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Can the lint alert prevent dryer fires?

Consumer Reports News: February 08, 2011 03:57 PM

Lint-filled dryer ducts cause about 4,500 home fires per year and manufacturers have been trying to solve the problem with built-in features that detect blockages. But when we tested the lint-detector indicators the results were too inconsistent to count on. Lint Alert, a $40 add-on, claims it can do better.

A pressure sensor that you install in clean dryer ductwork, Lint Alert promises to "monitor and detect lint buildup in your dryer duct." When it senses poor airflow, an alarm sounds. So, did it work? It did and it could be worth buying for extra safety. But because of the potentially catastrophic effects of a dryer fire, you should still clean the dryer duct periodically.

In fact, you should always keep your laundry equipment clean especially in the winter months when laundry room fires peak. About one-third of the nearly 18,000 fires that start in laundry rooms each year are due to the failure to clean one of the appliances, according to the National Fire Prevention Agency.  Here's some advice from the experts at the NFPA, Consumer Reports and

  • Make sure any exposed wires and power cords are secure and free of dust and grime.
  • Laundry-room outlets should have ground-fault circuit interrupters and the machines should be securely connected.
  • Gas dryers are responsible for more fires than electric ones; have the gas line and connection periodically inspected by a professional.
  • Check the washer’s hoses for cracks or leaks; corroded hose fittings mean the hose is leaking.
  • Remove grit from the screens where the washer hoses attach to the water supply.
  • Make sure the washer and dryer are level and resting on a well-supported subfloor to prevent vibration and banging.

From the labs: Check our new Ratings of washers and dryers.

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