BLOOMINGTON, Ill. (WMBD) — Heating customers in the United States and in Central Illinois should expect to pay more for warm houses this winter.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, inflation on natural gas and other fuels will come at a cost to homeowners, with some seeing their heating bills increase by as much as 54%.

Here locally, Ameren Illinois and Nicor Gas are warning their customers, turn up the thermostat and be prepared to pay up. Both energy companies have warned their customers that this winter could be more costly.

Natural gas inflation is causing gas consumers to pay more for the commodity. Director of Communications for Ameren Illinois Tucker Kennedy said it’s the most expensive it’s been since 2008.

“The cost of natural gas has reached a 13-year-high, a therm of natural gas for us is 75% higher this year,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said this trickles down to Ameren Illinois customers, and the average Ameren customer can expect around a 30% higher bill this year compared to last year.

“A lot of this really depends on usage; if Mother Nature cooperates with us and temperatures are a little milder, then obviously the bill impacts will be less,” Kennedy said.

Kennedy said Ameren Illinois has practices to help manage the costs for customers, including buying gas in the summer when it’s cheaper, then storing it until it’s needed.

According to the U.S. EIA, nearly half of the United States uses natural gas as their source of heating their homes and in the Midwest, that means it could be the most expensive winter billing cycle since 2008-2009.

“We anticipate that a typical Nicor Gas customer will pay approximately $674 during that time period,” said Jennifer Golz, Public Relations Manager for Nicor Gas.

Golz said they realize that’s a stark increase from last year’s amount of $455 for an average customer, but Nicor has ways to assists customers with their bills. She said the company has provided customers with nearly $69 million in aid since last January.

“That comes through regular programs like LIHEAP, inter-energy assistance, and energy sharing programs,” Golz said.

Golz said the price increases are caused by two main factors, including high demand and not enough supply, as well as impacts from the winter weather that caused damages this past February.

Both Ameren Illinois and Nicor Gas are delivery-only companies, meaning they buy the gas from a supplier and “deliver” it to their customers for use. Meaning both don’t have any money to gain when the cost is higher on the international market.

“It’s a commodity that we buy and pass on to our customers dollar-for-dollar,” Tucker said.

“It’s a pass-through cost for our customers, what we pay, our customers pay,” Golz said.

Both Tucker and Golz said there are changes people can make at home to cut down on the costs, including opening drapes during the day to allow natural light heat and replacing furnace filters for more efficiency.

Ameren and Nicor Gas have more tips for cost-cutting and payment assistance online.