Unintended Consequences: 7 Home Products to Reconsider

Every technology created to solve a problem comes with its own set of problems.  Garrett Hardin

Sustainability is the ability to continue a defined behavior indefinitely.  Home products succeed or fail over time and change as negative effects are corrected. Inspectors, wedged between the immediacy of a home purchase and long-term sustainability, are leery of new products, often with good reason. 

There are health concerns with the chemical composition of air fresheners

Air fresheners

Plug-in liquid and aerosol air fresheners degrade indoor air quality. Even “green” fresheners emit VOCs (Volatile Organic Compounds). Tightly sealed homes amplify the physical effects of these secondhand scents.
Best bet: Find the source of smell and treat it. Go fragrance-free

Greasewipe Fatberg

“Flushable” Wet Wipes

The world’s sewers are clogged with wet wipes. Slow to degrade wipes combine with grease to create giant clogs known as Fatbergs.  The result: iceberg-sized maintenance and repair costs
Best Bet:  Never flush wet wipes, cooking grease, dental floss or other non-human waste except toilet paper





Accordion drains are ideal for growing bacteria

Accordion drains

Accordion drains used to connect fixtures to traps aren’t sanitary.
They’re a DIY dream: cheap and easy to install.  The code says:
“Drainage fittings shall have a smooth interiorwaterway of the same diameter as the piping served.”
Best bet: hire a plumber who doesn’t play the accordion

Inspectors know this low slope, no cleanout install will fail. We just don’t know when

Ribbed Surface Water Drains

Ribbed drains, like accordion drains, are cheap and easy to install.
They work on steep slopes but not low ones. Ribbed drains with a slope less than 2/12 sag allowing water to flow backward during heavy rains. Because internal waterways are not smooth and uniform they clog.
Best Bet:  install hardpipe drains with cleanouts on gently sloping sites   



Dirty 1′ filter is bad for equipment and air quality

Air and Water Filters

Half the 1” wide pleated fabric filters I check are fouled. Dirt in your HVAC appliances and ducts affect performance and feed mold and parasites.
Ditto for water filters: dirty kitchen faucet, refrigerator and whole-house filters contaminate instead of purify
Best bet: install 4” wide pleated fabric filters: their greater surface area limits duct pressure drop 
If you’re not committed to scheduled filter          maintenance hire someone who is

Combination alarms better at detecting smoke and fire

Ionization Smoke Alarms

Overall risk of fire death has remained roughly constant between 1977 and 2009 despite a widespread increase in alarm installations. The reason: Ionization alarms don’t detect smoldering fires as well as flaming ones. Photoelectric alarms are better at detecting smoke
Best bet: install combination ionization/photoelectric alarms

Concentrated flow combined with zero maintenance equals failure

Gutter Guards

The logic of gutter guards is obvious: today’s higher, steeper roofs make cleaning hazardous.
But guards can’t handle concentrated flow from adjacent surfaces and heavy rain.
Best Bet: Use the money you save by not installing guards to pay an insured contractor to clean your gutters  

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