryer free from built up lint and checking the filter are the main ways to avoid any potential issues. With proper maintenance there’s no need to worry. A dryer that’s routinely maintained not only means that it will be safer, it will also lead to added years of dependable use.

Did You Know?

The Proper Use of Extension Cords

The good old extension cord can get abused with year round outdoor and indoor use in all kinds of conditions. They’re one of your handiest tools when it comes to the holidays, but they can be annoying bunches of tangles and knots, and even a safety issue.

That’s why the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that about 4,000 injuries associated with electric extension cords are treated in hospital emergency rooms each year. We’ve pulled together a few tips for usage and storage of electrical cords during the holiday season:

  • Make sure you’re using extension cords labeled for outdoor use when using outside the home
  • Never place an extension cord under rugs or through doorways where it can be damaged by foot traffic
  • Don’t use staples or nails to attach extension cords to baseboards or other surfaces. This can cause damage and present a shock or fire hazard
  • Always coil up the cords after you take down your decorations

For Your Information

Being Smart About Appraisals

An appraisal is an evaluation of the value of a property at the time of the sale. It is generally ordered by the lending agency. Documentation to back up the appraisals may include a brief inspection of the home, a comparison of recent sales of similar properties and a general description of the property. It is not a home inspection. A home inspection is a detailed visual inspection of hundreds of components of the home or other property completed over two hours or more. A home inspector is generally hired by the buyer or seller.

Most appraisers, like home inspectors, are professionals. However, cases where inflated appraisals were part of fraudulent mortgage schemes have been successfully prosecuted. To avoid problems, use common business sense. When purchasing a home, make sure to request a copy of the appraisal and to review it.

Consider these other tips:

Ask about the qualifications of appraisers used by lenders you use. Check that the appraiser’s memberships in professional organizations are correct. Verify years of experience with the state’s board of appraisers.

When reviewing the appraisal, use your own knowledge of the property, the location and the square footage to determine if the findings seem reasonable. If not, it should raise a red flag and suggest further investigation.

Monthly Trivia Question

What does a red front door mean in Scotland?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbuck’s gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.

January 2016: Winter Maintenance

Ask The Inspector

Q. What is the proper location for the thermostat in my house?

A. Thermostats control the operation of heating and/or cooling systems in your home. Proper location, maintenance and operation of your thermostat keeps indoor temperatures comfortable and can save on utility costs.

Ask the inspector

Your thermostat should be located on an interior wall near the center of your home. It should not be in direct sunlight or near radiated heat from fireplaces, radiators or other heat sources. Generally, the thermostat is placed outside the kitchen. It should also be away from doors and windows that open and close frequently. Thermostats are generally located about five feet above the floor so they can be read or adjusted easily, and they may be controlled by a gauge, a dial or digitally with a panel of buttons. Thermostats should be assessed as part of a home’s general mechanical system during a home inspection.

Most thermostats for gas-fired appliances also have a variable anticipator to help prevent overheating. The anticipator “fools” the heating unit into shutting down just before the room hits the set temperature so the heat remaining in the furnace finishes the job.

Whenever changing a thermostat or performing routine maintenance, it’s a good idea to make sure the settings for the anticipator are correct.

Be Advised

Water Under Shingles Spells Trouble for Home Owners

Snow or rain can cause big problems in attics if insulation, ventilation and caulking, or sealing is not installed or maintained correctly.

Be Advised

In colder climates, ice dams, thick ridges of solid ice forming in the gutter or in the eaves of a home can damage gutters, siding or walls if left uncontrolled. Ice dams are caused when warm air flows into the attic and can’t escape. The warm air heats the roof, melting the snow above. The snow melts, and the melt-off runs down the roof to the eaves. Colder temperatures lower down toward the eaves cause the water to refreeze. Eventually, the ice forms dams in the gutters. Then, water flowing down the roof backs up under the shingles and can flow from there into the attic or interior wall spaces. Wet insulation or framing members can reduce R-values, lead to possible mold and mildew problems, or damage interior finishes.

In warmer climates, mildew and mold can still be a problem if warm moist air coming up from the house isn’t properly vented outside. Excessively warm temperatures in the attic can weaken components of the roof and shorten the lifespan of roofing material. Make sure all appliances in your home vent outside and your soffit vents are kept clear of insulation and other debris. This allows cooler air to come in at the bottom of the roofline and push warmer air out the top.

Snapshots From The Field

What’s Wrong With This Photo?

Snapshots From The Field

  1. This is called ice damming and is bad news for a home’s roof and attic.
  2. This is called ice bridging and is bad news for a home’s roof and attic.
  3. This is normal ice and snow melt-off from the roof and poses no threat.

