It is not normal for smoke to come out of a dryer vent. But are you sure it’s smoke and not steam or hot air? Discover how to tell the difference between normal dryer exhaust and smoke and learn what you should do about them below.
Dryer Fires are a Real Risk
According to FEMA, 2,900 homes clothes fires are reported each year, which cause roughly $35 million in property loss. Failing to clean the dryer and vents is the leading cause of home clothes dryer fires. Therefore, ignoring smoke or signs of fire from your dryer is not advised.
Is It Smoke?
Smoke is the by-product of fire. It’s grey, or even black, and smells like something burning. If this is coming out of your dryer vent, then it is definitely not normal and is potentially a sign that some part of the dryer is on fire.
Normal dryer exhaust may look white and thick, particularly in colder weather. The hot air from the dryer meets cold air and condensates. This process is kind of similar to how clouds are formed. If the exhaust looks more like a cloud than something you’d see coming off a campfire, that is normal exhaust and likely not something to worry about. Even if it seems like there is more steam than normal, this can be the result of a steaming setting on the dryer or the result of much colder temperatures making the steam look larger.
One exception is if your dryer exhaust smells unusual. Even if the exhaust looks normal, gas or smoke smells are still signs that something isn’t right. The smell also may not be coming from the dryer vent itself. Call the professionals, especially if you suspect a gas leak or fire, in order to be sure that you and your family are safe.
What if it is Smoke?
If there is smoke coming out of your dryer vent, you need professional help right away. Part of the dryer could be on fire. Once you’ve secured that help, you might want to learn about what could be causing the smoke from your dryer vent. Here are some potential causes that your HVAC professional may find:
- Clogged lint vent: The most common cause of a smoking dryer vent is an overfull lint vent that has so much material it is burning from the heat of the dryer. This is a safety problem. You should try to clean your lint screen more often. The professionals may also have reason to suspect there is lint in the vent itself and may need to clean it out.
- Blown thermostat: Dryers can overheat and create smoke if their internal thermostat is broken and they, therefore, cannot moderate their heat.
- Flammable stains: If your clothing has flammable liquids in it, then it may cause a fire when heated by the dryer. You’ll need to clean out these stains thoroughly before putting the clothing in the dryer.
- Drive belt problems: The drive belt is a critical part of your dryer which is under a great deal of stress. As it breaks down it can melt or burn, which can cause smoke or a smoke smell.
- Broken dryer motor: The motor is another common source of smoke.
If you suspect that there is smoke coming from your dryer, you have a safety issue on your hands. Don’t hesitate to reach out to professionals for help.