LITTLE ROCK, Ark. — Although it hasn't been too cold outside just yet, that doesn't mean it's too soon to prepare for heating your home this winter.
Local utility companies have been trying to warn customers about higher bills.
According to Summit Utilities, customers in Arkansas will have to pay 30 cents more for gas than they did last winter.
"We're feeling the pinch everywhere we go," Summit Utilities SVP, Corporate Affairs, Sustainability, and Marketing, Lizzy Reinholt, said.
We're about to feel that pinch in our energy bills, as Summit Utilities announced an increase in gas costs.
Reinholt said the cost is up 20 cents from what it was in July
"This winter, customers will see about $1.23 per CCF for natural gas, it was $1.03," she added.
Though there's more than one thing to blame for the higher costs.
"Production has not reached pre-COVID-19 levels. In addition to that supply and demand. With everything going on in Europe with a conflict in Ukraine, what we're seeing is an increased demand for natural gas," Reinholt explained.
Reinholt said they try to keep costs as low as they can for customers, but there was no way to avoid this increase.
"We buy at lower rates and then put it in our system in the wintertime we had so we pre-buy our gas," Reinholt said. "It's important to know Summit does not make money off of the cost of gas, it's a straight pass-through for our customers."
She did explain that there are ways to lower your bills, though— She recommended that people check their insulation now, so cold air doesn't get inside.
"You can also invest in energy-efficient appliances, like energy-efficient stoves or hot water heaters that will have a reduction in your overall energy usage," Reinholt added.
If you've found yourself struggling to pay your bills, there's help available.
Fred Hokes with Watershed said he expects more people to call and ask for financial assistance this winter.
"It's gonna be a tough winter because we've got a lot of people who are still renting from the summer expenses that they spent for utilities," Hokes said.
Hokes mentioned that last year they helped at least 2500 people.
"We have a great community partner that allows us to pay utility bills for senior citizens that are 60 and older or disabled, or if they're under 60 have a child in the household that's disabled," He said.
As far as the energy market goes, Reinholt said it's hard to predict if costs will come down.
"I think our hope is that prices get less volatile and level off," Reinholt said.
The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced that 4.5 billion dollars will be going into the "low-income home energy assistance program" or, LIHEAP, ahead of the winter season.
That money isn't available yet here in Arkansas, but we'll keep you updated on when that application period opens.
If you have been looking for assistance with energy bills, please click here.