The duct running from the rear of your dryer to the wall is one of the most overlooked parts of any appliance in your home. It's just kind of there; siphoning off heat from the dryer and sending it outside. It doesn't have any electrical or gas connections, so it's more or less just a tube. However, without proper maintenance, this tube will turn into a major fire hazard while reducing the efficiency of the appliance. That's why you need to not only clean out the dryer duct from time to time, but also replace it. Replacing your dryer duct is inexpensive and doesn't take all that long to do.
Why Replace Your Dryer Duct?
There are several reasons why you should replace your dryer duct, although it all comes down to house safety. Lint is pushed out of the appliance during operation. Heat is initially created within the dryer, but instead of continually heating the same air, the dryer forces the hair out through a single vent. This is where the lint trap is located.
The lint trap will collect most of the debris that comes off of your clothing, blankets, and towels; but some will push through into the ducts. While you need to clean out the lint trap after every cycle, some of that lint will continually collect within the dryer duct. Over time, this builds up, similar to mineral buildup within your home's plumbing. However, unlike the plumbing, this lint is extremely flammable, which means the longer it goes without cleaning, the greater the risk of a potential fire.
The dirty dryer duct needs to be cleaned from time to time. As long as you clean the dryer duct on a regular basis, it can be returned back to new. However, over time this dirty duct will become more and more of a challenge to clean. When this happens, it's easier to just replace the duct instead of spending hours attempting to deep clean it.
Additionally, if the dryer duct is damaged--such as bent beyond correcting or torn--you need to replace it. A torn dryer duct will not properly push air out of the house but instead into the area around the dryer. This increases the fire hazard of the appliance. It also sends lint, dander, and other debris into the air. With an inexpensive dryer duct fix, this will all go away.
Necessary Tools & Supplies
You don't need much in the way of tools and supplies for installing a new dryer duct. However, before you move forward with the installation, it is a good idea for you to know about the different kinds of duct materials you have available.
Aluminum foil is the most common duct you'll come across. It's also one of the least expensive. It has an accordion-like design with the metal spooling on the interior and an aluminum foil wrapped around it. It is important to check with the local housing code, though, as this kind of duct is not always approved.
The next step up from aluminum foil is semi-rigid metal. This often is also constructed from aluminum and is stronger than regular aluminum foil. It also has a smoother interior than aluminum, so it does not collect as much lint, which extends the life of the duct and helps reduce the amount of cleaning you need to perform.
A rigid metal duct is similar to aluminum ducts, only this types is designed to run through walls. It is built from not only aluminum but also galvanized steel. If you need to run your duct through walls, this is a solid option; although it will not work for you if you're need to replace the current line running from your dryer to the wall vent.
A slim duct is one option, although this is better used for smaller dryers. It likely will not work on larger dryers due to the slender nature of the duct. This is the kind of duct you'll likely need to use if you have a stack design washer/dryer combo. If you live in an apartment, this may be the kind of duct installed.
Plastic and Vinyl
In some homes you might find a vinyl or plastic duct in use instead of foil. While it is still sold in certain locations, you need to avoid using this kind of material. In fact, if you currently have such a duct installed it is important to replace right away. This is because the plastic or vinyl does not accept heat from a dryer well, which increases the chance of melting and fire. Basically, plastic and vinyl are not safe for a dryer duct vent.
Tools and Material for the Job
Once you decide on the kind of duct you want for the dryer, you'll need to measure the openings on the dryer and on the wall. This way, you'll know what size of tubing is needed. In addition to the dryer duct tubing, you'll need the following tools and material:
How to Install a Dryer Duct
Now that you have all the material on hand, it's time to begin the installation. The best way to do this is to install the wall vent first (if you don't have one currently). If you don't yet have a wall vent, you'll need to drill a 4.5 inch diameter hole in the wall leading to the exterior side of the house. If you have a wood construction (with vinyl siding) you can use a large hole saw. However, if the exterior of the house is stucco, you'll want to drill in small holes around the 4.5 inch diameter and then break the remainder of the stucco away.
Once you have the whole drilled or cut, you can slide in the wall vent. The wall vent is simply a connector running from the outside of the house to the interior. With the accurately cut 4.5 inch diameter you'll be able to slide the wall vent in without a problem. The tailpiece of the wall vent will fit in from the outside of the house and slide right into place on the interior. There will be connecting screws on the vent to secure it into position.
When you have the tail piece inserted and the wall vent secured, you'll need to use an exterior caulk and run a line of it around the tail piece on the exterior of the house.
Installing the Tubing
Now that you have the wall duct in place, you're now able to continue with the actual installation. Measure the distance between the dryer connection and the wall duct. If the dryer connection is on the other side of the room, you'll need to secure the longer tubing with pipe straps. This allows the duct to hang from the ceiling, using from pipes, until it reaches the wall vent. The tubing is lightweight, so you don't need to worry about it pulling down on the plumbing at all.
Before fitting the tubing to the exit point on the dryer and the connection in the wall duct, you'll need to slide the clamps over both edges. Once you have one clamp around the edge near the dryer, slip the tubing over the connection point on the dryer and tighten the clamp. Some clamps might be hand tightened; others may require you to use a screwdriver to tighten it. You don't need to over-tighten the clamp, but make sure it is secure and won't slide off even if the dryer moves a bit.
Repeat this process and connect the other end of the tubing to the wall vent. Tighten the clamp to secure it to the wall. Give it a slight tug to make sure it doesn't easily slip off. As is the case with the side connecting to the dryer, you want it tight but don't over-tighten it.
Test the Dryer
Now that you have everything set up and are ready to go, you'll want to test out the dryer to make sure everything works as it should and that you don't have any air coming out of undesired locations around the dryer vent and the duct. So run a cycle and inspect the different areas of the tubing and duct. As long as no hot air is passing through, you're good to go.
Replacing your old dryer duct doesn't need to take long. Outside of the time you spend at the store (unless you purchase it online), the installation process will only take a few minutes. This installation is essential as it reduces the chance of lint building up within the duct, which can turn into a fire hazard while making it harder for your appliance to run efficiently. If you haven't replaced your old dryer duct in some time, now is the perfect opportunity to do just that.