Back when I was building our house, I seriously considered installing a roof dryer vent. I spoke with a contractor friend who’s installed many of these over the years and knows all the ins and outs.
In the end, I decided a roof dryer vent didn’t make sense in my situation, opting instead for an exterior wall dryer vent. For me, this meant a much shorter run of vent pipe and considerably more convenience servicing the vent. This doesn’t mean a roof dryer vent doesn’t make sense in your situation, though.
In this detailed guide, I’ll share everything you need to know about roof dryer vents, including all their benefits, challenges and best practices.
What Is a Roof Dryer Vent?
Also known as a roof vent cap or roof vent cover, a roof dryer vent safely expels warm, moist air and lint particles from your dryer to the outdoors through the roof of your home.
Roof dryer vents are one of two options for removing the unwanted air from your dryer. The other is an exterior wall dryer vent.
Whether it’s on the roof or in the wall, the dryer vent is a vital part of your home’s laundry system, because the moisture from your wet clothes needs to leave somehow. Without this simple but important installation, moist air from the dryer would stay in your home and quickly cause air quality problems, and possibly mold and mildew growth.
Roof dryer vents are also sometimes called attic dryer vents, because they often cross the attic on their way outside. It’s important to note they can never vent into the attic itself, because this could create a fire hazard and serious air quality issues.
Despite the different names used by vent installers, roof dryer vents all work the same way. But there are several versions with differences you should be aware of.
Types of Roof Dryer Vents
Roof dryer vents are categorized by what covers the outside opening.
Static roof dryer vent
The simplest and least expensive option, this has no moving parts or cover over the opening. It simply allows natural airflow to get rid of the moisture from your dryer. These vents are open all the time and work best in homes with dryers close to the roof, ensuring the shortest possible duct run.
The problem is, if you live in a cold climate, the lack of protective flaps means you’re vulnerable to serious heat loss. My father had a static roof dryer vent. One winter, frost built up along the outside of the pipe and even inside his dryer.
Roof dryer vent with damper
Damper-equipped roof dryer vents are a major step up from those without.
The protective flaps only open when the dryer is running, ensuring the warm, moist air escapes while your home suffers only minimal heat loss. The flaps close again as soon as the dryer turns off, so you don’t need to worry about cold outside air making its way down the pipes and into your appliance.
This type works best for homes in colder areas with dryers farther from the vent outlet.
Roof dryer vent with bird guard
Some roof dryer vents come with a protective metal screen over the vent cover. These keep birds, squirrels and other uninvited wildlife out of your attic, but there’s a downside: The mesh can clog with dryer lint, preventing moist air from escaping.
That’s why regular inspections and cleanings of your vent’s bird guard are a good idea. This can be tricky with a roof dryer vent, which is one reason I prefer the type with dampers.
Roof dryer vent with louvers
Similar to the damper-equipped version, roof dryer vents with louvers only open while the dryer is running, then close again when it’s shut off.
Instead of a single large plastic damper, this type has multiple thin flaps of plastic which pivot outward while warm, moist air air is flowing, then shut when it stops. They offer slightly better protection against outside debris and driving rain than the damper version, but are also more vulnerable to clogging with lint.
Benefits of a Roof Dryer Vent
Safety: Because of their location, roof dryer vents make it much harder for squirrels, mice and other ground-based animals to enter the vent pipe or damage its outside cover.
Aesthetics: Dryer vents don’t exactly add to a home’s appearance. That’s one reason many folks prefer to hide them on the roof rather than displaying them for all to see in the middle of an otherwise attractive exterior wall.
Space-saving: With a wall-mounted dryer vent, you probably can’t put windows, doors or decorations on that wall. Tucking your dryer vent out of the way on your roof lets you use your walls for other features.
Drawbacks of a Roof Dryer Vent
Installation complexity: Roof dryer vents are much tricker to install than wall vents. You’ll have to climb a ladder, cut a hole in the roof and ensure the vent doesn’t leak.
Maintenance challenges: Because of their location, roof dryer vents are much harder to service than wall dryer vents. Unclogging them may even require a pro.
Weather exposure: Roof dryer vents are more susceptible to water leaks than wall vents. This isn’t usually a concern with proper installation. But if heavy weather causes damage, you might face a vent-related roof leak.
Is Roof Dryer Vent Installation DIY-able?
It depends. Personally, if I were switching to a roof dryer vent, I’d do the work myself. But I have years of roofing and DIY experience, good climbing boots and a safety harness.
If you don’t have these, or don’t feel confident climbing on your roof, definitely call a professional. Safety is extremely important with jobs of this sort. If you decide to tackle the installation yourself, you’ll need a good ladder, reciprocating saw, roofing caulk, roofing nails or screws and a vent cover.
Cost for Pro Roof Dryer Vent Installation
Like most things, the cost of installing a roof dryer vent varies with complexity and location. Shop around for several quotes to be sure you’re getting a good deal, and expect to pay from $150 to $500.
Roof Dryer Vent Maintenance
@jessicavestrealtor This dryer exhaust vent is located ON THE ROOF! Not a great idea. #jessicavestrealtor #homebuilding #homeimprovement #hometip #dryerventcleaning ♬ Oh No I Hope I Don’t Fall… – IndieHay
Roof dryer vent maintenance boils down to two things: cleaning and inspection for damage.
Plan on cleaning and inspecting the vent cover at least once a year, keeping in mind it will require a trip up a ladder. The procedure involves sticking a shop vacuum hose up the vent pipe from the inside, then climbing on the roof and using a vent brush to knock loose all the lint so it falls down into the running vacuum.
Signs your roof dryer vent is not working
Longer dry times: If you notice your clothes aren’t drying as quickly, it could be a sign of a clogged vent.
Overheating: Warm clothes are normal after a drying cycle, but extremely hot clothes aren’t. If you notice this, check your vent’s opening right away.
Moisture: Noticing a lot of airborne moisture or condensation in your laundry room? A partially clogged roof dryer vent could be the culprit.