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How to lower heating bills this winter as natural gas prices soar

From annual preventative maintenance to changing filters monthly, there are several things individuals can do to keep the furnace running this winter.

INDIANAPOLIS — Utility companies are sending warnings that natural gas prices are projected to skyrocket, causing our winter heating bills to go up big time — as much as 54% for some homeowners.

That's why experts say being proactive now is more important than ever. Small changes in your home can mean bigger savings this winter. According to the experts, potential savings start at the source.

Matt Tyner, with Williams Comfort Air, said the biggest way to cut costs is through the furnace itself.

Make sure to get annual preventative maintenance to make sure the furnace is not taking extra energy to warm up.

"A qualified professional technician is able to really tell, 'OK, is something out of line here that needs to be addressed so that it doesn't become a failure during the cold times?'" Tyner said. "A loss in efficiency will be more money in the long run."

And if you're looking to replace your furnace, Tyner recommends calling and getting an appointment now. Just like every industry right now, he said supply chains are backed up.

"The last thing we want is one of our clients to be left in the cold," Tyner said.

The other big money saver is the furnace filter.

"Always check your filter. That is probably one of the biggest avoidable service calls that we have are just homeowners that they haven't changed their filter on a regular basis," Tyner explained.

Clogged filters cost you cash, and a clean one can save up to about $30 a month, according to the Department of Energy.

Another way to potentially save money on your heating bill, is to lower the thermostat when you're out or at night. Most people already do this, but some may be going too far.

Avoid extreme fluctuations and instead, only vary temps on your thermostat by 2 or 3 degrees.

"Don't set it back a ton. Because when you do that, your furnace then takes so much longer to catch up temperature-wise that it offsets any savings that you may have seen during the day," Tyner said.

Windows can spark savings too. Tyner said opening blinds and curtains and letting in light will lower heating costs at least a little.

Also, keep everything off your floor vents, including furniture.

"That could keep your system from keeping up in that specific area of the home," Tyner said.

Once those heaters really start to crank up, if you find you really can't afford the cost, remember the gas companies often will work with you on your bill.

There are also agencies out there to help people having trouble paying heating bills.