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'Do not use alternative heat sources during cold snaps', a local energy assistance charity says

Heat Up St. Louis and Heat Up Missouri urge people to keep up with their energy bills and avoid dangerous heating alternatives.

ST. LOUIS — The bi-state's nonprofit energy assistance charity, Heat Up St. Louis and Heat Up Missouri is in the midst of what could be their busiest winter yet and it's not technically even winter.

Gentry Trotter, with Heat Up St. Louis and Heat Up Missouri, told 5 On Your Side usually in this cold, the utility companies do not disconnect you.

"That's not for a reprieve for you, that's a chance for you to get help with your utility bill, your natural gas or your electric," Trotter said. 

Trotter recommends picking up the phone and calling your utility company directly about your inability to pay. 

RELATED: Winter 2022: Warming centers, resources available in the St. Louis area

The pile of paperwork mounting at the downtown Heat Up office proves that people are in need this year. 

"Nothing goes away," Trotter said. "Bills don't go away."

The team at Heat Up helps match households with assistance programs they qualify for. Trotter said there is always help available. 

What the organization really doesn't want you to do is use alternate warming devices. 

"We are adamantly opposed to heaters," Trotter said about space heaters. "Heaters have caused deaths and there is just no reason to use a heater. The heater is there for a supplementary source not a primary source."

Space heaters are dangerous, so are ovens. 

Trotter told 5 On Your Side he's been to homes where people were using ovens to add heat to the house.

"That's dangerous...that's dangerous for neighbors...there is also a carbon monoxide situation that can spin off from there," Trotter said. 

Before resorting to unreliable heating sources, make sure your home is keeping the heat inside. 

Trotter recommends easy and affordable winterizing options like caulking around windows and adding weather stripping to doors. 

For further assistance, visit the Heat Up Missouri and Heat Up St. Louis website.

For more information about how to get help with home utility costs from the Missouri Department of Social Services, click here

If there's something newsworthy happening where you live send us an email to tips@ksdk.com and our team of reporters will look into it.

RELATED: Winter 2022: Warming centers, resources available in the St. Louis area

RELATED: If you use gas to heat your home, expect to pay more this winter

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