So I bought this dryer vent snake:
And used it last night = disturbing. It's basically a 12 foot flexible plastic shaft that has an auger brush on the end that you attach to a drill. I put the snake up the dyer vent and hit a blockage about 2 feet in. I pushed through that blockage and a ton of dryer lint came falling down. Then I got the snake another 5 feet in and hit another blockage, and so on until I had used up my 12 feet of snake length. I ended up with half a paper garbage bag full of old dryer lint that was stuck in 12 feet of our dryer vent. This confirms my theory that being out of code on these sorts of things are scary.
Re-routing the Vent
My plan was to run the vent down into the crawlspace then out the front of the house. However, there is foundation under the wall where the dryer vent goes and very little crawl space, so that is out.
As a result, I'm going to go up and into the attic and then out the front. This will mean only one bend and much less straight pipe as well. However, it's actually not even going to have a bend. How? I bought this gradual 90 joint called an "Ell" (har har) which is meant for dryer venting and is made so that code considers it a straight pipe and not actually a bend:
Additionally, I'll be using something called the dryerbox:
This gets mounted into the wall and the venting tube from the dryer attaches to this. So that the vent from the dryer doesn't get crushed. Currently, the flexible tubing from the dryer is getting crushed in order to close the laundry doors. By mounting this countersunk box, the moist air can escape much more easily.
If you have some inkling that this is in the realm of tin foil helmet paranoia, take a look at this list of recent dryer fires across the country: http://www.dryerbox.com/dryer_fire_articles.htm
Dryer fire leaves Amherst family homeless
Tony Ellis, the father, said the dryer started smoking. Ellis said he thought he had succeeded in putting out the fire with a fire extinguisher, but smoke started coming from a wall. Cathy Ellis said her husband yelled for everyone to get out of the house. “I just thank God that all my kids got out,” she said.
Jake Ellis, 20, grabbed his 11-year-old sister Alyssa, who is paralyzed and cannot speak, and carried her out of the two-story home.
And if you have a dryer vent that doesn't immediately go outdoors, get the lint snake and see if you have major blocks of lintage in your line.