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Natural Gas Prices Spike As Early Cold Settles In

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- The cost to heat most homes in Minnesota and Wisconsin may go up this winter.

Natural gas prices jumped to their highest in four years Wednesday. Low supply and a frigid forecast may be to blame.

It has gotten much busier much sooner at Frattalone's Ace Hardware in St. Louis Park, specifically for items meant to battle winter's early entrance, like caulk, door sweeps and window insulation kits.

"They're hitting this aisle pretty heavy right now," said manager Jim Lee.

Homeowner Christian Nagel bought the latter.

"I'm a little behind on covering my windows and winterizing the house just because it sort of came on so suddenly," Nagel said.

But one thing that moved faster than winter was the rising price to keep people warm. Natural gas futures spiked at the stock market Wednesday.

Natural Gas Meter
(credit: CBS)

CBS News Market Watch reports a bitter winter forecast coupled with low stockpiles nationwide take much of the blame.

"The consumers are going to start seeing it, number one in their monthly bill," Lee said.

A spokesperson with CenterPoint Energy said its customers could see a spike in their bill because about half of its natural gas is subject to market price changes. The other half though is already stored in tank, purchased in the warmer months when it wasn't as expensive, which should offset some of the price hikes and demand.

Lee said customers are getting better at saving on energy costs by winterizing their homes while also being environmentally friendly.

"Cracks and crevices, that's where you're losing your energy," he said.

"Last year we had our bills in the hundreds, so we'd like to keep that as low as we possibly can," Nagel said. "That's certainly in the calculation, but for me it's more about just doing what I can to use less resources."

Buying a new, energy-efficient thermostat is another way to cuts costs over the long haul. But you can also get some winterization products without spending a dime.

CenterPoint customers can order items like sealant or weather stripping off the company's website for free.

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