It’s already pretty late in the winter season, but it’s never too foregone to start preparing for colder weather, snow and freezing rain. As home repair and construction experts, our contractors have seen far too many homes sustain damage at the hands of Old Man Winter. Take these 6 tips to heart at the first hint of cold weather and you’ll far ahead of your neighbors.

Even better, many of these tips will help to reduce your heating bill through the winter, ensuring that you stay warm without going over budget.

1. Strengthen The Envelope Of Your Home

Don’t pay for heat that leaks out through cracks in the molding! Holes and openings around your windows (both on the inside and out) allow warm air to escape the house and let cold air inside. Check around your windows every fall to ensure that your caulking is still tip top. Another option is to put up storm windows and doors, ensuring that your home is protected by a strong barrier. Storm windows are especially important in older homes.

In a more general sense, you want to make sure that the envelope of your home is solid and secure. Check the weatherstripping around your doors. If you can see light filtering in around your door, it’s time to invest in more weatherstripping, which is okay, because it’s incredibly cheap.

2. Change Your Furnace Filters

We know, we know – you’ve heard it a thousand ways, but most homeowners still forget to change out their furnace filters on a regular basis. Experts recommend that you change your filters on a monthly basis during the heating season, and it’s easy to see why. New filters reduce the energy demand on your furnace, allowing it to run efficiently without wasting heat. If your furnace needs a complete replacement, think about making the switch sooner rather than later. Your savings can really add up during the winter months, despite the initial investment.

3. Reverse Your Fanblades

Most homeowners just switch off their ceiling fans during the winter, but there’s actually a better option. Check any consumer ceiling fan and you’re likely to find a small switch that reverses the direction of the blades. During the winter, try flicking the switch to make the blades rotate clockwise. This re-circulates warm air pooled at the top of your ceiling, and it can really cut down on heating costs. Just by reversing your fanblade direction, you could save up to 10% on your heating bill, according to Popular Mechanics.

4. Turn Down Your Water Heater

It seems counter-intuitive when you want to stay warm, but reducing the temperature of your water heater is best practice. Most of your conventional water heaters are automatically set to 140 degrees Fahrenheit, which is hot enough to scald. Try lowering your heater to 120 degrees. You won’t notice a difference – until you check your heating bill. That minor change can save you up to 10% in heating costs for the winter.

In the market for a new water heater? Don’t forget to take advantage of the federal tax credit, which covers 30% of the cost.

5. Install A Programmable Thermostat

Still working with an old-school thermostat? It’s time for an upgrade! Lowering the temperature when you go out is one of the surest ways to save on heating expenses, but most of us forget. With a programmable thermostat that does the work for you, there’s no risk of human error.

Every degree you reduce your thermostat saves between 1% and 3% of your heating bill, so don’t be afraid to go light on the heating this season. You could end up saving a lot of money. Try putting on a sweater when you get cold instead of reaching for the thermostat.

6. Insulate, Insulate, Insulate

Insulation isn’t just for walls anymore. Go down to your water heater and give it a touch. Feel warmth? It’s probably time to insulate that sucker. You can find cheap water heater blankets at your local hardware store for about $20. Just throw one over your water heater to trap in the heat and save on your heating bill.

You can also use this method to insulate your water pipes; reducing heat loss through the pipes will cut the amount of money you spend on heating water throughout the winter. You can purchase pre-slit pipe foam at your hardware store, too. Just cut it to size, wrap it around the pipe and hold it in place with duct tape.

Now would also be a good time to check your other insulation around the house. Over time, insulation degrades, allowing cold air to seep in. Make sure you have plenty of coverage on your attic floor and your basement ceiling.