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Good dryer vent keeps energy dollars in, pests out

Q: Dear Jim: I just noticed when I was outdoors that my dryer vent flapper does not seal well. Are there any high-quality, yet inexpensive ones that seal better? Can I direct the dryer air indoors to save the heat during the winter? - Pat B.

A:Dear Pat: It is very important to install a tight-sealing dryer vent cover for several reasons. The dryer vent duct is a direct open path from inside your house to the outdoors. If the vent cover does not seal well, it is the same as leaving a window partially open, allowing conditioned air to freely exchange from inside your house. This drives up your utility bills year-round.

Other less obvious problems are insects, mice, etc. that enter your comfy home through a dryer vent that does not seal well. If you ever wondered how mosquitoes get into your house during the summer, even when you are air-conditioning with all the windows closed, a leaky dryer vent cover may be the source. It may also be a source of pollen and mold spores that aggravate allergic reactions.

There are several kits available with high-quality lint traps for venting an electric dryer indoors during the winter to save heat and humidity (check your local codes about setting up your dryer vent in this fashion). NEVER vent a gas dryer indoors because the products of combustion will stay indoors and the moisture output will be even higher.

Some of the indoor/outdoor kits are designed so you can quickly switch them from venting outdoors to indoors. The dryer stays attached to the outdoor vent and you just flip a lever to switch from outdoors to indoors. Other models have the dryer duct terminate into an indoor filter unit. All the lint trap designs use cleanable filters and some also include a water reservoir to remove more lint. Keep in mind a high concentration of lint in the air can be a fire hazard.

One of the best sealing types of outdoor dryer vent kits is a floating cap design. This is the design I use at my own home. It is made of heavy-gauge, durable plastic, so it will hold up well to playing children or other impacts should it get bumped. You can spray or brush-paint the outside housing to match your house or just keep its natural beige color. It extends out only about seven inches, so it takes up little space.


When your dryer is not running, a plastic sealing cap rests on a seat inside the housing and creates a good seal. When you turn your dryer on, the pressure from the exhaust airflow lifts this lightweight-sealing cap off of the seat. This allows the warm, damp air to flow outdoors. The cap continues to float until the dryer stops and then it settles back down onto its seat. All of the internal parts are made of very smooth plastic to minimize lint buildup and simplify cleaning of the unit. The top of the housing snaps off for easy access.

Another good option is a draft sealer kit that mounts inside the house where the vent pipe comes in from outdoors. In this location, the sealing flap is less prone to damage and degradation from the sun and bad weather. It uses a multiple horizontal louver design to save space and to provide adequate air flow.

When using one of these draft sealer kits, you can cover the outdoor vent with a pest/rodent-resistant cover or with another standard vent flapper kit. Since this will create double seals, inspect both areas regularly and clean out any lint buildup. For efficient clothes dryer operation, it is important there is not too much resistance that may impede the dryer air flow.

Check the condition and shape of your flexible dryer vent duct. Position it with gentle curves so there are no sharp bends. Sharp bends create air flow resistance and can be areas for lint buildup. If space is limited, install a flat expandable aluminum dryer vent extender and run the flexible duct from it. Using this method, the dryer can be placed only 3 inches from the wall. Other kits allow you to recess the dryer vent into the wall cavity so the dryer can be placed almost flush against a wall.

If sealing the dryer vent does not eliminate the pests inside your house, consider trying an efficient electronic pest repeller. They use very little electricity. Models with sweep frequencies cover a wider range of pests.

Write for (instantly download Utility Bills Update No. 621 - buyer's guide of 11 tight-sealing dryer vent kit and pest repeller manufacturers listing rodent repellers, coverage area, product details, and dryer efficiency tips. Please include $3.00 and a business-size SASE. James Dulley, Illinois Country Living, 6906 Royalgreen Dr., Cincinnati, OH 45244

James Dulley is a mechanical engineer who writes on a wide variety or energy and utility topics. His column appears in a large number or daily newspapers.


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