Properly Venting a Dryer

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Topic: Properly Venting a Dryer

Home and Garden November 27, 2012 at 12:49 pm

Properly Venting a Dryer


Hello, neighbors!
We live in an old Wardman rowhouse in Columbia Heights. The dryer, which is in the basement, has never been properly vented, and we’re investigating how best to do that. The options I’ve read about are:
1. Rig up a plexiglass vent to vent through a nearby window.
2. Replace the window entirely to install one that includes a venting half.
3. Core drill through the brick wall to reach the outside.
4. Gain access to and drill through the lap joist at the top of the basement wall.
What set up do you have? Are you happy with it? Given your experience, which of the four do you consider the best option?
Thanks for your help!

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I think you can also get a dryer that safely vents indoors. It may generate extra heat / moisture, but should also be part of the consideration.

That said, we went through the brick. ~$60 tool rental from home depot, some elbow grease, and replacing a couple of bricks that shook loose. We didn’t want the sketchy look or window blocking of going through the window.

I also live in a CH Wardman and have two vented dryers, one in the basement and one on the third floor.  Basement is vented through an unused window that has been drywalled over.  The third floor dryer is vented through the roof.  Both work just fine.  You have probably already considered this, but you ought to balance cost, esthetics, and security.  We were planning to stay in the house for the long term, and so it was worth the extra cost of venting through the roof. 


1)  Cheapest option, but doesn’t look great.  Fine and effective though
2)  More expensive, but will look modestly better.  Also effective.
3)  Probably less expensive than window, but requires work and care that you don’t make a massive hole that causes structural issues.  Will look most “finished” if done right.  Effective.
4)  Possibly biggest hassle, and if you cut the wrong thing you could create structural problems.  also may require more elbows, which reduce venting efficacy.
5) [Non-venting dryer].  I have looked into these, and they should be a last resort.  They make the room humid and linty, and are much less effective at drying.  Humidity isn’t a problem in the winter, but in the summer?  Good luck with that.


Ours is vented through the roof, but our hot water heater was vented by going through the brick.  It sounds like going through the brick is the best option in your case — why give up the window?

I work in the home energy/weatherization industry and we do thousands of these across the country.  There are definitely better and worse ways to do this.  On the “worse” end of the spectrum, you can cause all kinds of problems from reducing the efficiency of the dryer by contricting the ability to move moisture, to causing a fire hazard.  All dryers have a specification for how long of a vent the blower motor can handle.  This length gets shorter with every bend and elbow- an elbow is equivalent to 5-10 feet of straight run in terms of it’s resistance to airflow. The manual for the dryer will have that lenght.  You can download most manuals online.
 So, a couple of guiding points for making your decision:
1. Dryer vents should always be rund with ridgid (the sheet metal stuff) duct.  No flex duct should be anywhere in the line- even if it is sort of metal (foil) and even if theY sell it at Home Depot as “dryer duct”.  Builidng codes do not allow it and for good reason.  The corrugated surface both reduces airflow, decreasing the efficiency of the dryer and creates a place for lint buildup which poses a fire hazard.
2.  The shortest possible run should be considered.  If that means going through the brick and you are up for it- do it.  It’s not too hard- as noted in another comment, you can rent a core bit and rotary hammer at Home Depot.  The 4″ hole required for a dryer duct shouldn’t pose any structural issues no matter where you put it.  Unless you drill out a keystone in the door header, but that’s probably not where you would be putting a vent anyway.
3.  No screws in the duct- it traps lint.
4. Seal the seams in the duct with foil tape – not duct (often called duck) tape.  Despite its name, it is useless.
5.  Avoid going through the roof if you can.  It’s very difficult for the fan to push moisture that far vertically.  If you do have to do that, you should stay on top of the lint accumulation and if the dryer is really inefficient and take a long lime to dry a load, you might consider a duct booster fan.
Hope that helps.

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