16 - 2009

Save Energy By Cleaning Your Dryer Vent

Frequent readers here know I like to hang my laundry outside to dry. But this fall has been one of the consistently coldest I can remember in my town, and between too-cold-to-hang temperatures and a busy schedule, I’ve been using the gas clothes dryer, which necessitates some maintenance.

My dryer is an inexpensive model, but when it recently began taking three or four cycles to dry a load of jeans, I knew something was wrong. Finally, it struck me that I needed to clean out the dryer vent.

After every load, I clean out the lint screen (the panel inside the dryer door that fills with lint — I pull it out, scrape off the lint and discard or compost it). But it had been a long time since I visited my outside dryer vent.

Some exterior vents have a panel that closes to save energy. Others, like ours, have a grid to make sure mice or squirrels don’t squirm inside to nest in the cozy dryer. When I pulled off that grid, it was covered with a layer of lint nearly a centimeter thick!

Needless to say, when I took off the lint, the dryer worked much better. Cleaning out the lint is a good idea for several reasons:

  1. It allows the dryer to work more efficiently by increasing airflow.
  2. It saves energy by shortening drying times.
  3. It reduces the fire hazard of accumulated lint.
  4. It reduces wear and tear on your clothes (also saving money) by shortening drying time.

While I was at it, I took off the dryer duct and vacuumed it out. Some manufacturers make kits to clean out dryer ducts, but I’ve never tried one.  If you look at your own venting and see any problems, a checklist like this one can help resolve them.

Don’t wait all year to clean out the lint, either. I’ve cleaned mine out twice this fall, and after that first startling observation, I resolved to do it frequently — at least every week or two when I do laundry — to be sure we stay safe and as energy-efficient as possible.

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