(Originally published Oct. 19, 2021)By Jeff Wagner

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — It won’t be long before many Twin Cities homeowners feel the chill of freezing temperatures at night. That likely means heating systems will be cranked.

But with natural gas prices rising we wanted to know: How can we efficiently heat our homes? Are there cheaper alternatives to a furnace?

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When the sun rises outside your home later this week, a frosty yard will likely greet it. Temperatures are dropping as natural gas prices continue and upward trend.

CenterPoint Energy reported that the natural gas price per therm in October of 2020 was $0.58. One year later, it has more than doubled to $1.20/therm.

Spokesman Ross Corson said that spike is mainly due to supply and demand.

“We really encourage people to be thinking ahead for the winter heating season,” he said. “That starts by making sure your furnace is running efficiently. That could include a tune-up from an HVAC company.”

Be sure to check the filter. It maybe need to be cleaned or changed, something that should be done more than once this winter.

Another inexpensive tip is to weather strip drafty windows and doors to keep cool air out and warm air in.

Is it cost efficient to lean on a space heater or electric stove versus turning up the furnace?

“It can be in limited circumstances,” Corson said.

If you’re in one room for an extended period of time and you turn down your thermostat to the rest of the house, a space heater can be cost efficient. The downside is electricity usage still costs more than natural gas.

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We found a website to calculate the cost of a space heater.

For example, if you run a 1500-watt space heater for eight hours a day at a rate of $0.088kwh, it could cost $31.68 per month. But that only covers the room where the heater is active.

“So if you’re plugging in multiple space heaters in your house to heat your house, your electric bill is going to give you some shock,” Corson said.

Dropping the thermostat temperature 10 degrees when you’re asleep or when the house is empty for several hours can cut your bill down at least 10%. Programming it so that the temp adjusts on a schedule can make that process easier.

And if this all sounds difficult to follow, call in the pros to conduct an energy audit.

The service can cost up to $100 depending the age of your home, or nothing at all depending on where you live. The service is currently free in Minneapolis. Other cities have significant discounts.

“They can identify where that heat loss is and they can provide recommendations about measures that you can take to keep the heat in and keep the cold out,” Corson said.

If you’re worried you might have trouble paying your heating bill this winter, energy companies suggest to call them now. You can set up a payment plan and get protection from having your heat disconnected.

“Don’t wait until or January or February and you’ve already got an accumulated bill,” Corson said.

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Jeff Wagner