Nearly half of U.S. households who heat their homes with natural gas can expect higher bills this winter—an average of 30% higher compared to last year, the Energy Information Administration warns.
It could be even higher: If the winter is 10% colder than average, homeowners can expect heating bills that top 50% higher than a year ago.
Even if the winter is 10% warmer than average, heating bills are still expected to be 22% higher than last year.
Natural gas home heating bills are expected to average $746 from Oct. 1 to March 31. That is up compared to $573 during the same period a year ago, The Wall Street Journal reports.
“We are very concerned about the affordability of heat this winter for all customers, but in particular those who struggle every day to afford their utility services,” Karen Lusson, a staff attorney for the National Consumer Law Center, told The Wall Street Journal.
Homeowners may want to take some steps before winter. For example, make sure heating systems are operating correctly and efficiently. Improper installation of heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems can lead to 30% higher energy use, according to the National Institute of Standards and Technology.
Also, homeowners may want to seek affordable options like “door pillows” to plug spaces under the doors and take steps to weatherize their homes to reduce expenses. Read more: Is Your Home Winter-Proof?
Also, for those struggling to keep up with bills, some states offer programs—like the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program—that provide discounted payment plans for those eligible (often people whose incomes don’t exceed 60% of their state’s median pay).