By Lisa Meadows

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) —  While many Minnesotans spent the warm weekend outdoors and preparing to winterize their homes, cold weather is coming our way.

“We are seeing a nationwide spike in natural gas prices, we are at a 10-year high right now,” said Alison Trouy of Minnesota Energy Resources.

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Right now is when we are seeing a turn toward winter weather. The month of October was the sixth warmest in history for the state of Minnesota, and after a weekend in the 60s, next weekend those highs will go down at least 30 degrees — all while your heating bill goes up.

“We are estimating the average customer is going to pay about $44 more a month on their heating bills,” Trouy said.

Of course, the best way to combat increased heating costs is to take a look at your furnace.

“That is mostly because your furnace uses 29% of the natural gas that you use in your home,” Trouy said.

So now is the time to change that furnace filter or…

“Hire a contractor to come out and inspect their furnace to make sure everything is running as efficiently and safely as possible,” Trouy said.

If you have a ceiling fan, reverse the direction to draw the cold air up and push warmer air down.

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“If you’re going to air dry clothes versus using a dryer that can make a difference, we also recommend when you put dishes in the dishwasher you make sure you are running a full load,” Trouy said.

Also, that thermostat can be a big help, it is estimated that every 1-degree drop in thermostat temperature reduces energy use by 1-3%.

“Programmed smart thermostats, that’s a great option for customers, because it keeps track of when you’re in your house and it will lower your thermostat if you’re away,” Trouy said.

And as we head into the holidays, do your research if you need to do some appliance shopping.

“We also have a bunch of rebates available, so as you approach Black Friday if you need a new appliance make sure it is an Energy Star appliance, and you may qualify for a rebate,” Trouy said.

Assistance is being offered for winter heating bills for those who are eligible.

Click here for information from Minnesota Energy Resources.

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Lisa Meadows