We are or will soon be paying for the frigid weather of a week ago.

"Be expecting your energy bill to be higher," warned Greg Epperson of EPB, "regardless of what type of energy you use; electricity, gas, kerosene, whatever you're using."

It is just a cold, hard fact of winter. When the temperature drops, it takes more energy to keep our homes comfortable. Some have already seen their power bills jump. the Salvation Army is offering assistance.

"Part of our Share the Warmth program is helping folks with high utility bills, as well as giving them new heaters and blankets and coats," said the Salvation Army's Kimberly George.

The record breaking cold has put some families in a bind and your help is needed.

"Salvation Army had a lot of folks, generous, from the community, with outpouring of support with coats and heaters," added George. "However, we still need monetary assistance to help with these high utility bills."

The good news is: mild weather quickly returns. EPB's Greg Epperson says this is when we should prepare for the next Arctic blast.

"A lot of things, if you've not done hem yet, you know, it's hard to go out and insulate your home and do all of this and that when a cold spell's coming," he explained. "That's big things you want to plan ahead for."

There are several ways to save, at present.

"At night, pull your draperies," Epperson said. "Make sure your air filter is clean. Make sure, if you've got an electric heat pump, that it's operating properly."

Keep the outdoor unit free of debris and have a professional check it over.

"If you're using space heaters, use those sparingly," Epperson continued. "They're expensive to operate."

Close off unused rooms unless they contain water pipes. And are your windows drafty? Replace your weather stripping.

"If you've got the old single pane windows," said Epperson, "a quick fix is to put plastic up over those to maintain as air space, so it cuts down on drafts; also gives you a little insulation."

The Department of Energy advises you save 4% to 6% with each degree you can stand to turn your thermostat down.

EPB offers free in-home energy evaluations. Epperson says it is not an effort to try to sell products, rather a way to save money.

"We give them a list of things that will make them more energy efficient," he explained. "Whether it be air sealing, insulation, duct sealing, tune-ups on heat pumps, air conditioners, windows, doors, weather stripping, all kinds of things."

If you would like to schedule a free energy audit, call EPB: 648-1EPB(1372).

If you would like to help the Salvation Army help others, right here in the Tennessee Valley, take your donation by their building at 822 McCallie Avenue or donate via their website: www.csarmy.org