(Harrisburg) -- Temperatures are starting to drop, and the state Public Utility Commission is urging people to prepare for higher heating bills this winter.
The federal Energy Department says home heating bills are expected to rise 15 percent for natural gas customers and 19 percent for heating oil customers.
The culprit is colder temperatures that are actually closer to normal than last year's mild winter.
PUC spokeswoman Denise McCracken says the agency is encouraging people to plan ahead.
"Things like budget billing where they can enroll in this program with their utility and spread their costs evenly throughout the year just to make things a little more manageable when it comes to sticking to that budget and paying the winter energy bills," McCracken says.
She says for those who will need help with their bills, customer assistance programs, hardship funds and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program - or "LIHEAP" - are available.
LIHEAP is not scheduled to open until November 1st.
In the meantime, the PUC is touting its "Prepare Now" program urging people to take a closer look at their heating bills.
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