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Three simple fixes for the most common insulation problems

Put an end to those pesky drafts and cold spots throughout the house without breaking the bank.

No one likes a drafty house that just won't stay warm in the winter or cool in the summer. Even worse, those drafts and cool or warm spots in the house may be indicative of a larger issue, like unnecessary moisture entering the home, which can lead to unpleasant smells or even mold.

Regulating temperature inside the home, saving on energy costs, and keeping moisture out starts with a solid thermal envelope and proper insulation. Learn about three common insulation problems with quick and easy fixes.

Windows and doors

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Taylor Martin/CNET

While windows do a great job of letting sunlight in while keeping rain, wind and creatures out, they're never fully sealed, making them one of the biggest sources of heat loss in the house.

Cause: Houses settle, caulking wears away, weatherstripping deteriorates, and sometimes the wooden-framed windows and doors can actually shrink over time. All of these things leave tiny cracks and crevices, allowing heat to escape and gusts of wind to send cool air rushing into your home.

Fix: The quick and easy fix is to check for weatherstripping that may have worn out over the years. Replacing it is as simple as removing what's left of the old weatherstripping with a putty knife, cutting new weatherstripping to size and adhering it where the old weatherstripping was.

If it's time to replace the windows but you're not quite ready for such an undertaking, you can also invest in thermal curtains as a temporary fix. They aren't 100 percent effective, since they still let heat escape, but they help trap cool air and can stop unwanted drafts.

For doors, weatherstripping around the side and top may need to be replaced. If heat is escaping underneath the door, you may want to consider a door sweep, a rubber flap that is fixed to the bottom of the door itself. An equally effective solution is installing a draft guard, or a combination of foam and cloth which slides underneath the door and "hugs" it and prevents air from traveling underneath the door.

Attic

One of the most problematic areas for insulation in the house is easily the attic. Too often, attics are improperly insulated, overinsulated or damp, which can lead to mold and other issues throughout the house. However, attics can also cause drafts to carry throughout the house, since air circulation is vital to keeping the attic mold-free.

Cause: Insulating the access points to attic spaces is a step that is sometimes overlooked or forgotten. This can allow a considerable amount of airflow into your hallway or the area surrounding the access point.

Fix: To put an end to the chilly hallway near the attic access, attach a rigid insulation panel to the backside of the access door and add weatherstripping around the perimeter of the access point.

If you have a pull-down stair access, you won't be able to attach a foam board to the backside of the access. Instead, build a foam box using metallic duct tape, caulk, and insulated foam board. This foam enclosure to should simply sit over the entire folded stair mechanism, stop airflow in its tracks, and thanks to its lightweight construction, it won't make getting into the attic any more difficult.

Outlets

Most people don't think of outlets and light switches as a source of heat loss, but in older construction homes the small amount of heat that escapes through each of these tiny electrical panels, which span the entire house, can add up.

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Taylor Martin/CNET

Cause: The area around electrical outlets, light switches and even breaker boxes are not always properly insulated, particularly in older homes and along exterior walls. In more severe cases, you may even be able to feel drafts coming from outlets.

Fix: Rest easy in knowing the solution is affordable, quick and easy. Simply purchase some insulating gaskets made specifically for outlets and light switches, which often come in multi-packs and cost less than $1 apiece, and install them around the house.

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