Home Heating Help

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Knoxville (WVLT) - Last winter, raising the thermostat made a lot of folks feel like they were picking their own pockets.

But as Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd shows you, this season's heating bills could take less bite out of our budgets.

More than half of us heat with natural gas here in the Tennessee Valley.

Some rates are dropping, but other factors may force just as many, or more families, to ask for help.

"You pay one bill, you have to let the other one go and that's where it is right now, it's either the rent or the electricity," Holly Allen's covering the rent, but before she can even think about keeping warm this winter, "to be honest, the company told me it was supposed to be shut off last week."

"Across the country, we've seen a decline in natural gas prices," says Jennifer Fern, from the Knoxville Utilities Board.

Translation, assuming normal temperatures this winter, KUB says your monthly natural gas bill could be ten percent lower than last.

That's still about 140 bucks, 700 dollars, to keep you toasty all season.

"Based on what we've seen so far I'd expect that we'll serve more people than we did last year, or they'll be request for more funds," Fern says.

Since July, Knoxville, Knox County's community action committee has been heaped in paper.

Low-income and needy folks applying for help paying their heat bills.

Everything's kind of been catching up.

Last year, pipe and production damage from Hurricane's Katrina and Rita punched up our heating bills about 30 percent.

Throw in $3 a gallon gasoline, from late spring into early summer.

"Oh, they're all spent out!" says Cecilia Walters, from the Community Action Committee.

CAC's LI-HEAP takes applications year-round.

One-time grants ranging from 250 to 600 dollars. A family of four qualifies if its income's less than $25,000 dollars a year.

"It's a safety net," says Walters.

So are crisis grants.

Project Help, not available until January, but others, you can get now.

One's helped Holly keep her electric heat. Will she be back for more?

"I've never done it before, but it looks like I may have to," says Allen.

TVA cut its wholesale rates four and a half percent, effective the first of the month.

KUB says it's passing all of it along to its customers.

What if you were to take your projected 10 percent savings, and instead, pass it along to the project help program?

CAC says it hasn't crunched the numbers, but the extra money could help dozens more families stay warm this winter.