"It's a matter of--are you going to put something in your mouth to eat, or forget about it and put medicine in your mouth--it's a toss...And now the heating going up is a double burden."
Fred Mertz is a voice for millions of Americans on fixed incomes bracing for a potential soar in winter heating prices. Craig Whyte with Nicor Gas says there are estimates that natural gas prices could increase by 70-percent.
"Recent factors--the weather in the gulf-- the hurricanes disrupted production of natural has--and when you disrupt production that accounts for 20% of natural gas in the Midwest, that's going to affect prices," says Craig Whyte with Nicor Gas.
These disruptions--along with an increased use of natural gas to generate electricity...is making it difficult for energy producers to keep up with consumer demand.
"If we can get by with a relatively warm winter, you're not going to see as high prices," says Whyte.
Mertz receives financial assistance from LIHEAP, or low income home energy assistance program.
"I'm hoping the program will start soon so we can get signed up," says Mertz.
Whyte says customers who don't qualify for LIHEAP, could be eligible for Nicors' sharing program and Nicor also offers a budget plan that helps level out prices over the year.
Whyte says customers can manage their gas bills with some energy saving tips..."tips"... That could save you between 10 and 40 percent on your natural gas bills.
If you have a programmable thermostat, turn it back 10 to 15 percent for eight hours per day. Close dampers on unused fireplaces, seal leaks around doors and windows, and if money allows replace old windows with ones that are better insulated. If you're planning for long-term improvement, replace old furnaces with high-efficiency ones.