SPRINGFIELD, Mo. –Homeowners could be seeing an increase in their utility bills due to an increase in natural gas prices.

“The market price of natural gas is based upon supply and demand,” City Utilities (CU) Manager of Media and Energy Service Joel Alexander said. “There’s a lot of demand for natural gas and it’s not just in our region but it’s worldwide. There are shortages in other parts of the world. The U.S. is shipping some of those supplies that we have here over to other countries. There’s also demand over on the west coast because there’s a drought.”

The market price of natural gas is roughly $5.50 per million British Thermal Unit (BTU). Last year around October, it was $2.25 per million BTU.

“We’re seeing the market price increase on a daily basis right now,” Alexander said. “While it may come down, we don’t know for sure.”

High demand means high prices and possibly higher bills.

“You’re looking at roughly $175 a month for the average homeowner based upon last year which was $90 or $95 a month,” Alexander said. “[However] this is not a rate increase. This is strictly a cost increase that’s passed onto us from the market. While we buy our natural gas throughout the year in different ways, we still feel the impact on that.”

There are ways homeowners can prepare for the winter season so they don’t have high utility bills.

“The main thing customers can do is make sure you have the proper insulation in your home,” Alexander said. “The insulation is not only going to help you in the winter months but also year-round. It’s going to keep the warm air in your house and the cold air out. It’s going to do just the opposite in the summer months. The other thing you can do is walk around your house and check for leaks and gaps that are around your windows and doors. If you conceal those and you feel the air in there, take the time to get some caulk or a weather strip and make those improvements right now.”

Alexander also suggests reducing your thermostat 2 or 3 degrees, especially when you’re not home.

“We know this is going to be a difficult winter, Alexander said. “We already know that the natural gas prices are increasing. That’s why we want to get ahead of this right now, early October before it starts getting cold. We want our customers to be aware that we know this is going to be an impact on their bills. “

CU is offering Insulation Upgrade Rebates for 50 percent of the total cost, up to $500. It is also offering Smart Thermostat rebates, up to $75.