MISSOULA, Mont. - Energy savers aren't waiting for the first breath of winter to keep heating costs down.
A Montana storm can suck money out of your chimney fast.
Barb Ehman of Missoula installs large sheets of plastic on the open door of her trailer deck.
The whole deck is wrapped in plastic.
"And then on the inside we'll plastic when we get the outside done," said Ehman.
She bought the plastic three years ago for $20.00 and has recycled it every year since.
She and her husband live on a fixed income.
So they pay attention to heating bills.
"On the coldest months it's $150," said Ehman,"but we try to keep it to $100 to $110 a month."
The Ehmans's have already sealed their roof with rubber sealant to keep the warm in,and to keep the roof from leaking.
Even with energy saving habits like that, the couple never hike up the heat.
"Sixty-eight to 70 on the very cold days, it goes up to 70" said Ehman,and then we sit with afghans when we watch TV.
Barb Ehman likes winter.
But she said you need to prepare for it.
Low Income Energy Assistance or LIEAP is a federal program that helps low income people with their heating bills.
It expects to serve 4,200 to 4,400 households in Missoula, Ravalli and Mineral Counties this winter.
That's 9 to 12-thousand individuals.
One third of their households are expected to be new applicants, many of whom are applying because they're newly unemployed or under employed.
Two-thirds of the households have earned income from working jobs, but don't make enough money to pay their heating bill without help.