Higher natural gas bills on the way

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(TOLEDO)- You may be worried that as the temperatures drop during the extremely cold weather, your home heating bill is climbing. Columbia Gas says there's good reason for concern.

In a news release, the company says that "across the Toledo area, Columbia Gas of Ohio customers continue to see, on average, temperatures 24% colder than normal for this time of year." The bottom line is that the extended cold snap is increasing demand for natural gas resulting in higher than normal bills for customers.

The gas provider says even with prices averaging 28% lower than this time a year ago, consumers "can expect to see, on average, an increase of about $20 in their January bill."

Each customer is unique and some could see a larger increase.

People struggling to pay heating bills should contact Columbia Gas at 1-800-344-4077 for payment assistance programs.

In order to save on energy costs, here are recommendations from Columbia Gas:

• Set your thermostat to 68 degrees. When you’re not home, drop it to 55 degrees. Or install a programmable thermostat to automatically lower your home’s temperature at night and when you are away.
• Turn your water heater temperature down to 120 degrees.
• Install blanket insulation on older water heaters.
• Seal air leaks where you feel cold drafts.
• Replace older appliances or leaky windows with new models that carry the ENERGY STAR® label.