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Why it is Dangerous to Neglect your Commercial Dryer Duct

Posted on December 16, 2021
by Vinay Panday

Are you thinking about going into the hospitality industry? Many existing places have been hit particularly hard by the uncertainties of COVID, and the business landscape is laden with cheap equipment and discounted leasing rates. Before you go buying your appliances at a discount, there are some things to know when it comes to commercial laundry machines.

We have all heard the saying, what goes in must come out. This is especially true for commercial laundry systems. Sadly, there is quite a margin of error involved in operating these systems safely. There are two common mistakes that operators will make – either they will neglect to get the dryer vents and ducts cleaned, or they will attempt to clean them on their own and accidentally damage the water delivery system to the washers in the process. Neither of these things is good, and both have the potential to bring your operations to a standstill.

It’s all about the heat
A dryer is essentially a self-contained heat chamber. In order to dry all of those linens and clothes effectively, a great amount of air is blown in, and then heated by gas or an electric element. All of this heat must be vented out of the machine to prevent it from overheating. With dryers, there is the problem of lint. As the lint collects near the vent, there can be a surplus of heat when the vent gets blocked. If this heat surplus is big enough, and this goes unattended long enough, it can be disastrous. One sign of trouble is the smell of melting plastic, either inside the drum or on the exterior where the vent is. The worst-case scenario would be full-blown combustion. Because the lint usually has a high cotton content, it is moderately flammable. If there is a large enough quantity of it that becomes tightly packed over the whole surface area of the vent, it will catch fire eventually.

Another culprit is the ducts that the vent connects to. Sometimes blockages can bypass the vent and occur further down in the ducts away from the machine. This is a somewhat better scenario from the standpoint of preventing combustion because the mass of flammable material (the lint) is farther away from the heat source (the heating element). It also helps that there is more surface area for the heat to be distributed through. Although the likelihood of a fire is reduced, the problem is somewhat harder to diagnose and deal with. When a vent is clogged, it is straightforward to simply locate it and remove the obstruction. When the blockage is somewhere in the ductwork, it is not always obvious exactly where it is located.

What happens when there is a fire
If there is a fire caused by a dryer vent blockage, sometimes the entire dryer will go up in flames. If the fire travels into the ductwork, the entire building can catch fire. Even if the fire is somewhat contained, the noxious fumes from burning rubber, plastics, paint, and other materials will result in the space being vacated and fumigated before it can be occupied again. Depending on the type of damage that the fire inflicts, there may be some electrical work done to get the lights working before the machines can be plugged in again. Upon investigating, if it is determined that the fire was caused by a poorly maintained dryer with vent or duct blockages, the insurance could be voided.

What can go wrong with DIY
In an effort to avoid all of this, it might be tempting to try to clear a blockage in the ductwork yourself. The problem is that the water lines often run parallel to the ducts, so an attempt to break up the blockage using an instrument of any kind runs the risk of puncturing them. This is disastrously expensive to fix. The water lines would have to be turned off completely until they can be repaired, which means that you would not be able to wash anything. Essentially, your entire operation would be shut down until the repair could be completed. Unfortunately, one obstacle with all of this is that commercial laundry facilities require specialty plumbing fixtures and parts that can be difficult to source. This means that wait times for service can take a long time depending on the type of system you have and how old it is.

How the professionals can help
Calling a team of professionals who specialize in inspecting and maintaining commercial dryer vent systems is a good idea. They will have their own techniques for removing blockages that will not put your water lines at risk. They will be able to make recommendations about whether or not there is an alternate route for the dryer ductwork that may be safer. There are also some that sell fire retardant sleeves that fit over the coupling as an additional fire precaution. One thing to look for is a contractor that uses compressed air to blow dust and debris from the lint traps, vents, and ducts. This is a far more robust method of keeping things clean than relying solely on hands and brushes. The most important thing is that you have these inspections and cleanings done at regularly scheduled intervals. Having them done regularly is the only way to stay on top of any dangerous blockages and nip them at the bud.

The additional expense of dryer vent inspections may not have factored into your initial business plan, but having them done is certainly better than the alternative of losing everything in a fire. Additional precautions are one of those essentials to keeping your bottom line healthy in the long run.
Click here to meet the professionals that can keep your dryer ducts clean with emergency and regular maintenance services.

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