Should You Leave Your Home With Your Washer And Dryer Running?
The question of the day is: Is it safe to leave your home with your washer and dryer running? The answer is Dryer-No, Washer-Probably not.
Do you leave home with your washer and dryer running? In the busy world of today, the luxury of an automatic washer and dryer is more of a necessity. It would be unimaginable to have anything less than the ability to toss in a load of laundry and forget it. But like Peter Parker’s uncle said “With great power comes great responsibility”. Even though it’s very tempting to leave the house and run errands with the washer or dryer running, you’re setting yourself up for the risk of floods and fire.
When Do Home Owners Feel the Most Pressure to Leave?
We’ve all done it, you throw a load of clothes in the wash thinking you’re going to be home all morning then something comes up. All of a sudden you remember something that you had forgotten about or you get a call that makes you have to leave. The shorter the amount of time that you have to leave for, the less you are concerned about leaving a washer or dryer running because you know that you’ll be back in no time.
Even if you’d done it 100 times, rather than the odds coming into play of a failure that causes a catastrophe, those numbers actually falsely assure you that everything will be ok. Nothing could be further from the truth, and if you google issues of washing machines breaking and causing floods or cases of dryers catching on fire, you’ll for sure realized the potential for damage.
So Exactly What Causes a Washer to Fail?
You may be looking at a washing machine and think you know how it works. There are supply hoses that let hot and cold water in, and there’s a drain hose that lets water out. Both of those are sealed tight, so, under normal circumstances, you feel like even if something fails in there, there’s not likely to be a leak anymore so there could be a leak in your normal plumbing underneath your sink.
Ironically every valve inside the washer is computer controlled with a circuit board and relays. The shutting on and off of water uses sensors to let the computer know when to open or close a valve. You need to understand that every valve and circuitry that controls those valves is a failure point. Imagine if the sensor that controls your washer on a fill cycle fails, you could be letting water into your washer to the point it floods.
And this isn’t a small drip or crack, the rate at which the water has the potential to come out is full pressure so imagine a garden hose spraying in your laundry room for hours. Your flooring, baseboards, anything that touches the floor, and anything underneath the floor could be damaged. This includes anything on the first floor if you’re laundry is on the second floor.
What Causes Fires in a Dryer?
Have you ever looked into a toaster as it’s being turned on? The glowing red coiled wire is what’s called an element. Almost every appliance is electric and generates heat using elements to achieve this. The element in your dryer like other elements, get so hot that if anything touches it there’s potential for a fire.
Knowing this, dryers are designed with elements inside a metal box that the air forces over. This is what creates the heated forced air that causes your clothes to dry as they tumble. This seems like a safe design because, with the metal box around the elements, no components or debris is allowed near the element.
However, the dryer has one major flaw-it’s the lint. Dryers produce a lot of lint, and most of it gets caught in the lint trap/screen. We say “most” because if you’ve ever looked at your dryer vent that exits your home you’ll see lint to the extent that you have to clean it. You would be surprised at how much lint also makes its way inside the dryer where it’s not supposed to.
When you get a chance, pull out your dryer and take off an access panel, you’ll see lint and dust around relays, wires, and even around or inside the metal box where the element is. This is because the dryer forcing air through its airways creates a vacuum that sucks in air through little cracks. The dryer is by no means a perfectly sealed appliance. Over time this lint and dust can accumulate to the point it creates a fire.
There’s one other failure that is more common in a dryer. We’ve all heard about an element going bad in a dryer before. Or you may have heard of a dryer that will run but not heat so the clothes never get dry. What is happening here is that the element has burnt out or broken. This sounds like a failure that wouldn’t hurt anything, after all, if an element is broken and not working, then it’s not creating heat.
But what happens right before it breaks can go a couple of different ways, and here’s where the trouble is. By design, these elements coil all around the box and have to maintain a distance from the edge of the box. They are suspended by ceramic stand-offs that keep the element in place. After all, as the element heats up, there’s some degree of warpage that occurs.
Because there’s extreme heat over and over again, this can cause the temper in the ceramic stand-offs to break, it can cause the metal tabs that hold in the stand-offs to warp and break, and it can cause the element to break or touch the edge of the metal box. In some cases, this will cause the metal box to heat up and cause a fire because there’s lint touching the box.
In other cases, if you’re lucky, if the element coils touch the box, it will cause the element to quickly break and no current can flow through, therefore it ceases to create heat. So just know that this type of failure is very common in dryers, ask any appliance repair person and you’ll see this has the potential to happen as often as every year with some manufacturers of dryers.
In Conclusion, Don’t Leave Your Home with the Washer and Dryer Running
Now you have a better understanding of the dangers a running washer or dryer can cause. If you’re at home to catch the problem before it gets out of hand you’re going to one-up any situation. Knowing how to shut off the supply lines to your washer and having a fire extinguisher handy could save large amounts of damage to your home. We strongly advise never to leave a washer and dryer running when you’re not at home.
South End Plumbing specializes in toilet repair so remember, we are just a click away. We also specialize in leak detection – give us a call! South End Plumbing is one of the only companies that will give you a free estimate. Call us at 704-919-1722 or fill out the form online to schedule a visit.