Are New Dryers Safer?

Dryers contribute to more than 12,000 house fires every year-often because the vents are clogged with lint.

There's a new feature on some dryers from LG and Kenmore that could help prevent fires, but does it work?

Kenneth Lakin will never forget the phone call he got in September of 2008.

Lakin says, "A frantic phone call from a neighbor indicating that Gena's two daughters, Kendall and Jordan, were at their house, and there was a fire."

When he got to the house, he realized his friend Gena was still inside.

Lakin says, "It hit me like a ton of bricks that she was in serious trouble if she was not out of that house."

Gena never made it out. The fire that killed Kendall and Jordan's mother started in a dryer in which lint had built up in the vent.

Some dryers are touting a new feature. LG calls it "Flow Sense" and on Kenmore machines it's a "Check Vent" indicator.

The manufacturers says these will sense if a dryer's vent is blocked.

While both companies say this will improve performance, neither is calling it a safety feature.

Consumer Reports tested to see if this feature could alert you to a blocked dryer vent.

Jim Nanni of Consumer Reports says, "We tested each dryer by blocking the vent completely, and then operating it with a full load of wet clothes."

Turns out, the results were inconsistent. In one example, the four orange "flow sense" bars clearly show that the vent is blocked.

But other times, despite the fact that the vent is completely blocked, there is no signal at all, and the dryer continues to run for more than an hour.

Nanni says, "These tests, though limited, show that these indicators can't be relied on to alert you to a blocked vent."

So no matter which dryer you have, Consumer Reports says use a metal dryer vent and clean in regularly. Also, make sure to clean your lint trap every time you use your dryer.

If you're in the market for a new dryer, one from LG is tops in Consumer Reports ratings.

It's model DLE 2701 and costs $1,100.

If that's a bit much for your budget, the Kenmore 800 Series 6982 lacks some features, like custom programming, but does a great job at drying and costs far less-about $500.

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