I attended the Remodeling Show in Baltimore recently, and although I did not spend as much time perusing the exhibits on the show floor as they deserved, while roaming the floor with my fellow green policeman Michael Anschel, I ran across some cool new products, some blatant examples of greenwashing, and a few things that looked interesting but that I have not yet come to conclusions on. There were some excellent educational sessions, good times with old and new friends, and even an Orioles game thrown in for good measure.
Really green or just greenwashing?
Reflectix radiant barrier insulation was back misleading the public about the performance of its product. It seems like a fine radiant barrier, but the company has an almost unintelligible brochure, printed in three languages, that implies R-values of as much as 15.6 (however, when you check the fine print, this particular application includes the fiberglass insulation as part of the assembly). Reflectix includes duct wrap, water heater, basement walls, and just about any other surface in a house as potential applications.
Close by the Reflectix booth was Enerflex, an attic radiant barrier that comes in friction-fit panels for 16-inch and 24-inch rafter spacing. At first glance, this looked much easier to install than the staple-on foil alternatives, although I am concerned about how well it works in the real world with varying rafter widths, blocking, and other obstructions.
As the show was combined with the annual Deck Expo, there were almost too many decking products to see. They ranged from solid virgin PVC, which I am not a fan of; to recycled milk jugs combined with mineral fiber by LumbeRock, which looked interesting; to thermally modified wood, which I like very much.
OSI displayed its WinteQ window installations system, which the company told us was AAMA approved. The system looked comprehensive, although it deserves some additional study to determine if it conflicts with any window manufacturer’s instructions and what impact that might have. Another sealant company, Geocel,rather amusingly, stated in one of their promotional posters, “It’s Green and It Works.” What’s the alternative? “It’s Green and It Sucks”?
National Gypsum showed its DustTech dust-reducing drywall compounds, which claim to cause sanding dust to fall straight to the floor instead of becoming fully airborne. The compound is also touted as lighter and Greenguard certified.
Perhaps the most puzzling use of green as a marketing strategy belonged to the Propane Education Research Council, whose display board said: “Where Can I Learn How to Integrate Green Into My Remodeling Business?….PROPANE ANSWERS.” It appeared that the company was marketing supposedly “green” oriented classes for remodelers, focusing mostly on tankless water heaters and the like, but the display just left us confused.
Just plain greenwashing?
The most blatant examples of straight-up greenwashing were electric heaters. Eco-Heater, a European-style wall-mounted flat heater plate, claimed to be “Effective, Efficient, and Economical,” and claimed that it only uses 27% of the energy that a typical 1500-watt heater uses—not surprising since it is a 400-watt heater. I guess Eco-Heater got an A in math: 400 divided by 1500 is about 27%.
Finally, an electric radiant floor heating system was exhibited as a “green” product. I don’t have a problem installing this system in select locations, such as a bathroom, particularly when it is used sparingly and cuts down on the use of central heat—but to call it a green product is just pushing greenwashing a little too far for my taste. I suppose if you powered it with solar panels, then you might be able to call it green.
Stay tuned for more
I will follow up with additional reports from the show in the next few weeks. In the meantime, keep your fingers crossed, as the historic commission hearing for my new house is on September 21st. I am cautiously optimistic this time around, but I have learned not to get my hopes up. If you hear anguished cries coming from the southeastern U.S. on Tuesday and Wednesday, it might just mean that I didn’t get my approval.