A dryer will help remove moisture from wet clothes and other fabrics effectively. Despite its usefulness, many believe that it has certain drawbacks like the emission of carbon monoxide.
But does a dryer actually give off carbon monoxide? Whether a dryer exhausts carbon monoxide or not depends on the type of dryer it is and how well maintained it is. For example, a gas dryer will naturally give off some amount of carbon monoxide because that’s what gas appliances do, while an electric dryer will not give off any carbon monoxide.
Carbon monoxide usually isn’t an issue because the carbon monoxide escapes to the exterior through a flue, but it can stay trapped indoors if the vent is clogged or faulty.
A proper understanding of how and why a dryer gives off carbon monoxide will help you create a safe living environment at home and also fix any issues that might lead to carbon monoxide poisoning.
How And Why A Dryer Gives Off Carbon Monoxide
Carbon monoxide (CO) is a product of fuel burning. To be more precise, carbon monoxide is produced because of the incomplete combustion of carbon-based fuel.
A gas dryer unlike an electric dryer burns fuel using a gas burner to achieve the heat it requires to dry fabric. Most often than not, the fuel used in this process is Propane gas. Propane gas is a fossil fuel that produces carbon monoxide due to incomplete combustion. Therefore, a gas dryer will naturally exhaust carbon monoxide during operation.
But this is not a problem you need to worry about if you have proper ventilation. Usually, a gas dryer is installed along with the ductwork to direct the exhaust gases outside. So this will keep the gas from seeping into the living spaces at home.
Yet, things can turn bad if you are dealing with clogged vents or improper duct installations. This is because the exhausted air can double back and find its way into your room if the pathway is blocked or inadequate. So it’s wise to routinely check for blocks or other air restrictions in the ductwork.
One major cause for clogging is the accumulation of lint. This brings us to another reason that might cause your dryer to give off carbon monoxide, which is the burning of fabric.
Most of your clothes and other textiles are carbon-based substances, which makes the lint produced during the drying process carbon-based as well. Just like the exhaust fumes, dryers also displace heated air through the vents.
Therefore, when the heated air is directed through a duct clogged with lint, the accumulated lint can ignite. This would again result in the emission of carbon monoxide. For this reason, electric dryers also give off carbon monoxide provided that the exhausted air is hot enough to cause ignition.
It’s quite clear that dryers give off carbon monoxide under certain conditions. Luckily, the overall emission and the risk of carbon monoxide poisoning can be controlled by taking a few precautionary steps.
Complete combustion (Ideal burning) unlike incomplete combustion burns the fuel efficiently and does not produce carbon monoxide (CO). It produces water (H2O) and carbon dioxide (CO2) which are not a health hazard. If you have a gas dryer, making sure that it burns ideally will reduce the risk of the dryer giving off carbon monoxide.
The following are a few conditions that need to be satisfied for complete combustion.
- i) The flame should have a sufficient air supply. Several reasons can hamper this condition such as blocked vents, soot-covered burners, and improper burner installations.
- ii) The fuel and air need to be mixed right. For example, propane will burn ideally if the fuel-to-air ratio is 1:24 (1 part propane and 24 parts air).
iii) The flame needs to maintain its temperature and not cool down till combustion is complete.
It is quite hard to achieve ideal burning because of various external factors in some situations. But if you can identify and fix these issues, your dryer will burn fuel close to “complete combustion” which would then minimize the emission of carbon monoxide.
A simple way to tell that your gas dryer is burning fuel efficiently is by the color of its flame. If the flame is blue, it means that the fuel is undergoing complete combustion. If not, you might need to check the dryer for the issues mentioned above or consult a trained specialist to do it for you.
Make sure to always consult a professional if you do not know what you are doing.
Carbon Monoxide Detectors
Carbon monoxide is a colorless, odorless, and tasteless gas. This makes identifying it quite hard and can cause damage to health if left undetected for long periods. Therefore, it’s wise to invest in a carbon monoxide detector to avoid unnecessary risk.
It works similar to your fire or smoke detector and sounds an alarm when the carbon monoxide level in a room is high.
But don’t just get any detector you come across. Carbon monoxide is a serious issue, so it’s important to get a detector you can trust, for example, one rated as UL 2034 or IAS 6-96.
Last but not least, you need to have proper venting for your dryer. A proper ventilation system will allow your dryer to exhaust both fumes and heated air outside. So, any problem here can force all the unwanted air, including carbon monoxide right back into your laundry room.
To prevent this from happening, it’s best to check your ductwork regularly for any blocks, ruptures, and leaks. As mentioned earlier, clogging due to lint can also increase the amount of carbon monoxide in the vents. Ruptures and cracks in the ducts will allow air to escape into other rooms as well.
A Few Facts About Carbon Monoxide Poisoning
You can never be too prepared. This is especially true for carbon monoxide poisoning. No matter how many precautionary steps you take, there’s still a chance for the gas to flow into a room undetected and affect you. carbon monoxide is called the “silent killer” for a reason. So knowing a few signs of carbon monoxide poisoning will help you act fast before it’s too late.
Most people exposed to carbon monoxide poisoning experience the following symptoms.
- Chest pains
- Unconsciousness (extreme cases)
Some people brush it off thinking that it’s nothing to worry about. This is a fatal mistake. So, if you ever feel these symptoms, especially in a room that has an appliance that burns fuel, rush outdoors and contact the relevant authorities.
Do electric dryers exhaust carbon monoxide?
Electric dryers do not exhaust carbon monoxide. Although rarely seen, they can cause carbon monoxide to build up in the exhaust vents. This is because the heated air displaced in the vents can ignite accumulated lint and other carbon-based substances. Even so, the amount of Carbon monoxide produced by this process is extremely small and ignored in most cases.
Does an electric dryer require a vent?
Unlike a gas dryer, an electric dryer does not need to exhaust any harmful fumes. But it needs airflow to operate and also expel lint and moisture. Therefore, an electric dryer also requires vents connecting to the outside.