The Family Handyman – September 2019

(Joyce) #1


Reuben Saltzman has
been a home inspector
since 1997 and is the
president of Structure
Tech, a home inspec-
tion company in St.
Louis Park, MN.


ith the variety of smoke
detectors available, it’s
easy to feel the urge to
pull your hair out when you’re
standing in front of shelves of
them at your local home center.
Thankfully, you can keep your hair
and sanity intact. You only need a
smoke/CO detector with a photo-
electric sensor, preferably hard-
wired. Don’t buy ionization or dual
sensors. Ionization sensors are

prone to false alarms, so
you’re tempted to disable
them. That puts you and
your family in greater
danger. Photoelectric sen-
sors, on the other hand,
detect smoldering fires
faster and are less likely to
have nuisance alarms.
If you’re into tech, you
can install a smart photo-
electric CO detector, but
any photoelectric smoke
detector will do the job. For
more information, go to and
search for “smoke detector.”

Photoelectric smoke alarms

Don’t buy anything else



If you’re about to add insulation to
your attic and you’ve never heard
the term “attic bypasses,” you’re
missing the crucial part of insulat-
ing your attic. Attic bypasses are air
leaks from your living space into
your attic. These leaks occur where
wires, air ducts or pipes go through
the ceiling and into the attic.
Bypasses must be sealed before
adding insulation. In fact, in many
states it’s the law. However, in
homes built before 1991, there
was probably no attempt to seal
bypasses. After that, there’s a good
chance some of the larger
bypasses were sealed, but likely
not all of them.
If the leaks aren’t sealed, warm
air is getting into your cold attic no
matter how much insulation you
add. But you’re not just losing heat
and increasing energy bills. You’re
also potentially causing frost and
condensation in your attic, as well
as ice dams, all of which lead to
water/moisture damage, mold and
rot. If you eliminate all attic
bypasses, you’ll probably eliminate
most of those problems. But if you

add insulation before sealing attic
bypasses, you could make the frost
problem worse. So, before you add
insulation, seal all leaks with caulk
or expanding foam. If you’re hiring

an insulation contractor, make sure
this step is included in the work.
For more information, go to and search
“how to seal attic air leaks.”


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