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Save on Your Utility Bills This Winter: Everything to Know

Don't let your gas, electric or heating bills break the bank.

House-shaped radiator
Gas and electricity bills spike in the winter in colder climates.
Peter Dazeley/Getty Images

This story is part of 12 Days of Tips, helping you make the most of your tech, home and health during the holiday season.

You already know that keeping your house warm and cozy all winter long is costly. But do you know why exactly gas and heating bills tend to spike this time of year? And do you know about the tricks you can use to lower these winter utility costs

We're here to tackle several frequently asked questions surrounding winter utilities. Plus, we'll breakdown some effective ways to lower your utility costs. (You can also check out five tips for saving money on your heat and electric bills, and the ceiling fan hack that can keep your home warmer this winter.)

Why are winter utilities so costly?

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Gas and electricity bills spike in the winter as people, especially in the colder climates, begin to heat their homes. Whether you are using natural gas, propane or electricity to warm your home or apartment, you will increase energy usage and, in turn, increase your energy costs. 

That's not to mention how inflation and world events have caused bills to jump higher than normal. Russia's invasion of Ukraine caused gas prices to spike this year. While gas prices have been dropping for months, it still isn't cheap -- and that includes the cost of natural gas.

Will utility bills rise even higher this winter?

Utility companies and experts are predicting that bills for electricity, natural gas and oil will rise dramatically this winter. In fact, the average US household could pay 17% more this winter on heating, according to a forecast from the nonprofit National Energy Assistance Directors Association. Electric bills are also set to rise about 7.5% from 2021, according to the US Energy Information Administration.

Can I get financial assistance for my utilities?

Yes. Sometimes just cutting back might not be enough to make utility bills affordable. The good news is that there are energy assistance programs that can help ease the financial burden. 

Many don't know that US states apply for and receive money from the federal government each year for the sole purpose of helping people pay their energy bills. Most programs are designed to allow low-income households to apply for assistance through their state office, but there are non-government sources of energy assistance that are not tied to income. 

Click here for a full guide on how to apply to energy assistance programs.

Should I use a space heater?

Space heaters are cost-efficient alternatives to central heat. Space heaters aren't just handy appliances that add additional warmth to a room. They can actually cost less to run than a whole-home furnace. 

If you run a space heater that is 1,500 watts to heat a standard room for 8 hours per day, you can expect to spend about $1.60 per day on average. That comes out to just under $50 per month. Comparatively, the average US home spends about $180 monthly on gas and electric bills. 

Read also: How Much Does It Cost to Run a Space Heater? Less Than You Think

While a space heater only warms a single room or area in your home, you can supplement central heat by heating one room at a time and moving the heater around as needed. If that seems impractical, you can still save money by opting to turn your thermostat down several degrees and use a space heater for extra warmth for a few hours. 

However you decide to use your space heater, make sure to check out our space heater safety guide. Plus, here's our rundown on how best to heat an older home or property

What temperature should I set my thermostat to this winter to save?

It's ideal to keep your thermostat at 68 degrees F for most of the day during the winter, according to the US Department of Energy. For maximum savings, you should also designate eight hours per day during which you turn the temperature down by between 7 and 10 degrees. You can either do this while away at work or when you sleep and can cover up with blankets. By following this routine, you can reduce your annual energy costs by up to 10%.

Now playing: Watch this: Easy Ways to Lower Your Utility Bills and Save Money

What are some ways to lower my bills this winter?

While utility bills are expensive in the winter and are expected to rise even more this year, there are several money-saving steps you can take -- and most require simple changes to your habits and lifestyle. 

Since electric and heating costs are the same bill for many people, you can reduce your electric consumption to help cut costs. Another smart habit is to save where you can on your water bill

Here are several other ways you can save on utilities: