With such a variety of causes of dryer heating elements overheating, it may seem like these mechanisms are rather short-lived. However, they often last longer with improved laundry practices and maintenance.
Although dryer heating element lifespan can depend on the brand, usage, and other factors, most can agree on an average. A variety of factors can cause dryer heating elements to overheat, but knowing the causes can help with prevention.
Dryer heating elements last, on average, 8-18 years. However, according to dryer repairers, it is relatively common for them to fail after one year.
Average Lifespan of a Dryer Heating Element
I contacted a couple of dryer repair shops and they recommended that I get an extended warranty for my dryer since they have seen many heating elements fail right after the one-year warranty ended.
This is much shorter than the 8-18 years estimated by online sources but it makes sense that a dryer repair place would see these one-year failures since failures at later times would most likely lead to the replacement of the dryer rather than just the heating element.
However, many users agree that dryer heating elements are worth replacing rather than getting a new dryer.
It seems that dryer heating elements can fail after a year but last, on average, about 15 years.
Factors Influencing the Heating Element Lifespan
Frequency of Use
As is the unfortunate case with all things, the more you use something, the quicker it will degrade. This is especially true with electrical components, such as a dryer heating element.
The more it is used, the more it will degrade because the material is exposed to repeated heating and cooling. While designed to withstand such conditions, these are tough on the elements. As the elements degrade, they become more likely to overheat—the main cause of dryer heating element failure.
Your dryer heating element is more likely to fail before eight years or so if the dryer is run more often and at higher temperatures.
A more common reason for a dryer heating element to overheat is because of poor ventilation. This often occurs when dryer maintenance is not done as often as it should be.
If the dryer lint trap isn’t cleaned out after each cycle, lint can build up in the system. Additionally, if your dryer vents aren’t cleaned out yearly, it is very likely that even more lint will build up in the ventilation system.
Blocked ducts prevent hot exhaust from leaving the system and cause heat to build up in the dryer. This heat can cause the dryer heating element’s coil to burn out, causing the failure of the heating element.
Blockages in the air intake part of the ventilation system would prevent cool air from entering the system and could also lead to the dryer heating element’s overheating.
Although it can be quite convenient to do large laundry loads, it turns out that consistently having huge loads of laundry go through the dryer can be damaging to the heating element.
In order for a dryer to dry a larger amount of laundry, the cycle would need to be hotter and more lengthy.
When the heating element is hotter for a longer time, the strain on the heating element increases. More strain on the heating element leads to a higher chance of a heating element’s failure.
Temperature Shut-off Switch
Even with clogged ventilation and excessively large laundry loads, dryer heating elements may survive due to the temperature shut-off switch.
This mechanism shuts off the dryer heating element when it gets to too high of a temperature so that it doesn’t burn out.
However, if the temperature shut-off switch is faulty, which is often a manufacturing mistake, the heating element won’t turn off before it is burnt out.
A steady and sufficient electrical supply to a dryer is necessary, but what happens when far too much electricity is supplied to a dryer in just a few seconds? This is called a power surge and is another common way that a dryer heating element can burn out.
Power surges can come from a variety of sources—some preventable and some not. These sources include electrical overload, faulty wiring, lightning strikes, and the power coming back on after a blackout.
Whatever the cause, too much voltage can cause a dryer heating element to overheat as large amounts of power in a heating element lead to high amounts of heat.
Signs That the Dryer Heating Element Is Burned Out
Even before the element burns out, there are signs of a problem.
For one, the clothes in the dryer may have black or brown stains from scorching due to high heat. Additionally, the dryer is likely to be uncomfortably hot to the touch and you may smell smoke.
You can also look for causes such as blocked ventilation, power surges, and more.
Then, if your element is burned out, either the appliance won’t heat up or it might not even turn on as a built-in safety mechanism.