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Clog-free Pipes

Until the house of the future is here, you may occasionally find this guy in your bathroom. We'll let you decide if that's a good thing or a bad thing.

iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Retailers aren't the only people who look forward to the day after Thanksgiving. Apparently, plumbers also love Black Friday, which, according to at least one source, is prime time for clogged pipes in the bathroom and kitchen [source: Henkenius]. While that peculiar relationship seems a bit mysterious (although we're sure Uncle Fred has something to do with it), the hows and whys of clogs have been known for years. They begin when a small amount of debris clings to the inside of a pipe and then acts as a nucleus upon which other material collects. For example, if you empty grease into the kitchen sink, grease sticks to the sides of the pipe and food particles stick to the grease. As the obstruction grows over time, water backs up behind the blockage.

In the house of the future, all pipes will be lined with a frictionless coating. This will prevent debris from sticking and should make clogs practically nonexistent. Many commercial enterprises have already invested in similar technology. Chemical manufacturers, for example, commonly use tubing lined with polytetrafluoroethylene, or PTFE. You may recognize PTFE by its more common brand name -- Teflon, the same material coating your nonstick pots and pans. When used in pipes and tubing, PTFE prevents fouling and clogs. It also minimizes fluid resistance, which makes manufacturing environments much more efficient.

Until you can get Teflon-lined pipes in your house, it may be best to send Uncle Fred packing. Or stock up on plungers and chemical drain cleaners.

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