By Jim Williams

(CBS) — Another downside of the bitter blast to hit the Chicago area: huge heating bills.

CBS 2’s Jim Williams reports.

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Rajiv Ravulapati works for the Citizens Utility Board, the energy watchdog group. So he knows the steps to take to conserve energy.

That hasn’t stopped the gas bill for him and his roommates from skyrocketing over the past two months. In November, it was $75; for January, it was $183.

“We use a programmable thermostat. We make sure we close doors when we’re out of the house. We weather-strip our windows,”

“I was blown away by how much it was for January,” Ravulapati adds.

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Jim Chilsen, also of CUB, says even before the latest bitter blast the federal government looked at gas supplies and determined bills could skyrocket.

And now many of us are paying the price for trying to stay warm in this prolonged cold spell.

“Your furnace and your boilers are working overtime, you’re using more gas, more electricity to heat your home, and therefore your bills are going to go up,” he says.

Peoples Gas says its customers have used 28 percent more gas this January compared to a year ago.

Nicor says this month has been 30 percent colder than last January; so, its customers are also using more gas.

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ComEd says the overwhelming majority of its customers rely on natural gas rather than electric heat.