Since most of the work I do tends to be reactionary, meaning I am resolving an issue that has already caused a problem, I find I like to write posts that are more preventative in nature. Take for example the photo above of a vent cover that has seen better days. I would like to demonstrate how by installing this one item when the home was built has resulted in a rather large repair bill for this customer several years later. And maybe turn this into a learning exercise to prevent it from happening to others.
Most of the vent covers I replace are garbage. And frankly they were garbage when new. Made of plastic, connected to thin aluminum ducts and although working well when new, they quickly degrade into something that no longer serves its original purpose. The louvers, designed to allow air and lint to pass eventually become more difficult to open and begin to catch lint. And once this happens, the process moves quickly until the airflow is all but eliminated.
In the case of this unfortunate homeowner, the airflow had been slowed to the point her laundry was no longer drying and she had to run the dryer multiple cycles to just get anything done. Then eventually the dryer stopped heating and thus a call for service. Upon testing, it was found that the heating element had failed due to a break. This break was likely caused by the constant high temperature cycling of the element due to poor airflow.
You see if the air is being drawn across the element as designed, the heat is constantly carried away allowing the element to glow a dull orange as it is in its happy place. Without this airflow, the element will be a bright red and the temperature inside the enclosure will spike quickly over an over again. This eventually weakens the metal coil of the element until it simply fails.
And if that wasn’t enough, just above the element housing is one of the drum support rollers. This too is subjected to constant heating which dries the lubrication in the roller bushing to the point it begins to lock up when rotated. Eventually it will seize to the shaft and breaks free from the bushing resulting in noise, or oftentimes a rubbing sound that usually will not be heard over the other normal sounds.
So you see all this was all caused by the builder deciding to use a cheap component at the end of the dryer ducting. Now of coarse, a little routine dryer vent cleaning would have gone a long way toward prevention as well, but when done correctly, dryer ducts, and all its components should last the life of your home. And that starts when the home is built.