SAN ANTONIO – A local company is literally sounding the alarm over dryer lint, which causes thousands of clothes dryer fires in the U.S. every year.
"A lot of times, you'll pull the dryer out and it will be stuffed with lint, and people just don't think about it," said Jack Terrazas, CEO of DrySafer Corp.
Firefighters nationwide respond to nearly 15,000 dryer fires every year, which result in an average of nine deaths, 420 injuries and $220 million in property damage, according the National Fire Protection Association. A common reason for the fires is lint and a lack of maintenance.
Homeowners may be used to clearing the dryer lint trap with each load, but it can't catch everything.
Lint that bypasses the trap can accumulate in the vents over time and blanket the motor, causing the motor to work harder and possibly overheat and spark a fire.
"Lint is the most flammable substance," Terrazas said. "In fact, Boy Scouts, Cub Scouts, when they go camping, they grab some lint to start a fire."
Terrazas and his partner, a longtime appliance repairman, came up with a way to prevent fires -- a dryer lint alarm called DryerSafer.
The company claims the device monitors airflow and temperature, and when it detects blockage, whether from lint or even an outdoor bird's nest, it sounds an alarm. Three beeps signals a clog, and five beeps means overheating and a signal that the dryer needs attention.
The device is an elbow-shaped, polycarbonate thermoplastic tube that connects the dryer to the duct.
The latest generation sells for $49.99 through the company's website. The company said it is working on a smart device for future release.
One sign of lint buildup in the exhaust system is clothes taking too long to dry or the dryer feeling extremely hot to the touch.
Fire experts recommend consumers replace flexible aluminum ducts with rigid metal ones because the flexible tubes crimp and crush more easily.
The dryer venting system should be checked at least once a year, and more often for households that do a lot of laundry.
And never leave the dryer running when you leave the house or go to sleep.