Lint buildup in dryer vents is a common problem and the fire hazards associated with this poses a serious danger to consumers. We have had at least two lint related incidences over the past several years that resulted in the ignition of the lint within the dryer. The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission estimates that 15,500 fires associated with clothes dryers occur annually causing 10 deaths, 310 injuries, and more than 84.4 million dollars in property damage. In-O-Vate Technologies has been focused on the dryer venting business for years and it quickly became obvious to them that dryer fires were quite common. As a result, the company launched LintAlert®, a self-calibrating back pressure sensing system. The company even has a dedicated LintAlert website with a lot of information on the product including videos.
Air Duct Restrictions
Research indicates that the most common cause of dryer fires was the lack of maintenance on the exhaust system. Over time, lint accumulates like cholesterol in arteries, eventually restricting flow to dangerous levels. Our own dryer had an extreme amount of lint build-up similar to the photo that caused severe flow restriction. Once I cleaned out the lint, the flow was excellent. The problem most people encounter is knowing just when to perform this maintenance on their exhaust system. The solution is being able to monitor the gradual change in pressure in the dryers' exhaust duct and provide adequate warning of the air flow restriction to the user. Unfortunately, there are so many different dryer designs currently available that no single set of parameters can be used to detect a flow restriction. The LintAlert® system uses a sensitive electrical differential pressure sensor with digital feedback wrapped around a microcomputer. The onboard electronics can capture and record the “like new” pressure levels and then detect and display a progression of lint buildup (with a visual LED array) as the pressure changes over time.
The LintAlert® system requires the user to install a SmartTap fitting into the flex transition hose as close to the dryer as possible. A clear 6-foot 1/8-inch hose attaches to the SmartTap on one side and the LintAlert® unit on the other. Cleaning your vent or getting a new one at the time of the LintAlert® installation will result in the best performance. Any restriction at the time of calibration will decrease the intervals on the blockage display making it less reliable.
Measuring the air flow in the dryer's exhaust is key to making this product work. The SmartTap fitting is designed to penetrate the dryers' exhaust hose while remaining virtually invisible to minimize lint buildup on the penetration fixture itself. The thumb nut is used to tighten down and secure the SmartTap fitting with the felt washer onto the hose. The curved contour on the fitting should match or align with the interior radius of the flex hose along with the air-flow indicator arrow.
The LintAlert® has Pass Through Terminals with a non-switched outlet,
providing a convenient plugin
for items such as an iron, washing machine or dryer. The LintAlert gathers water column inch (WCI) pressure data through a highly discriminating digital pressure sensor in the unit. It is designed to detect very small changes in pressure by sampling minute amounts of airflow from the SmartTap. The onboard computer determines whether there is an increase in back pressure that may create a potential fire hazard.
This display shows the level of dryer exhaust pressure in the exhaust conduit as well as the microchip status. The LEDs go from green to yellow, and then red as pressure becomes more problematic.
Using the Indicators
The optimal (calibrated) performance is shown with a single green indicator glowing. As airflow naturally becomes restricted over time, the second, then third green indicator will illuminate. This is a good time to clean the dryer and duct system for best energy efficiency and safety. In the event the system is not cleaned at that point, the yellow and red indicators will eventually illuminate. Once pressure becomes dangerous (or there is a sudden obstruction in the vent) all LEDs flash in unison and an audio alarm sounds.
The LintAlert® is designed to continually monitor the airflow in your dryer's exhaust system and show the relative pressure based on a calibrated level. This will not only save energy, but ensure that your dryer is operating at safe levels. The LintAlert® is easy to install, but does require access to the back of the dryer for the SmartTap fitting. Once connected with the 1/8-inch hose, the unit can be calibrated to the optimal non-restricted flow setting. When lint begins to build up over time and causes the flow to become restricted, the lights on the LintAlert® unit will progressively increase until the alarm finally sounds to warn the user of the issue. This device can not only save you money by keeping your dryer at its peak performance, but also save you from a potential fire. We wish we had this in our system years ago. LintAlert is available at Home Depot and ATGStores.