Here’s good news: Your energy costs could go down this year.

There could be good news ahead for Michigan energy consumers.

We’ve already experienced the first taste of winter, but more moderate temperatures are forecast to return and—best of all—natural gas costs are predicted to fall once again this year, just as they have since 2008.

Michigan’s unique geological features provide us with the greatest natural gas storage capacity in the country. This allows local energy companies to strategically buy and store natural gas in advance of the winter season when demand is high– and consumers have reaped the benefits. If things go the way it looks like they will, DTE customers should see a 6 percent decrease in their total bills this winter.

Of course, the cost of energy is only one factor in what your actual energy bills are. There are plenty of things families and businesses can do to use energy more efficiently and save both energy and money.

Here are a few simple tips for energy-smart consumers:

Our best friend in the sky – the sun

On sunny days during the winter, keeps blinds up and curtains pulled back to let in the sun’s natural warmth. When the sun goes down, cover your windows to keep that free heat in for as long as possible.

Plug up those window leaks

On a chilly or breezy day, check your windows for air leaks from gaps or old caulking. Fix any you find or, if your windows have seen better days, think about replacing them with high-performance models that will help retain the heat in your house. You can also temporarily turn regular windows into energy-saving double-panes with clear plastic or vinyl sheeting.

Get a new filter

Replacing the filter in your furnace – a two-minute job – will allow your fan motor to run more efficiently and also improve the air quality in your home. Filters are an affordable investment in a warmer winter.

Insulate, insulate, insulate!

Fall is a great time to make your home more energy-efficient by adding insulation. For low-income families, there are even programs that could help you pay for insulation upgrades. Check out the U.S. Dept. of Energy Weatherization page or the Michigan Dept. of Health & Human Services Weatherization Assistance Program.

Reach out if you need assistance

It might be cold outside, but your house doesn’t have to be. Do your part to use energy more efficiently, and your local Michigan energy providers will keep you warm all the way until spring.