Gas dryers are a common household appliance, but like any appliance that uses gas, they can pose a fire risk if not correctly maintained or used. Sometimes, knowing the actual figures can both make you cautious and alleviate your fears.
Furthermore, understanding the causes of fires related to gas dryers can help people take steps to prevent them and keep their homes safe, and knowing what to look out for and what to do if you suspect a gas leak or other malfunction can prevent injuries and property damage.
Gas dryer function involves electricity, gas, open flames, and high heat. This means that, despite numerous safety features, gas dryers are a fire risk. 22% of dryer fires are caused by gas dryers. However, only 21% of the population has gas dryers, so this does not make them less risky than electric dryers.
Fire Risk Factors for Gas Dryers
Gas dryers have a few different potential sources for fire, including heat, open flames, flammable material, and gas.
The temperature generated by a gas dryer depends on a variety of factors, such as the design of the dryer and the settings used during operation. Generally, gas dryers reach temperatures between 130 to 170 °F (54 to 77 °C).
A gas dryer may get higher temperatures than normal from:
- Lint buildup restricting airflow and causing the dryer to overheat.
- A clogged venting system (amazon link) or overloading the dryer causing the dryer to work harder to push air through the system, which can cause the dryer to overheat.
- A malfunctioning thermostat causing the dryer to overheat by not cutting the heat when it reaches the required temperature.
- A malfunctioning gas valve that releases too much gas into the burner assembly at a time.
Gas dryers, like any other appliance, have a small risk of causing a fire if they are not properly maintained or used.
Some gas dryers have safety features, like thermostats that are built-in to control the temperature, and some models are equipped with sensors that monitor the temperature and automatically adjust it to prevent overheating.
Gas dryers use a gas burner to heat the air that circulates inside the dryer drum. The only opportunity for fire there would be if there was excess gas or flammable material in contact with the gas burner.
The gas is ignited by an electric spark, and the flame is contained within the burner assembly and is not always visible during normal operation.
A flame sensor is also present in the burner assembly to detect the flame, and it will shut off the gas supply if the flame goes out.
The flame in a gas dryer should be a blue color, and if it appears yellow or orange this can be a sign of a problem, such as a lack of oxygen or a malfunctioning burner. If you notice a yellow or orange flame, it’s important to turn off the dryer and contact a professional for repairs.
The risk of lint or clothes catching fire in a gas dryer is relatively low if the dryer is properly maintained. A lint buildup in the dryer or the venting system can lead to overheating and potentially cause a fire.
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) states that in the US, clothes dryers were associated with one out of every 22 home structure fires reported to US fire departments. Most of these fires were caused by failure to clean the dryer.
To minimize the risk of lint or clothes catching fire in a gas dryer, regularly clean the lint filter and venting system.
Certain types of clothes, such as those made of synthetic materials, can be more prone to generate static electricity and can create sparks, which can lead to a fire if lint is present. So, it’s essential to follow the instructions for the care of the clothes.
Gas dryers are designed to burn this gas safely and efficiently, so the risk is not very high. However, if a gas dryer is not properly maintained or has a malfunctioning component, it can release gas into the home.
A gas leak can occur in the dryer’s gas valve, hose connections, or in the gas line that supplies the dryer. Gas leaks can also occur if the dryer is not properly ventilated, which can cause the gas to build up inside the dryer and eventually leak out.
If you detect a strong smell of gas, hissing or whistling sounds coming from the dryer, or a yellow or orange flame instead of a blue flame when the dryer is in use, immediately turn off the dryer and the gas supply to the dryer and contact a professional.
Gas Dryer Fire Statistics
From 2014-2018, the NFPA reported 13,820 home fires where dryers were involved in the ignition, with 4% (553 fires) directly caused by dryers in general.
Of those, 22% (121 fires) were caused by gas dryers. However, only reported fires were included, meaning there are likely more home fires caused by gas dryers than we know each year.
In 2016, the NFPA reported an estimated 15 deaths, 300 injuries, and $236 million in property damage from fires caused by clothes dryers and washing machines. The leading cause of such fires was a failure to clean them (34% of dryer fires and 14% of washer fires).
Gas Dryers Are Not Safer Than Electric Dryers
While the statistics may make it look like gas dryers are safer (due to a lower percentage causing fires compared to electric dryers), when you take into account the percentage of the population who use electric versus gas dryers, the difference is eliminated.
About 21% of the population uses gas dryers.
In light of this, it is instead gas dryers that seem to have a slightly higher risk of causing home fires. This may be due to risks associated with gas and open flames, but they also have other risks, including electrical causes.
In terms of other safety concerns, gas dryers require proper venting to the outside of the home to prevent the buildup of carbon monoxide, a potentially deadly gas.
On the other hand, electric dryers do not produce carbon monoxide and do not require venting.
However, we cannot say definitively that gas dryers are more dangerous, as some electric dryers can get to higher temperatures than gas dryers, and both kinds of dryers can lead to fires due to lint buildup.
Most Common Cause
Gas dryers, like any other appliance, can pose a fire risk if they are not used properly. Some common causes of fires in gas dryers include:
- Lint buildup in the dryer or venting system, which can lead to overheating and ignition of the lint.
- A malfunctioning gas valve or other components of the dryer, which can cause gas leaks and potentially lead to a fire.
- Overloading the dryer, which can cause the dryer to overheat and potentially lead to a fire.
To minimize the risk of a fire, it is important to regularly clean the lint filter and venting system, have your dryer serviced and inspected by a professional, and follow the manufacturer’s instructions for use and care.
Also, make sure to not overload the dryer and to clean the lint filter after each use. Unplug the dryer when not in use and check the hoses and connections for any leaks, wear, or damage.