Dryer vent tubing provides the means by which clothes dryers exhaust humid air to the outdoors as they dry your freshly washed clothes. You can purchase dryer vent tubing (also known as dryer ducts) in a variety of materials, some flexible, others rigid. Most dryer vent tubing is round and 4 inches in diameter. Because all types are sold for use with dryers, you would naturally assume that all are suitable for this application. Unfortunately, that is not the case. Local building codes usually do not allow vinyl/plastic vent tubing, and some codes forbid any form of flexible vent tubing. Also, dryers may come with the manufacturer’s specifications for tubing to use with a particular model.
Below we break down the five common dryer vent tubing materials used to install a dryer vent, and the factors you should consider when choosing which is best for a new appliance or replacing existing tubing.
|Types of Dryer Vent Tubing|
|Aluminum foil||Inexpensive, easy to work with||Not suitable for full duct run; may not be allowed by some codes; can trap lint|
|Semi-rigid aluminum||Inexpensive, easy to work with||Can trap lint; may not be allowed by some building codes|
|Slim duct||Excellent for limited spaces||Somewhat expensive; tricky installation|
|Rigid metal||Most efficient type, long-lasting||Somewhat expensive; installation can be tricky|
|Plastic/vinyl||Very cheap||Not allowed by code due to potential danger|
01 of 05
Aluminum Foil Duct
Best for: Transition ductwork in exposed locations.
Made of flexible aluminum foil with an embedded spiral wire for reinforcement, this type of duct is appropriate for making the transitions from the appliance to the main rigid duct that runs to the outdoor vent hood outlet. It generally should not be used for the entire duct run.
Foil duct can accordion from about 1 to 8 feet, which is usually enough for most installations. Double-check to make sure that this type is approved for your dryer model and allowed by local code. Transition ducts must not be concealed inside walls or other building cavities and usually have a maximum allowed length of eight feet. Foil duct is held in place with dryer clamps or large hose clamps. Metal tape can also be used to secure the flexible aluminum duct, too, but clamps make it easier to remove the tubing for cleaning.
Aluminum foil duct is inexpensive and relatively easy to work with, but it has ribbed walls that can trap lint, leading to potential fire hazard. It is best used for the relatively short sections to join the dryer outlet to the main vent.
02 of 05
Semi-Rigid Metal Duct
Best for: Transition ductwork in exposed locations.
Semi-rigid metal (usually aluminum) duct tubing is flexible and similar to foil tubing but quite a bit more rigid. Like foil duct tubing, semi-rigid duct tubing should be used only for the transition ducting running from the dryer outlet to the main duct, and it cannot be concealed in walls or floors. It is typically installed with clamps, which make it easier to remove for cleaning. Semi-rigid metal duct is often stronger and has a smoother interior (catches less lint) than foil duct.
Semi-rigid metal duct is also relatively inexpensive. While it is sometimes used for an entire exposed duct run, such use is questionable. This type of duct tubing has some inner corrugation and thus tends to trap some lint. Semi-rigid tubing should be used for the entire duct run—dryer outlet to exhaust vent hood— only if the duct run is quite short and direct (less than 8 feet), only if it is exposed rather than hidden, and only if your local code allows such use.
03 of 05
Best for: Running duct where space is limited.
Slim duct, sometimes called a periscope duct, is a telescoping rigid aluminum tubing used to make transition ducting in tight spaces. It has a wide rectangular shape except for the two ends where it connects to the dryer and the vent outlet, which have round collars. It allows you to push the dryer very close to the wall. This can be a great space-saver as long as the dryer and the exhaust vent hood are close together. Most slim ducts can be adjusted from about 27 inches to about 48 inches in length. It is also adaptable to vertical, horizontal, and diagonal installations.
Slim ducts are a bit more expensive, but they offer a good option where wall clearance is a problem. They can be somewhat tricky to install and sometimes are used in conjunction with short lengths of semi-rigid flexible tubing for transitions.
04 of 05
Rigid Metal Duct
Best for: Any dryer vent application, hidden or exposed.
Rigid metal duct is the only suitable duct material for concealed duct installations— that is, ductwork that runs inside walls, floors, or other enclosed areas. Available in aluminum and galvanized steel, rigid metal duct is very smooth on its interior, so air flows through with little friction, and it catches the least amount of lint of any duct material.
Rigid metal duct is more expensive than other types, but it is extremely durable and efficient. And building codes generally allow for runs as long as 35 feet, compared to the 8-foot maximum for flexible transition tubing. Adjustable metal elbows, also with smooth walls, can be used to make the transitions between the rigid vent and the dryer outlet on one end and the vent hood on the other end. This kind of configuration—with smooth-walled vent running from dryer all the way to vent hood outlet—makes for the very best installation. Working with rigid metal duct and adjustable collars can be a bit tricky, however, so some homeowners will opt to have the installation done by a professional.
Always use metal duct tape to secure the joints; don't use screws, because they can catch lint. Do not use regular plastic duct tape because it dries out and deteriorates.Continue to 5 of 5 below.
05 of 05
Plastic or Vinyl Duct
Best for: Should not be used. Plastic vinyl ductwork is not allowed by most building codes.
The flexible plastic (usually vinyl) duct is similar to aluminum foil duct but has a thin plastic wall rather than metal foil. Despite its popular use for many years, the plastic duct is no longer allowed by most building codes. The ribbed interior of the flexible duct easily catches lint.
If the duct becomes blocked with lint, the duct can become very hot and potentially catch fire. This hazard has resulted in numerous house fires. Plastic duct is the least-safe option, and you will not find a UL-listed product made of this material. The bottom line: don't use it.
Choosing Dryer Vent Tubing
Dryer vent tubing comes in several types, but some are better than others and some should be avoided entirely due to possible safety issues. Dryer vent tubing is not a very expensive material, so it makes little sense to save money by "buying cheap." Instead, make sure you are following the local code guidelines for installation. Some basic guidelines for choosing:
- In general, it is best to choose tubular rigid metal duct tubing for as much of the duct run as possible, as this type provides the best air volume and few inner obstructions to catch flammable lint.
- Slim metal duct is the next best choice where wall clearance is an issue. It, too, has smooth walls that won't trap lint, though the air volume may be slightly poorer than with tubular metal duct.
- Semi-flexible metal duct is a good choice for the transition ducting that runs from the dryer outlet to the rigid metal duct, as it can be bent to form fairly smooth elbow and curve shapes. But even here, a better choice would be adjustable rigid metal elbows that have perfectly smooth walls.
- The worst choices (and usually an illegal choice) are flexible vinyl or plastic duct and foil duct. Both tend to trap lint, and plastic duct tubing can easily melt if heat buildup becomes too great.