Correct Answer 1. This is called ice damming and is usually caused by inadequate insulation and ventilation. This is about the worst case of ice damning we’ve ever seen. It will be tough for the home owner to fix because the ceilings on the second floor of this house are vaulted, leaving little room for ventilation, which is one of the things need to keep this problem from occurring.

Noteworthy News

Smart Light Bulb Technology

Noteworthy News

If you thought the newest lightbulb technology was the CFL or LED bulb, then you’re in for a big surprise. The latest innovations are smart light bulbs that offer a vast array of exciting features, such as wi-fi and Bluetooth, automation, and color changing. Here are just a few of the new options available:

BeOn Starter Pack

Each BeOn smart bulb houses a removable battery pack that allows the bulb to illuminate even when the light switch is turned off. This feature is handy in the case of power outages, and you can leave the battery pack in any bulbs that you want to stay on while you’re out of the house.

BeOn bulbs offer a unique security feature: If the bulbs “hear” your doorbell or alarm, they’ll light up automatically to make it look like someone is home, and in the event of a fire, they will hear your smoke alarm and light up so you can safely get out of the house. According to CNET, BeOn bulbs “also have a sort-of DVR function that lets you set them to ‘replay’ your typical at-home lighting patterns when you’re out on vacation.”

C by GE LED Starter Pack

Science suggests that the color temperature of lighting affects humans’ circadian rhythms. For example, a warm, lower color temperature tone (such as orange) can help you sleep better, while a cooler, higher color temperature (such as white) can help perk you up in the morning. With this in mind, the C by GE LED bulb changes color temperatures automatically, which can help stimulate melatonin levels and balance your circadian rhythm.

In addition, each bulb contains a Bluetooth radio, so you can pair it with your phone to control brightness and to turn the bulb on and off.

Qube

Qube bulbs offer built-in wi-fi and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE), so the bulbs can connect to your mobile devices without a hub. You can also use your mobile device to control the bulb’s color, brightness and motion (dancing lights, anyone?). Priced under $20 per bulb, Qube claims to be the most comprehensive and affordable lighting solution.

Maintenance Matters

Dryer Maintenance for a Safer Home

Maintenance Matters

If you own a clothes dryer, then the Association of Home Appliance Manufacturers recommends that you clean the lint filter after each load, and you should also check and clean the dryer vent periodically. This helps improve air flow and energy efficiency while reducing the chance of overheating and fire. Despite several improvements in dryer construction and safety, several thousand fires are started by dryer lint each year.

Like your oven and stove, your dryer uses extreme heat on flammable materials. Although most people are careful to keep their eye on the stove when cooking, they think nothing of leaving a dryer unattended in the basement, garage or utility room for an hour or more.

Other tips to prevent dryer fires and improve appliance efficiency include the following:

    • Occasionally remove the filter and clean with a nylon brush and hot, soapy water.
    • Avoid drying clothes that have had any type of oil or other flammable liquid spilled on them, such as alcohol or gasoline.
    • Replace plastic or vinyl exhaust hoses with rigid or flexible metal venting.

For more information about dryer lint safety, see this article on our blog.

Did You Know?

AFCI and GFCI Outlets Improve Electrical Safety in Your Home

Advancements in electrical protection devices help keep homes and businesses safe. These devices include ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs). Both help prevent electrical shock and fires caused by erratic surges in electrical current.

GFCI outlets are designed to trip when they sense even a minor imbalance in current between the hot (black) and neutral (white) legs of an electrical circuit. They cut off power to the receptacle in a fraction of a second — fast enough to avoid a potentially fatal shock. Although requirements vary by location, GFCIs are generally found in kitchens, bathrooms, basements, garages and other areas where water may be present, such as a workshop. GFCI outlets have test and reset buttons, and it’s a good idea to test them monthly to make sure they are operating properly.

AFCI outlets are designed to help prevent fires caused by arcing faults — erratic current flows that get hot enough fast enough to start a fire without ever tripping the breakers. In many areas, AFCIs are required on branch circuits that serve residential bedrooms in newly constructed homes. Existing structures are not required to have AFCIs, but it may be a good idea to look into having them installed in your home. A home inspector can help pinpoint areas where added safety measures such as AFCI or GFCI outlets could help protect your family.

From Our Blog

Proper Fireplace Venting: A Complex Issue

One of the most controversial issues with home construction has been proper fireplace ventilation. In an effort to prevent indoor air contamination and improve overall efficiencies within modern homes, the home envelopes have become tighter — meaning little to no air leaks between interior and exterior spaces. While the intentions were good, constructing a tight home has caused some other issues, such as poor air change ratios and controlling pressures between interior and exterior spaces. This has resulted in new technologies to provide controlled mechanical ventilation systems.

Click here to read the rest of the blog posts.

Monthly Trivia Question

What is the oldest building material that is still used today?

Be the first to answer correctly and win a $10 Starbucks gift card. Submit your answer to find out if you’ve won.