(FOX 9) - Heating costs are expected to skyrocket this winter, just as extra federal relief dollars expire and inflation continues.
Minnesota heating assistance programs are preparing for an influx of applications, as the cost of natural gas is expected to skyrocket for the second year in a row. Some estimates have natural gas prices rising around 35 percent this winter.
"This year could definitely be worse [than last year] because we no longer have the COVID funds," said Tammy Stauffer with Community Action Partnership Hennepin County.
Stauffer says the heating assistance program has only been open to applications for two weeks, and they’ve already received around 3,000 filings.
Professionals with Standard Heating and Air Conditioning say while they can’t do anything about the cost of natural gas, there are some simple maintenance items people can do to make systems run more efficiently.
"It's never too early to prepare," said technician Nate Stoll. "We recommend that you fire up your furnace before temperatures dip down. That way if you notice anything, hear anything, smell anything…we can get out to you before it dips into negative degrees."
Stoll recommends checking your furnace filters and even having a professional out for a routine check. He says there are small things they can tweak to achieve better efficiency.
He also recommends turning the furnace down five to ten degrees when you leave the house but warns if you lower it more than ten degrees it could take an hour or two to get comfortable again.
If you are struggling to pay your heating bills, and you think you could qualify for assistance, you can click here to check.