In this issue:
1) When Your Dryer Wheezes ‘I can’t Breathe!’
2) Gas Oven Ignition - a ‘Crash Course’
1) 'Tis the season, at least here in
the c-c-cold Northeast,
for dryer vent duct problems. Saw another one yesterday, and they're scary to a fire-paranoid guy like me.
If your dryer's connected to flexible white plastic vent duct, now's a good time to take a look at it. This stuff really gets brittle as it ages,
and in most states it's illegal to use now. Cracks and air leaks are common
with it. And it will fill with water if it's run through a cold crawlspace or cellar (If this describes yours, at least poke a few small drain holes in the bottom of the duct for now). I've seen so many problems with it over the years, I've become a true believer in rigid 4 inch aluminum pipe. Better airflow means a more efficient and safer dryer.
I’ve run about 16 feet of smooth wall aluminum here at our house for 26 years, and have had to clean it only once! I check it every year, but it stays beautifully clean. One of those things that’s worth doing right, because then you can forget about it for a long time.
If you have no choice but flexible duct,
replace it with a good quality aluminum product like
from Deflecto Corp.
This duct is as flexible as plastic, but is constructed of 5 layers of
aluminum foil, and has been an excellent alternative to flex plastic, which,
as stated above, is now illegal in most states.
It looks like this:
If you've recently bought, or are considering buying, a new dryer, remember that most manufacturers won't honor your dryer's warranty if they find out you’ve vented it with flex plastic.
Whether you're installing your dryer or just moving it to clean behind it, you'll want to pay close attention to what happens to the flexible duct ‘tail’ behind it when you push the machine back into place. The most common result of a kink back there is a burnt-out heating element or safety thermal limiter, but it can get much worse than that. The flex aluminum is also less prone to kinking than previous materials.
If your dryer is on a slippery floor and prone to 'walking' back towards the wall and smashing the duct, a short piece of 2 X 6 laid on the floor behind the dryer will keep it where it belongs and breathing easy.
2) I’ve been seeing a lot of gas ovens not igniting lately, so let’s talk about them a little bit.
Most older gas oven systems use a ‘glowbar’ type ignitor electrically
connected in series with the bimetal oven
(New ovens are a different 'critter', using low voltage
valves and spark ignition. Sadly, they're also a lot less reliable.)
Electrical current passing through the ignitor operates a small heater that ‘warps’ an internal piece of bimetal to open the gas
While the valves are very reliable, the ignitors have become the
most common parts failure on these systems. Which is to be
expected, I guess; they’re doing their job while in a gas flame!
Ignitors come in two basic types, ‘flat’ and ‘round’, seen
below, and they can’t be interchanged.
Each type operates at a particular amperage level, and is matched to the type gas valve it operates. The stainless steel ‘cages’ that protect them usually correspond to their actual shape, which helps you figure out which one yours uses. And to make it even easier, there’s pretty much only One round one that fits them all. Flat ones vary only in the length of the ceramic block to which they’re mounted. Electrically they’re nearly all the same.
While it’s possible to diagnose one of these systems using an ammeter, it usually isn’t necessary. Since I try to keep life simple,
and since these ignitors have really dropped in price the last few years, it’s pretty easy to figure out what’s up with your cold oven.
If your oven doesn’t light, but you see the ignitor glowing, it will most likely be glowing a very dull red and not drawing enough
current to operate the valve. Or, in some cases, it will operate the valve very slightly and you’ll smell some gas odor. Neither case is desirable or acceptable!
Watch a clock or stopwatch. If it takes more than 2 minutes to light, you’ll want to replace the ignitor; it’s the culprit in 90% of these. And this is the best way for you to diagnose your ignition system! In most cases, that’s all there is to it. You don’t even have to worry about wire polarity on the new ignitor – they can be wired either way. Just be sure it’s wired like the old one, and not connected to 120V directly, or it will burn out.
Ignitor and valve must be in series with each other, or you’ll burn out one or both, fast!
If you’ve replaced the ignitor and it glows but the oven still doesn’t
light, it’s time for a new valve. They’re pricier, but I usually recommend doing this once in a range’s life if necessary. Still
much cheaper than a new range.
If there’s no ‘glow’ at all, take a close look at the ignitor, and
you’ll often see a crack, or it may even be obvious that it’s broken apart.
You can use an ohmmeter to test for continuity if no cracks are
Just be sure to power the range down. In some models, one side of the oven valve is always ‘hot’ with respect to ground, like some
electric range bake element terminals.
New ignitors ship with two ceramic wire nuts, and you simply connect
the new part’s wires to the originals, using the original plug if
yours has one.
A bit of hi-temp. grease on the mounting screws will be a big help if you have to repeat this job in the future. These screws are subject
to very high heating, and can ‘freeze’ into their threads so tightly
you’d like to blast to get them out sometimes!
flat version's available
the 'round' one here. (These
link to Ebay, the best place to buy appliance parts at below-wholesale
prices these days)
Thanks for inviting me into your inbox again this month. I hope you benefit from this half as much as I enjoy writing it for you. Thanks for all your encouragement - I really appreciate it!
May the Lord richly bless you & yours with the best Christmas season ever, and may He continue to have Mercy on America. She sorely needs it.
Dave’s Repair Service
New Albany, PA
Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah,
yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in
Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
- Micah 5:2
(Written some 700 years before His birth!)