Can Clogged Up Dryer Lint Really Start a Fire?

(And what insurance you need to protect you against this event)

Dryer lint

Homeowners have a variety of risks to consider that could result in an insurance claim, including a fire starting from their appliances. So can your dryer lint really start a fire, and what happens if it does? We'll tell you, and we'll also tell you if you're covered. 

An independent insurance agent can help you think about these risks and others that you may not realize are risks at all. They've seen all sorts of claims and can make sure you're protected long before you need it. Here's how they can protect you against a fire caused by dryer lint. 

Can Dryer Lint Really Start a Fire?

Surprisingly, yes.  Fires started from dryer lint are probably more common than you think. In fact, 92% of home structure fires involve clothes dryers. Check out these other stats from the National Fire Protection Agency.

  • In 2010 to 2014, US fire departments responded to an estimated average of 15,970 home structure fires involving clothes dryers or washing machines each year.
  • These fires caused annual averages of 13 civilian deaths, 444 civilian injuries, and $238 million in direct property damage.
  • The leading items first ignited in dryer fires were dust, fiber, or lint (26% of total) and clothing (26%), while items first ignited in washing machine fires were part of the appliance itself, including wire or cable insulation (26%), appliance housing or casing (24%), and drive belt (11%).

If a dryer is not properly installed and maintained, you could be facing a devastating and expensive insurance claim. 

What Insurance Is Going to Cover Me During a Dryer Lint Fire?

No matter how it starts, a fire inside your home that gets out of hand can destroy your property. Fortunately, your general home insurance policy will cover damage from a dryer lint fire. General homeowners insurance is made up of a variety of coverages that are designed to repair, replace, or recover the value of what you currently have (under coverage) if it’s damaged due to any number of causes. Fires are covered under the property damage portion of your insurance policy. 

  • Property damage: This is by far the biggest claim maker, which includes damage to your house and any structures on your property due to water, fire, and severe storms among others.
  • Standard home liability: This will cover you financially if someone is injured or their personal belongings are damaged while on your property.
  • Extra money for living: If you're displaced from your home as a result of a covered peril, most policies will pay for a hotel and other living expenses, like groceries.

Will My Property Coverage Cover a Dryer Fire? 

Property coverage is part of your homeowners insurance policy and usually includes property and liability coverage. When it comes to a potential dryer lint fire, property coverage is designed for these specific perils. Within property coverage are three types of insurance coverages including replacement costs, actual cash value, and extended replacement costs. 

  • Replacement cost: This repairs or replaces your damaged property at the same or equal value before it was damaged. The cost to replace is based on replacement costs versus the cash value of the property that was damaged. 
  • Actual cash value: This pays for the value of the damaged property minus any depreciation if the item is older. For example, if a fire burns down a 15-year-old washer, you would receive the value of the washer after depreciation, not a brand new washer. 
  • Extended replacement costs: This pays over the coverage limit if the construction costs have increased, but there's usually a limit that the payment will not exceed.

Property coverage will not protect you or pay for damages caused by flooding as a result of natural disasters. You'll need flood insurance for that. Some property insurance also excludes losses due to earthquakes and molds. 

Can Liability Coverage Help in This Situation?

Liability coverage is protection for when a third party is injured on your property. If your dryer lint causes a fire and a family member or friend is trapped inside the home and is injured as a result of the fire, liability insurance will help pay for medical bills and any potential legal fees. If someone is injured on your property, they can sue you for their medical care. Whether or not you have to go to court, simply dealing with a lawsuit can get expensive. Liability insurance covers legal fees and any medical bills if you're found at fault. 

Should I Consider Umbrella Coverage?

Depending on your specific home and other factors, you may want to consider adding umbrella coverage to help extend your liability coverage’s limits. Umbrella insurance helps increase your protection beyond the liability limits offered in your homeowners policy. 

It’s important to consider all the common legal risks to homeowners that could warrant an umbrella insurance policy. The most common lawsuits filed against homeowners include:

  • Dog bites: Injuries caused by a family pet can cost an average of $30,000 in claim settlements.
  • Fallen trees: Fallen trees can result in the ten-thousands worth of damage.
  • Hired help injuries: If a domestic worker, such as a maid or gardener, is injured on your property due to your failure to maintain a safe premises, the resulting lawsuit and medical payments required could get expensive, fast.
  • Intoxicated guests: When you throw a party and it gets a little out of hand, you as the homeowner are still held responsible for any property damage or bodily injuries an intoxicated guest causes to other guests.

How Can I Eliminate the Risk of a Dryer Lint Fire? 

There are a variety of steps you can take to prevent a dryer lint fire beyond making sure your dryer is properly cleaned. These additional steps offered by Compact Appliance can help reduce your chances of being a victim to a dryer lint fire. 

  • Proper installation
  • Regular servicing
  • Making sure there are no flammable materials close by
  • Cleaning the lint filter before, during, and after every load of laundry
  • Using rigid or metal venting materials
  •  Making sure your vent pipe is not restricted
  • Not overloading your dryer
  • Checking your gas lines for leaks
  • Making sure you're using the proper electrical plugs
  • Only running your dryer when you're at home

Other Common Home Insurance Claims

Knowing the risks that homeowners face on a daily basis can assure that you have the best protection when you work with your independent insurance agent.

In 2014 to 2018, fire and lightning were the most costly property damage claims. Wind and hail topped the list for the most frequent insurance claims followed by water damage and freezing. 

Homeowners Losses Ranked by Claims Frequency, 2014 to 2018 (1)

(1) Claims per 100 house years (policies). For homeowners multiple peril policies (HO-2, HO-3, HO-5, and HE-7 for North Carolina). Excludes tenants and condominium owners policies. Excludes Alaska, Texas, and Puerto Rico.
(2) Includes vandalism and malicious mischief.
(3) Includes coverage for unauthorized use of various cards, forgery, counterfeit money, and losses not otherwise classified.

Source: ISO®, a Verisk Analytics® business.

What about Endorsements? Do I Need Them?

While your homeowners insurance will cover a dryer lint fire, there are a variety of additional endorsements you may want to consider adding to your policy. Endorsements are added coverages that protect you above and beyond what's offered on your general policy. Additional endorsements to consider include:

  • Earthquake insurance: This coverage protects homeowners against home damage due to earthquakes, mudslides, and other related natural events. Standard homeowners policies do not provide coverage for these types of disasters.
  • Flood insurance: Many natural disasters are covered under standard homeowners insurance policies, but floods aren’t one of them. If you live in an area prone to flooding, you’ll want to purchase a flood insurance policy to protect your home against damage or destruction due to floodwaters.
  • Sewer and drain backup: Homeowners insurance protects you against a lot of things, but typically sewage backup isn’t one of them. While this incident would be messy enough in the first place, not having coverage would really be a nightmare. Talk with your independent insurance agent about adding a sewer backup endorsement to your coverage.
  • Jewelry and personal property endorsement: High-value items like jewelry, firearms, and other property can be damaged in a fire but they won't be covered under your general property insurance. If you have valuables that you're concerned about, a personal property endorsement can pay for their replacement if they're damaged in a fire.

Your independent insurance agent can help you address any remaining coverage concerns you may have. They’ll make sure you get set up with all the protection you could possibly need against many different kinds of unforeseen disasters.

Here’s How an Independent Insurance Agent Would Help

Protecting your home from a dryer lint fire is a job fit for no one other than an independent insurance agent. They will search through multiple carriers to find providers that can protect you against fire and additional risks. They'll deliver quotes from a number of different sources, and help you walk through them all to find the best blend of coverage and cost.

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