Heat Bill Pinch or Christmas Grinch?

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Knoxville (WVLT) - When you wake up to temperatures in the teens, it's no surprise, TVA has set a record, for peak usage in winter-time.

But how much will those fired-up furnaces and hot showers cost you, when those holiday bills come due?

Volunteer TV's Gordon Boyd looks at whether the heating bill could be a Grinch, or just a pinch.

Probably somewhere in between.

A little common sense can save you a lot of dollars.

Which you'd probably rather spend, on what's under the tree.

"Being cold makes me feel like winter, which is Christmas," says Ashley Laman, a cash-strapped college student.

Dress the part. You feel the part.

"Absolutely! Hot Cocoa, warm fireplace, Santa Coming down the chimney," says Carmen Gamble.

But the real chill, "How you gonna pay your heat bill, and buy all your Christmas gifts?" Gordon asks Layman.

"Sell my clothes on E-bay," she replies.

"We actually got the bill last week, and had to sit down, it was a little overwhelming," says Carmen, whose bill was $850.

"We expected gas prices to be the same, assuming we had a normal winter," explains Warren Rhines from the Knoxville Utilities Board.

Last December, KUB's average home bill for gas was $178 dollars, electricity- 99 dollars.

Rates have dropped 4.5% since then, but winter's still two weeks away.

Either with temperature sign, or folks bundled.

"If the weather stays cold/like this cold snap, then prices may be higher," says Rhines.

So how do you keep from becoming a prisoner of your own furnace? Short of wearing your overcoat indoors, you can do a lot, especially when you're not home.

Let there be light!

"You're better off leaving those window shades open and letting the sunlight in and providing the radiant heat," says Rhines.

Wash only full loads, in cold water.

"Ask my husband not to light the fire logs so much this winter!" says Carmen.

Thermostats: 65-67 is fine for electric, but for gas: "You can lower the thermostat to 55 degrees and nothing will freeze, but gas recovers quickly, so when the heat comes on and you come back home, it will heat up rather quickly," Rhines says.

Which warms Ashley's heart and wallet, because otherwise: "I'll give pictures, and make things. I'll be Martha Stewart, make acorns and stuff."

Only a week into December, the daytime high is four and a half degrees warmer than for all of last December.

But the overall average temperature is about five and a half degrees cooler.

Blame those cold nights.

KUB had expected the lower rates to balance out with the colder temperatures, so that your bills wouldn't change much.