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Robert Lamoureux: Check dryer vent and hose annually

Your Home Improvements

Posted: November 20, 2009 10:04 p.m.
Updated: November 21, 2009 4:55 a.m.
Hello Mr. Lamoureux,
I think my dryer hose may be clogged. How would I know for sure and how would I clean it if it is? Thank you,
Jenny B.

Hi Jenny,
If it’s been more than a year since you’ve had your exhaust serviced, get it cleaned. There are several tell-tale signs that indicate if your dryer exhaust is obstructed. Look for long drying times of 45 minutes or more, or clothes being hot and wet when finished and the dryer itself being very hot to the touch.  

The CSIA — Chimney Safety Institute of America recommends dryer exhausts be professionally inspected and maintained annually. Many fire departments and insurance companies make the same requirements.

In California, dryers used to be placed only in the garage or on the first floor next to an exterior wall. Typically, there was a short, straight exhaust to vent outside and so basically there were no problems. These days, it’s common to find dryers in bedrooms, hall closets and kitchens. That means the exhaust vents are much longer with sharp turns so it’s easier for lint to get stuck and collect inside the vent. With that, you run the risk of dryer fires. If it’s a gas dryer, there’s also the possibility of carbon monoxide poisoning.

According to the Consumer Product Safety Commission, dryer exhaust fires are now more widespread than chimney fires. Based on the most current statistics, 15,600 dryer fires occurred in a single year. Dryer exhaust lint ignites on the heating element. It can then burn all of the collected lint in the dryer vent and spread throughout your house.   

Hire a qualified cleaning and inspection service to maintain your vents. Don’t take any chances. Along with the vacuum and/or blower, you’ll want them to brush the vents out as well. Many companies offer a before and after air flow test to show you how much of an improvement was made.    

Besides the obvious safety concerns, keeping the vents cleaned also saves on energy costs with shorter drying times and the excessive wear and tear of the bearings, heating element and the dryer motor.  

Hi Robert,
My electrical at my house has some problems and I wanted your opinion. About a year ago my wife said our monthly electric bill was $25. I thought it must be an adjustment after not reading the meter for awhile and thought nothing of it. However, about four months ago I noticed the meter ring that spins wasn’t always moving and power was being used. In addition my wife said the SCE bills were still low. About that time our canned lights in the kitchen and baths would flicker once in a while but everything else worked fine. The flickering has gotten worse and I need to address the problem. Do I contact Edison about the meter or do I have an electrician come out? I would appreciate your thoughts.
Ed D.

Hi Ed,

Your electric bills are $25 a month. So what’s the problem? No, seriously, the meter is obviously broken and you really should notify the electric company to have them replace it, right? SoCal Edison could theoretically average out what your usage should have been and backcharge you for all of those months you were paying less than a dollar a day.  

The flickering is due to a loose connection. My experience has been it’s at the breaker. It is most likely old and is arcing — there’s not a good connection. You either need to replace the breaker or check for a loose connection somewhere along that line.  

Contact a qualified electrical contractor and have him pull the bad breaker. And/or, it could be that the bus bar is pitted. If feasible, they can sand the bus bar to minimize the pitting then pop a new breaker in with a little electrical grease on it.  

If the bus is too badly gone, you have to rebuild or replace the panel, depending on the amount of damage.  

You can also run an infrared test with a thermal imager. You point the gun at the breakers and replace all that are running hot.   

Hi Robert,

I live on the third floor of our building and have lived here for two years. I have a sliding glass door that leads out onto the balcony. The strange thing is that only recently I have noticed that there is a gap at the top of the door when I close it. I have to pull really hard and lift up for it to latch. What could be causing this? Sincerely,
Bob D.

Hi Bob,
If the door was fine and then all of a sudden you’re noticing problems, you’ve got some type of settling. Maybe the threshold has dropped slightly. The first thing would be to check and make sure that it is level.  

Another possibility is that maybe the wheels on the bottom of the door are worn down. That will cause the door to settle slightly.
Also, it could be that the bracket broke internally, causing the door to drop. Call a licensed contractor and have him come out for an inspection.  
Hey Robert,
My grandfather lives with us and is on a ventilator. My question is what type of generator do you recommend to keep the power on in case of an earthquake or power outage? He has a battery backup but it is only good for one hour. Thank you,
Casey W.

Hi Casey,
One of the most popular generators is Generac. It’s a great outdoor home system that is reasonably priced.  

Minimally, you would want at least an 8KW generator. It’s not going to light your entire house, but it would handle 10 – 12 circuits.

This would take care of the ventilator, heating/air, the refrigerator, television and some lights.  

Generac has a UL approved transfer switch so you don’t get feedback and injure a lineman. Many lineman have been killed as a result of homeowner installed generators. You never want to wire a generator directly to the panel, always go through a transfer switch.  

During a loss of power, the generator will automatically fire itself up. They are available in natural gas, diesel or gasoline, whichever you prefer. Personally, I like the natural gas. A plumber can come out to run the gas pipe and hook it up.  
Another feature I like is they have timers that will turn them on for five minutes every month to keep them in good operating condition.

Robert Lamoureux has 25 years of experience as a general contractor, with separate licenses in electrical and plumbing contracting. He owns IMS Construction Inc. in Valencia. His opinions are his own, and not necessarily those of The Signal. Opinions expressed in this column are not meant to replace the recommendations of a qualified contractor, after that contractor has made a thorough visual inspection. Send your questions to


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