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Experts recommend servicing heating units ahead of winter season as expense rises

As we inch closer to the colder months, we are bracing for heating bills that are expected to get more expensive. But there are things you can do right now that might help and save you some money down the road.

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NORTH DAKOTA — Winter is coming and while the reality of the annual cold embrace is something we dread, now is the time to think about saving on heat.

It is especially prudent this year, since Americans are expected to pay an average of 17% more for heat this season. This estimate comes from the National Energy Assistance Directors Association. Natural gas is getting hit the worst, with costs projected to shoot up by 34%.

"Natural gas jumped up quite a bit last year," recalled Ryan Dahlin with Moorhead Heating and Plumbing. "Towards the end, we had a lot of calls from people saying, 'my unit is using more energy.' It actually wasn't, the bill had just gone up quite a bit. So yeah, I'm a little concerned with the natural gas price."

Dahlin told WDAY News anyone with a heating unit should get it serviced by a technician. It is key to ensure the heating equipment and filters are clean, otherwise the gear will be working harder to heat the home, driving up the expense. He recommends getting this stuff done now, before demand for service shoots up.

"The biggest thing is if you can get it done before it gets cold, get it done," Dahlin said. "Sometimes when it gets cooler, I mean, we're starting to get the calls now."

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People can also keep costs down by putting plastic film over windows to reduce heat loss, turning the thermostat down when away or asleep, and by closing vents upstairs to let the heat rise from lower floors.

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The Low Income Energy Assistance Program is asking congress for $5 billion to help low income families afford heating bills this winter.

Anyone who may find themselves struggling to pay for those rising heating bills can apply for assistance through North Dakota or Minnesota. Both sides of the Red River offer heating assistance for low income families.

WDAY News spoke with Minnesota Energy Assistance Program Director Michael Schmitz. He said this assistance opportunity applies to both homeowners and renters. They can help pay for bills, heating repairs and help deliver fuel to homes in rural areas.

Schmitz said many Minnesotans are often reluctant to sign up, even if they might need the help.

"They think, 'oh it's not for me, I'm going to let somebody else apply.' But again, if you're struggling, or if you know somebody who is struggling, consider energy assistance. We're here to help," Schmitz explained.

Minnesotans can apply by clicking here.

Applications for North Dakota's heating assistance do not open until Oct. 1.

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