Dryers get better at letting you know lint is blocking the vent

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A lint-filled dryer vent is not just a lot of fluff. The clogged vent increases drying time and energy use, and worse, lint can cause dryer fires. Consumer Reports latest dryer tests found that blocked-vent indicators have improved on some newer models. They aren't perfect, but they detected fully blocked vents more reliably than earlier versions.

Lint remains mysterious enough to warrant a Wikipedia entry, but is just loose fabric fibers and one reason some people line dry their laundry. Lint is also the leading cause of an average of 4,400 reported dryer fires a year, according to the National Fire Protection Association. So when Kenmore and LG introduced dryers several years ago with vent-blockage indicators, we blocked each dryer's duct to test how well the indicator performed, but the results were too inconsistent to trust the indicators.

Our latest tests found that the new Airflow Alert and Check Vent indicators on Maytag and Whirlpool dryers, LG's FlowSense, and Samsung's Vent Sensor detect fully blocked vents more reliably. LG's sensor even stopped the dryer, and an app for the Whirlpool dryer can send a text or e-mail if there's a problem. But these indicators weren't as good at detecting partially blocked vents.

Among the recommended dryers you'll find these indicators on many of the higher rated models, including the Samsung DV50F9A8EVP, $1,100, the Maytag Maxima XL MED8000AG, $1,450, and the LG DLEX3470[W], $1,000. The Whirlpool Duet WEL98HEAL $1,500, is Wi-Fi enabled and can text or e-mail you when there's a problem. We note this and other features, such as electronic controls and steam option, in our summary of each dryer.

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Check our Ratings of dozens of electric and gas dryers to find one that matches your needs and budget. "Even if you buy a dryer with one of these blocked-vent indicators, you'll lower the risk of a dryer fire by using only a flexible or solid-metal duct and sealing joints and seams," says Emilio Gonzalez, the engineer who oversees our tests of laundry appliances. "Remove the duct regularly and clean it, and clean the lint filter after every load."

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