According to data presented by the National Fire Protection Agency, more than 15,000 dryer-relates house fires occur in the U.S. each year. Clothes dryers are designed to produce heat in order to remove moisture from clothes. When it produces too much heat, however, it can ignite tinder-like lint and fabric debris.
The single most common reason why clothes dryer overheat is restricted airflow. When there’s a blockage in the internal duct work, the hot air will become trapped inside the drum where it creates potential fire hazard.
If you haven’t done so already, remove and clean the lint filter. Before placing the filter back, shine a flashlight into the slot-like area on the dryer to see if there’s any lint or debris stuck inside. If you see any, use a vacuum cleaner with a wand attachment to remove it.
You should also check the duct work to determine whether or not your dryer has appropriate airflow. With the dryer turned on, go to the outside of your house where the duct exhaust vents. Ideally, you should feel air blowing out of the vent. If there’s a blockage, however, you may feel little-to-no air.
Most dryers have a cycling thermostat that’s designed to automatically turn off the heating element at high temperatures. If this component is broken or malfunctioning, the clothes dryer may produce excessive heat. The cycling thermostat is a small metallic device that’s usually found in the rear of the dryer, although you’ll need to remove the back panel to access it.
You can test the cycling thermostat with a multi-meter to determine whether or not it needs replacing. After removing the thermostat, place each of the meter’s probes on the wire terminals. If the multi-meter reads 0 or near 0, the electrical flow is good. If the meter reads infinity, the thermostat needs replacing. Cycling thermostats are relatively inexpensive and easy to replace, so try this before spending several hundred dollars on a brand new clothes dryer.
A third possible cause of an overheating clothes is the heating element. It’s not uncommon for heating elements to warp and/or shift over time, resulting in direct contact with the drum or other components. When this occurs, the heating element can warm up the drum significantly faster than usual. The coils of the heating element should not be touching the drum, each other, or any other component.