I'm not a farmer, but the Farmer's Almanac is suggesting that this winter might be worse than the last one.

Looking at the almanac's map, the Philadelphia area falls into the "crisp and very stormy" category, whatever that means.

I'm still saving for a portable generator myself.

But even if we don't get another round of tree-snapping ice and power outages, with colder weather generally come higher energy bills. Windows and doors can be big sources of heat loss.

Don't skimp on weather stripping. If you have particularly leaky windows, you may want to use a plastic cover that shrinks onto the windows - it's less unsightly and damaging than stapling plastic to the frame.

To decide where to install weather stripping, try the candle test. Light a candle and move it around the window or door on a windy day. Note where the candle flickers, and that's where the weather stripping goes.

Make sure your windows have no cracked or broken panes.

To extract a broken pane, remove the putty and glazing points, then have a piece of glass cut to fit, replace the points, and reglaze.

Have a routine maintenance and inspection done of your heating system, to make sure it is in good working order.

Replace your heater's air filter, as recommended by the manufacturer. Your heating system will work less hard, use less energy, and last longer as a result.

Most homeowners can replace filters and do such simple tasks as cleaning and removing dust from vents or along baseboard heaters.

If your heating system is old, you might consider updating it with one of the more efficient newer models.

Most costly problems associated with winter result from the accumulation of ice and snow on roofs.

Ice dams form, which often lead to leaks that damage drywall or plaster ceilings and walls inside.

If your roof has a tendency to develop such dams, you might need professional advice on how to prevent them.

The time to get the roofer and the furnace service person in for visits is now, not in early January.

He who hesitates is cold and wet.

aheavens@phillynews.com or write him at The Inquirer, Box 8263, Philadelphia 19101. Volume prohibits individual replies.