Commercial Dryer Vent Cleaning in Schools

Schools such as elementary, junior, and high schools often have several clothes dryers in various locations throughout the building. Frequently they’re located in custodian rooms, mechanical rooms, food & nutrition classes, gyms, etc. The dryers are typically a combination of commercial and residential—commercial for heavy-duty items such as mop-heads and uniforms, and residential for smaller items such as towels, etc.

There’s good reason to have these cleaned yearly, because of the machine’s heavy usage and the resultant combustible “lint blobs” that build up. Additionally, a dryer vent cleaning is an opportunity for any problems in the vent line to be noted and remedied.

Commercial dryer vent cleaning in schools.
A commercial dryer at a school in Eagan, MN, with 8-inch exhaust venting.

How school dryer vents are cleaned

Because of the combination of commercial and residential dryers in a school setting, and their scattered placement throughout, every building will require a thorough assessment during the estimate phase of the project to determine how the vent lines will be cleaned.

Those dryer vents that are relatively simple, without long runs, twists and turns, or a connected series of various-sized ducts, will be cleaned similarly to a residential dryer vent. This involves the insertion of a reverse-blowing skipper ball from the outside vent through to the back of the dryer. The tech then pulls the tool out, as it shoots air through tiny holes on the surface that bring the lint with it.

More complex dryer vent lines may have several vents running into a larger, shared duct, or they may have long vertical and/or horizontal runs. In these cases access can be cut at strategic points along the way to ensure the length of the vent line is cleaned. Some complex dryer vent lines have access doors built into them by forward-thinking installers, and others may have access panels created by previous HVAC cleaners.

A louvered termination of a dryer vent line in a school.
BEFORE: The termination of a vent line in excess of 30 feet with horizontal and vertical runs and a louvered flap at the end, behind which was a large lint clog.
A dryer vent line with a louvered flap.
AFTER: The entirety of the vent line has been cleaned of thick, wet lint. Brushes were utilized, and the project took over 2 hours to complete.

Though the reverse-blowing skipper ball is often the tool of choice when cleaning dryer vents, there are cases when it won’t suffice and brushes are used. For example, if the vent line can’t be fully reached from the outside or airline access is limited, or in the case of a massive clog, dryer vent cleaning brushes will be more effective.

Surprise finds during dryer vent cleaning in schools

Regular cleaning of school dryer vents is important not only to keep the vent line clear of combustible lint, but also because it’s at this time that many problems are discovered that would otherwise have gone unnoticed. For example, crushed or twisted vent lines, disconnects of the venting at various points in the line, and faulty terminations, which might include screening over the termination (a hard no), or the wrong termination cap.

During the cleaning process, the technician makes note of any abnormalities along the vent line and makes recommendations for repair when necessary. A common find is flex ducting that is not UL-listed and is more like a thin, crinkly aluminum foil that’s subject to punctures and tears. This will be replaced with UL-listed flex duct or a more rigid pipe for the durability required of a dryer vent. Flex ducting will also be replaced with a sturdier pipe if it is longer than 8 feet, for code compliance.

A flex transition in a dryer vent line.
BEFORE: The flex transition of a school dryer vent in Rosemount, MN, that is punctured and compromised.
A flex transition after it has been repaired.
AFTER: The transition has been repaired by replacing the thin foil-like portion with DryerFlex fire-rated duct.

The end of the dryer vent line, where it exhausts, is called the termination. It is here also that many potential problems can occur. Sometimes we find these to be covered with metal screening, which will cause a host of problems as the tiny holes become clogged with lint and restrict air flow.

Sometimes the case is the wrong termination cap, as in the photos below. This is a single dryer vent at a school in Apple Valley that is terminated with a furnace flue cap. This can be problematic due to the possibility of critters entering through the gaps in the furnace flue cap, as opposed to a dryer vent hood, which would have a backdraft damper preventing animal entry. Additionally, the natural-draft air flow from a furnace behaves differently than the forced air of a dryer vent–a difference that the proper caps accommodate. Improper air flow from a furnace flue cap on a dryer vent would hasten the formation of clogs.

BEFORE: A dryer vent exhaust at a school in Apple Valley, MN, wrongly terminated with a furnace flue cap, which could allow animal entry.
AFTER: The same exhaust, with the proper termination including a magnetic backdraft hood to prevent sticking in the open position.

From estimate to project completion

The process for commercial dryer vent cleaning in schools begins with a site visit by one of our commercial project managers. He’ll meet with maintenance and survey the school for the location and number of dryer vents, as well as their length and where they terminate.

During the cleaning project, the technicians will make note of any problematic situations or areas of concern, including disconnects, damaged vent lines, and improper termination.

Reach out and we’ll show you how to keep your school on top of commercial dryer vent cleaning for the benefit of students and teachers alike.

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