NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The unusually cold temperatures keeping the New York area in a deep freeze this winter has led to soaring utility bills for some Con Edison customers.

Con Ed customers are paying an average of 15 to 20 percent more this year than last to heat their homes and keep the lights on, CBS 2’s Kathryn Brown reported.

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Con Edison says its rates haven’t changed, but the price of natural gas is skyrocketing with demand higher than usual this winter. Those prices are being passed on to customers, many of whom are seeing a significant jump in their bills.

“The last month or two, it’s gone up 25, 30 percent at least,” one Con Ed customer said.

“I’ve noticed $15, $20 difference between last year and this year for sure,” said Con Ed customer Myra Guvara. “You have to stay warm, I mean there’s no other choice.”

For customers who might be unable to pay, Con Ed spokesperson Michael Clendenin says the worst thing to do is nothing.

“We have level-payment plans for people who are paying an extra $100 or $200 or $300 more than they’re used to paying this time of year, that they can spread it out over a 12 month period,” he said.

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Con Ed recommends keeping the thermostat at 68 degrees or below. Every degree above 68 can raise the cost about 3 percent.

“The best thing that people can do really when we encounter periods like this, and really you should think about it all the time anyway, is really just conserving energy,” he said.

Clendenin says we can expect rates to level off and even decrease as soon as temperatures begin to rise.

Con Ed says customers can also save money – and energy – with the following tips:

  • Install plastic on the interior of your windows to trap heat
  • Leave the blinds open during the day to let sunlight in
  • Install a programmable thermostat and set it to lower the heat at night and when no one is home.
  • Inspect ducts to ensure adequate air flow and eliminate loss of heated air.
  • Keep drapes and furniture away from radiators and baseboard heaters so heat can flow freely.

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