INDIANAPOLIS — While winter is still months away, heating your home this year is likely going to be a lot more expensive.

The National Energy Assistance Directors is forecasting the highest winter heating costs in a decade with a 17% increase over last year. For a second year in a row, Americans will see big price increases on energy going in to the winter, up by more than 35% on average. 

“Overall predictions are the prices will continue to rise going forward,” IU professor Sanya Carley said.

According to the National Energy Assistance Directors, the largest increase is on the price of natural gas, jumping 34% in one year. Carley, who studies energy policy, said one of the drivers of that increase is the war in Ukraine. 

“With a major kind of foreign policy disturbance such as that with a major exporter,” Carley said. “It compromises channels for trade.”

Carley said the move away from coal-powered plants has factored in to the price increases as well, but that renewable sources will pay off long-term. 

In the short-term, however, the number one thing experts advise is getting your home ready for winter. 

“You want make sure the windows are sealed up, they’re all closed,” said Dave Mejean, who is a HVAC manager at B&W Heating and Cooling. “Some of the older homes have electrical outlets with little covers for those that you can seal up…around the doors.”

Mejean says the number one thing people can do to cut costs is making sure they have good air flow by changing their filters regularly. Not doing so makes your system work harder and costs you more money. 

“It’s kind of like running your car without the air in the tires,” Mejean said. “You’re going to run but it’s gonna use a lot of fuel to get you where you need to go.”

Even with those tips, Carley said many will struggle to pay bills this winter and says the best thing to do is reach out to your utility company and work out a payment plan. 

“That’s a way to kind of spread the cost over time,” Carley said. “That way they don’t have a very massive bill in one month.”

For those struggling to pay bills, utilities like AESCitizens EnergyCenterPointDuke Energy and others have budget billing programs that allow customers to spread their payments equally across all 12 months of the year.

The Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana also recommends calling 211 in order to get connected with a variety of resources and assistance programs to help with utility bills.

Hoosiers can also find resources listed on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website. The Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor also has a number of links to information and resources.