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The laundry, basement and garage rank highest as the most dangerous areas in our homes, areas that have the most potential to cause problems on a daily basis. The basement is where many of our home’s most dangerous appliances are located, such as the furnace and water heater. The garage is where we store stuff that we don’t use regularly, such as gas containers, furniture not yet ready to be disposed of, and boxes, boxes, boxes. It’s where we store many dangerous tools and appliances, such as the leaf blower and lawn mower. While most people know that the garage is a dangerous place, we tend to take our laundry areas for granted. After all, the only thing we see each time we go to do laundry is a washer and a dryer, and we know exactly what those two appliances do. However, let’s look at those dangerous appliances, to our home, in a little more detail.
Washer water supply and drainage hoses
Although rubber hoses are typically installed as water supply lines for the washer (Figure 2), they should not be used on a permanent basis. Rubber hoses should be used like garden hoses: turn the shutoff valves on to fill the washer and then turn the valves off after using the washer. This is rarely done because the valves are hard to turn on and off, and they are behind the washer where they are difficult to reach. When left pressurized, rubber hoses will blister (Figure 3) and burst.
Considering the damage that can occur from water, and the knowledge about water that manufacturers obviously possess, one would think that washer manufacturers would want to supply the best connections with their appliances, but common sense does not seem to prevail here. So if you’re buying a new washer and dryer, and your installer shows up with the manufacturer’s cheap stuff as discussed here, ask them to upgrade all your connections. In fact, ask them for quality connections during your purchase so that they are sure to bring the connections with them at the time of installation.
Noisy water supply pipes
If you notice a banging noise when using the washer (or at any other place where there are water shutoff valves, like sinks), the likely cause is a condition called “water hammer.” It occurs when water shuts off almost instantaneously, causing water at full flow to try to come to an instantaneous stop. If the metal water supply pipes are not secured well within the walls, the pipes will bang against them. Water hammer can usually be stopped by installing water hammer arrestors to prevent banging (Figure 5). Consult with a licensed plumbing professional if you have noisy pipes.
Interior washer locations
If your washer is located in an area where a leak can cause water damage, have an overflow drain pan installed (Figure 6), particularly if the laundry room is located on the second floor.
Metal high sided drain pans are superior to the plastic low side drain pans found at most home stores. A plastic pan simply can not hold the volume of water that a high sided metal pan can hold.
In some newer homes with larger laundry rooms, a drain line exists in the floor, but an overflow drain pan is still a good idea.
Dryer Vent Termination
Moisture damage and fires can result from improper dryer venting. Dryer lint, when dry, is a highly flammable material, and the dryer flue can become very hot, possibly resulting in lint fires and flue fires. Dryer lint, when wet, is very absorbent. So a distribution of lint in some areas, like the foundation crawl space or the attic (Figure 8), can cause moisture damage very quickly. Wildlife loves lint, so a lint problem like that shown in the two figures encourages wildlife to find a way to move on in. Since some of our foundation crawl space areas, like around the bathtub, are open to the wall framing, any unwanted wildlife in the foundation crawl space could get into the structural framing, thereby creating a health and safety hazard. While there should not be any openings from the attic to the living area, wildlife does have a motive (food and warmth) for finding a way in. So if you don’t know where your dryer flue is, or where it runs, or where it terminates, go find out right now.
The dryer vent hood should terminate at an exterior location so that moist, lint-laden air does not cause damage to structural framing or mechanical systems and components. Dryer flues should never terminate in a foundation crawl space, in the attic, or in the garage.
Dryer Vent Material
Although corrugated plastic (Figure 9) or corrugated metal foil (Figure 11) connectors are typically installed from the dryer to the flue, the length of those connectors should be kept as short as possible, and corrugated materials should not be used as the main dryer flue. Corrugated plastic and metal foil are easily damaged and can result in lint accumulating in the flue, possibly resulting in dryer inefficiency (longer drying times); heat damage to the plastic; dryer overheating (shorter life expectancy); and possibly dryer, lint, or flue
fires. If the connector is over three feet long, figure out a way to have it shortened or, at the very least, have a smooth metal section installed instead of using long, corrugated connectors.
Once lint accumulates in the flue, there is the possibility of the dryer overheating and causing dryer or dryer flue fires. Vertical flues, especially corrugated materials running long distances create the same type of problems since moist, lint-laden air is heavier than normal dry air.
Okay, armed with knowledge, if you don’t know where your dryer flue is, or where it runs, or where it terminates, go try to find out now and make sure they conform to the best ways to do things as discussed above. Check your water supply lines for the washer, as well as the drainage line.
Also, check your washer and dryer connections regularly in order to find small problems before they become big problems. If you know that your dryer flue goes through the foundation or through the attic, and any service personnel have been in those two areas to do any kind of work, check the dryer flue before those service personnel leave. Too often damage like that shown in Figure 24 occurs but is not found until it’s too late to have the service personnel repair it. Note that the flue in Figure 24 is a corrugated metal flue, another reason not to use them on long runs as permanent flues. It’s always easier and less heartbreaking to do minor maintenance regularly than to wait for a disaster to happen.
Tips to make dangerous appliances a little safer:
- Replace rubber water supply lines with metal braid lines to help prevent leaks and water damage.
- Replace corrugated plastic drainage lines with rubber or braided drainage lines to help prevent leaks and water damage.
- Check vent hood and remove any blockage.
- Ensure that there is a damper in the vent hood and protect the vent hood and damper from damage.
- Follow manufacturer’s installation instructions for washers and dryers. Pay close attention to the dryer manufacturer’s limitations on the length of the dryer flue, as well as the material composition of the flue.
- Contact a qualified plumber to determine specific requirements and options for your washer.
- Practice regular homeowner monitoring and maintenance by going through this list at least once every three months.
- Check your appliances for recall notices at: https://www.recalls.gov/cpsc.html
I hope you found this information helpful and informative.
If you have concerns or would simply like to have your home reviewed by a trained professional call us today and schedule a Home Inspection or sign up for our Annual Home Maintenance Inspection plan.