HOW DRYERS WORK
Have you ever thought that your dryer is not drying as it should? Do your clothes come out damp all over after running your dryer an appropriate amount of time for the type of clothes being dried or do your clothes come out damp in spots?
Before delving into possible causes and potential solutions let’s first look at how a dryer actually works. This will be general so it really doesn’t matter if your dryer is gas or electric.
I remember growing up in Powder Springs, Ga. on a small farm just off a dirt road. A dryer was not something that people had in every home back in the 50s’. My mother did have a wringer washer but drying the clothes took place outside.
I would help my Mom hang the clothes on a clothes line after she had washed them and squeezed as much water out with the wringer as she could. This is one of my most cherished memories as the clothes line was situated between mimosa trees which bloomed beautifully in the springtime.
Why did I bring this up? What does it have to do with a dryer? Well, mother nature can be used as a large dryer. For those that have had the experience of hanging clothes on the clothes line you might have noticed that clothes dry faster with two main elements, sun (heat) and wind (air flow).
The dryer you have works on the same principal, air flow and heat. As your clothes tumble in the dryer heated air is pulled between them to remove the moisture and dry the clothes. The air is expelled through the vent run along with small amounts of moisture.
Your heat is produced by an electric element or a burner assembly if you have gas. A blower wheel, usually attached directly to the motor actually draws air around and through the heater element/burner assembly housing. This heated air is then pulled through the drum (entering the drum through holes strategically placed on the rear bulkhead) and around the clothes in the drum through your lint filter and through the blower fan and out the exhaust outlet and up through the vent run which should be a 4 inch metal vent in the interior walls of your home.
This is where the importance of air flow comes in. If the heated air cannot be pulled through the clothes due to a stoppage in the exhaust vent caused by a build up of lint or maybe a kinked flexible exhaust tube behind your dryer then the moisture will remain in your clothes and tremendously increase drying time.
Restricted or completely clogged exhaust outlets are a large reason why clothes can take extra time to dry. I have been on calls where customers have bought a new dryer thinking the dryer was the issue when in fact the restricted vent run was the cause.
Now back to our clothes line we can see how heat and air flow has a direct relationship to your drying time. A sunny day with plenty of wind is tops for quick dry times. A sunny day with no wind increases dry time and a cloudy day with no wind, well you guessed it, takes forever.
Before calling for service due to a drying issue check to make sure your dryer is getting warm inside and staying warm through the entire cycle. If it is, then it is a good possibility that your filter is either clogged or your vent run is restricted requiring a vent cleaning company rather that an appliance technician.
Note: Making sure the unit is staying warm through the entire cycle is important especially for gas dryers. Gas dryers with failing valve solenoids can operate properly for two or three heating cycles but then stop opening the safety valve and heating will stop.
Electric Dryer 240 volts: If your dryer is not getting warm at all then you may have an appliance issue. First, make sure your circuit breaker (should be 30 amps) has not tripped. Even though your dryer is running one of the breakers could be tripped as one leg runs the motor and the other leg goes through the element. Reset breaker to be sure neither companion breaker has tripped. If it still doesn’t heat then a service call may be required.
Gas Dryer 120 volts: As opposed to electric dryers which require 240 volts to operate; a gas dryer only requires 120 volts. If your gas dryer is not heating but the motor does run then your issue is with the appliance. A service call may be required.
As a side note, I want to mention that both style dryers have a thermal fuse that can open up (blow). I will mention a major difference and what you can expect with each in case the thermal does go bad.
Gas: Your dryer will continue running but it will no longer heat.
Electric: Your dryer will stop running completely.