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How to Keep the Polar Vortex From Blasting Your Bank Account

NEW YORK (TheStreet) -- With temperatures sliding below 10 degrees in large portions of the U.S. thanks to the now infamous polar vortex, Americans are doing their best to grin and bear it.

That's going to be harder when those home heating bills start showing up.

Heavy demand for heat has especially driven natural gas prices up, doubling them in New England and tripling them in states including New York.

The first wave from the polar vortex, which occurred earlier in January, was expected to cost the economy $5 billion -- and that was before the second wave hit this week.

That scenario will likely lead to higher monthly heating bills, leaving many Americans steaming in their parkas and mukluks.

"Extremely cold temperatures have forced customer's heating equipment to run longer and harder this winter," says Jeff Camp, vice president of customer operations at TXU Energy, a Texas electricity provider. "As a result, most consumers are using more electricity even if they aren't raising their thermostat settings."

To keep energy costs down during freezing cold periods on the calendar, TXU advises the following steps:

If you run into trouble, call ahead: Most energy providers are amenable to giving you time if you're having trouble with the extra payments, including payment plans, bill deferrals and averaged-out monthly billing. "For customers facing a bill they will have challenges paying on time, the first thing to do is to contact us before the due date," Camp says. "That gives us the best opportunity to provide assistance and helps customers avoid added costs related to late payments and disconnection."

Turn down the dial: TXU advises turning the thermostat down "a few degrees" when you're not at home.

Close the blinds: Keeping the window blinds closed keeps cold air out and heat in during freezing weather.

Close the vents: Keeping vents closed also conserves heat, as will closing chimney dampers.

Check your water heater: Consumers can also cut costs by turning down water heater temperatures to 120 degrees. TXU also advises installing water heater insulation to further cut energy costs.

TXU also advises consumers replacing heating unit filters every three months to put a lid on energy costs, and make sure all door and window seals are properly closed, keeping more warm air in and cold air outside.

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