Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Another episode of problem solving, alone and in the middle of nowhere...

...without the right tools and unwilling to make the three-hour roundtrip to the hardware store or waste money on a service call.

It was Sunday afternoon and I was catching up on laundry. I caught a whiff of what I can only describe as "hot dryer smell" and went over to investigate. I put my hand on top of the dryer to take its temperature, yelled many unladylike expletives, and turned it off. The cussed thing was overheating. Again. Since this was the second dryer drama in as many weekends, I deduced that this problem surely had to be related to the bird-in-the-dryer dilemma which my capable ranchsitters resolved a mere eight days earlier.

Had the bird in the dryer appeared because it had fallen out of a nest it had built atop the dryer vent? And was the nest now clogging the vent, causing it to overheat? That was my theory. But to prove it, I would have to access the top of the dryer vent. Which is in the middle of my steeply pitched metal roof. Which could easily double as the biggest slide on any playground.

I knew there was no way I could safely climb on the roof, but I thought it might be possible to dislodge a nest if only my arm were about 18 feet long. So I hunted around the garage and rigged an extension pole out of leftover pvc and a stick with a hook on the end.

Why is it that all my problem-solving adventures involve ladders? Probably because I wouldn't have these problems if I were tall. Anyway, I was able to use the extension pole to poke around the top of the dryer vent by standing on the ladder, which I'd placed in the bed of the truck. But I didn't poke out a bird's nest or anything else that might have been stuck right under the vent cap. I climbed down, turned on the dryer, and it was still overheating. Bummer. I resigned myself to having to call a repairman, then went out to the barn to do chores.

My best ideas come to me while scooping poop, and this one was no exception. If I couldn't clear the vent from the top down, maybe I could clear it from the bottom up? What could I use to push up into the vent that would bend 45 degrees yet be sturdy enough to reach the roof and pull out the blockage? How about a metal tape measure?

I extended a 25-foot tape measure up the vent from inside the house. It stopped at 14 feet, and I assumed I had struck the vent cap. I retracted the tape measure and out came a big pile of lint. Hmm. Now I had a new theory. Maybe the problem wasn't a bird's nest. Maybe the bird flying in and out of the vent had simply dislodged some lint that was lining the vent, clogging it up. I placed a mirror at the bottom of the vent and shone a flashlight up the pipe. I could see some daylight at the top but there was enough lint between here and there that my theory seemed plausible.

Now I had to figure out a way to clean out the 14-foot tall, 4-inch-wide pipe. I pushed the tape measure up several more times, pulling down a little lint with each effort, but I needed something wider.

I looked in the laundry room cupboards and found the plastic packaging around a light bulb, which I stapled to the end of the tape measure...



...then I covered the plastic with a Swiffer cloth, attaching it with several layers of duct tape 
so it wouldn't come loose and get stuck in the vent.



Then I stuck my homemade dryer-vent sweep up the vent and down came a most disgusting clog of lint.



And then I aimed the mirror up the vent and there was light at the end of the tunnel.

I turned the dryer on and it didn't overheat.

The end.

41 comments:

  1. Fantastic! I LOVE how you make your own tools! How proud and content you must have felt at the end of that adventure!
    Els from Amsterdam

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  2. You are an amazing problem solver! Two thumbs up!!

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  3. It is a fine thing to be able to have a STRAIGHT pipe! I have had many troubles due to more than one bend in my vent. Bravo on you repurposing of items! McGuyver of The Desert!

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  4. WOW! You are so lucky you caught that! Dryer lint is a major cause of house fires. And there's no way the firetrucks would reach your place in time! I'd say you have something to be very thankful for this Thanksgiving.

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  5. Diane from NC11/20/12, 5:17 AM

    You go Girl!!!. The Maytag Man would be proud to have you for a daughter.

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  6. You are amazing! What an inventive way to do it yourself. You go girl!!

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  7. Jolly good show! You are an inspiration to us all!

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  8. Relief! Good thing you were home(inside) and caught the overheating event. Dryer fires are serious!

    Since your run is fairly straight, you might be able to use a Leaf-Blower with PVC pipe Elbow attached (to make the 90-deg turn) to blow out your pipe every 6 mths or so. Being just one person in the house, you wouldn't do as much laundry as a family of 4.


    I have to clean out the vent at the house (parent's and myself) at least 4 times a year - pulling the dryer out, using a feather duster duct-taped to a 4-foot fiberglass chimney sweep pole (all jury-rigged from the home improvement store). I also shop-vac from the outside vent (ground level exit, also not to code) periodically when I can't pull the dryer out and do the cleanout from the inside (also with some 6-ft flexible hosing attached to the shop vac).

    Long-story-short -- dryer is below grade and in an inside room. There are more turns and length of pipe run that it would make an inspector fall down laughing at all the building code infractions. *** would really like to know how this house plan passed inspection!!

    Therefore frequent cleanups are the rule.

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  9. Try a shop vac next time you regularly clean your vent.

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  10. Dryer vents have been notorious for causing fires. I'm glad you were able to clean your vent out. I don't know why they are build so unfriendly to clean. Anyway your homemade snake did just fine.
    Way to go Carson.

