Optimizing Drying Ability
An expert offers advice on dryers and water heaters.
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Q: The home I purchased is a walk-out basement with poured concrete walls. The dryer vents through a hose that extends up the wall about 8 feet and exits through the wood floor joists. My problem is, the dryer does not dry the clothes in just one cycle. I have read that a shorter vent pipe is better. What can I do myself to solve this problem?
A: Not only does a longer vent pipe restrict air flow, but the bends in the pipe also add to the drying problems. Each 90-degree bend is equal to 10 feet of pipe when considering air-flow restriction. I would guess that you have at least two elbows in the pipe, which means you are trying to vent through 28 feet of pipe. The warm, moist air will condensate inside the pipe and mix with lint that escapes the filter, which creates balls of damp lint. This further restricts air flow, and the clothes will not dry properly.
When the lint dries inside the pipe, it would become a flashpoint should the dryer overheat. You need to vent the dryer directly through the concrete wall.
Beg, borrow or rent a hammer drill with a masonry bit. Measure to locate where the dryer vent should exit on the exterior, draw a circle big enough for the vent pipe to fit and start drilling. You will also need a star drill and a small sledge hammer to make the hole.
Use metal vent pipe with a weatherproof cover. Use flexible plastic vent pipe only for the connection between the dryer and the newly installed vent. Make sure you seal around the exterior opening to prevent pest and weather entry.
Q: Lately I've noticed a small amount of water at the base of my water heater, which is in the laundry room. I mop up the water and then notice it again the next morning. There is an open pipe on the side of the water heater, and the water seems to come in a very slow drip from that pipe. Do I need a new heater?
A: The open pipe on the water heater is connected to a temperature-pressure (T&P) relief valve. The purpose of the valve is to vent excess pressure or heat that might build up inside the heater.
When water is heated, it expands, creating pressure inside the tank. Water under pressure contains a lot of excess heat that has to be vented; otherwise the tank might expand beyond safe levels and explode.
The T&P valve is designed to release this pressure. Because the T&P valve might vent steam under pressure, it is necessary to have a vent pipe on the valve to direct the pressure either to the outside of the home or near the floor.
It is very important that the drained end of the overflow pipe be open and exposed, so that when you see a drip, you know it's time to replace the valve. I have seen overflow pipes that have been capped to prevent leaks, which creates a very dangerous situation. The valves are available at most home stores for less than $25 and can be installed by a do-it-yourselfer.
Turn off the electrical supply to the heater or shut off the gas before turning off the water supply. Attach a garden hose to the drain at the base of the heater and drain the heater to a floor drain or to the outside.
Use a spanner or monkey wrench to remove the overflow pipe and the old T&P valve. Add Teflon tape to the threads of the new valve before installing. Reattach the overflow pipe, close the drain valve, turn the water on and check for leaks. Turn the power on or relight the pilot light, and wait for the water to heat up. Check for leaks again after the water is heated and under pressure.
(Dwight Barnett is a certified master inspector with the American Society of Home Inspectors.)
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