When I took apart the clothes drier yesterday, I was impressed by how simply built it is. There are maybe a dozen moving parts in the whole machine. The biggest one, of course, is the drum you put the clothes in. It’s connected to a motor by a big, loopy rubber belt that turns it over and over, riding on a ring of felt. The same motor turns a fan that sucks the air out of the drum through a port in the back. There’s another port on the other side at the back to let the air in, but first it has to pass through a flue, and in the bottom of the flue there’s a section about six inches long that’s filled with what looks like tightly-wound steel springs: the heating element, the same kind of heating elements you’d find in a space heater, or a common toaster. Your clothes drier is basically a large toaster.
The choice to have the fan suck air through the drum instead of blow is interesting. It means that the air passing through the fan is hot and moist and filled with lint instead of cool and clear. There must have been a good reason for doing it that way, but I haven’t been able to imagine what it is. It’ll probably come to me in the middle of the night, and then I won’t write it down and I’ll forget it for the rest of time.
The flue is just what it sounds like, a straight pipe connected to the port at the top and open at the bottom so it can suck in air through a vent in the back of the clothes drier. The vent isn’t screened, so it can suck in all the dust, dirt, and lint that collects on the floor behind the drier. Anything that got sucked in would be instantly incinerated by the 4,500 watt heating elements glowing red-hot just inside the flue. We frequently leave tissue paper in our pants pockets that get shredded by the washing / drying process, and I have to believe a few of those shreds get sucked into the flue from time to time, where they certainly burst instantly, if briefly, into flame. How we haven’t burned down the house yet is beyond me.