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  11. I am SO impressed! You watched a lot of Macgyver episodes didn't you?

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  12. You're hilarious. I think you should have your own do-it-yourself show. It could be kind of a McIver/Bob Vila/Mike Holmes/Xena the Warrior God hybrid. Just think of it, Wynonna, the girls, and the herd could be your co-host and Smooch could be the trusty side-kick.

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  13. I've said it before and I'll say it again, You are my idol!

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  14. P.S. I wonder if a routine purge of the duct using a long shop van hose would help prevent his in the future. I think I'll try it.

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  15. Good job! I've found the shop vac helpful with this issue -- suck the lint down and into the vac. You are right -- everything that goes wrong at the house is way over our heads.

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  16. The only thing that comes to mind is - CREATIVE GENIUS! Way to go girl!

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  17. OMG! I have tears of laughter running down my cheeks. this story is PRICELESS and you win The Smart Rancher Award... i would never have thought of this and i really really loved this story. our vent is only 4 feet long and goes out at hip height, now i am thinking i better check it out. thanks

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  18. Estella from Co.11/20/12, 7:52 AM

    You are Awesome, Linda. You need your own TV show...honestly Hugs

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  19. Dave Gibbons11/20/12, 8:10 AM

    I bought a dryer vent snake. It's a flexible cable with a round brush at the end. It would be an excellent long-term solution to cleaning your vent on a regular basis. However, your inventiveness took care of the problem and you are to be commended. Way to go Carson.

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  20. In these days when a workman won't cross your threshold for less than $50-75 you have saved tons o' money, and been as smart as anyone could be about fixing things.

    You are my new idol!

    Jo

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  21. Carson...You scare and amaze me. That was quite the lint ball. Your ingenuity had me smiling but the ladder in the truck is so scary. Hope you always have your phone in your pocket.

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  22. Next time I need some creative thinking, I am gonna ask yoU! What a brilliant Idea!

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  23. Excellent! I'd never have thought of the bulb packaging as part of the tool. You are so creative in finding ways to fix stuff with what you have on hand. We have one of those dog grooming fur blower machines-works like a charm to clean cobwebs off the ceiling and corral dust bunnies-also used it as a leaf blower.

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  24. Well done! AND you saved yourself a lot of money. My vent is very short because it goes out the side of our house, but I'm checking it tonight. The leaf blower idea is great. I may try that if the shop vac doesn't work.

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  25. Necessity-the mother of invention....Nice problem solving...

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  26. I love your ingenuity. And now I am worried about my newly-stacked and immovable washer-dryer unit that vents out the roof and is virtually inaccessible without crawling through an attic of old-style fibreglass and asbestos insulation. What is it with builders and manufacturers who don't consider access issues for things like this?

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  27. Carol in N. Colorado11/20/12, 9:59 AM

    You need something like a chimney brush but on a flexible pole. You came up a great solution. Glad you were able to figure out the problem and correct it. I was going to ask why the dryer vent went straight up instead our out the side of the house where it would be easier to clean. But you have critters that crawl and slither into unwelcome areas which would need screening.

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  28. You are amazing! I love your resourcefulness! Hooray for ingenuity!

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  29. I'm way impressed by how resourceful you are!

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  30. YOU are a true American using American ingenuity!! Proud of ya Girl!!

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  31. Oh my goodness. If you aren't the most clever and inventive person on the planet. Of course the photo of the ladder in truck kinda sent me into warning, warning mode but your solution was fabulous.
    When you have to cowgirl up, come up with a way to "git er dun", darling girl you do us all proud. Oma Linda

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  32. Bravo! Bravo!

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  33. will you marry me? =o)










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  34. I am quite sure that I would have had a dryer fire or been stringing clothesline long before I figured out the solution. How satisfied you must be, having fixed it with your two little hands and this and that.
    I think you should write to Swiffer and tell them this story. And maybe to the maker of the light bulb packaging and maybe the company that made the tape measure...hey, y'never know...you might become EVEN MORE famous!

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  35. You are GOOD! I know someone who uses a leaf blower to clean their chimney. That might work too.
    Something I didn't know until I had a serious lint wad was that it also builds up inside the back of the dryer! You have to take the back off the dryer to clean it out. I give up. Cloths line wins. Even in the winter. I just let stuff freeze dry.

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  36. I'm amazed at your ingenuity, as usual. I bet your dad is proud. Just a few days ago I heard whistling as I was doing laundry. I figured there was a vent clog and after the vent was cleaned, the whistling was gone. I'm glad that I have good hearing so the clog didn't get worse and possibly cause a fire. A house in our neighborhood was destroyed by a dryer fire several years ago. It's a good thing you were still close by when the hot dryer smell started. We're all glad you, your animals and your home are safe.

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  37. Did you just step back and smile and say "damn, I'm good!"? Cuz you should've!

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  38. Awesome! Great ingenuity, perseverance, and resourcefulness! My special favorite part is the lightbulb bubble wrap with the swiffer pad around it. Bonus points for repurposing recyclable materials! That's some genius trash-picking right there!

    I'm also enlightened to know this is how dryer vents behave. For future reference in my eternal efforts to stay sane and alive.

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