THE BRONX - Winter is still months away, but now may be a good time for residents to start saving up for their heating bills.

With all the hot weather the Bronx has been seeing, it?s easy to push thoughts of winter heating prices aside. However, experts from Schildwacther Oil Companies say this year?s heating costs will cost 50 percent more than they did last year ? about a $2,000 increase for a one-family home.

There are some things residents can do to soften the blow higher prices will bring. One way is to work with the oil company to negotiate a price cap. Another is to enroll in a payment plan, where the estimated payments will be split up to make budgeting easier.

Residents can also enroll in a fixed price plan, but Schildwacther experts don?t advise this ? if oil prices fall, people with fixed pricing plans could get stuck paying more than necessary. ?A fixed price of $4.70 may seem good today but you?re not going to be happy in January if it?s at $3.50,? home heating expert Mark Schildwachter says.

Bronx residents can also save energy by cleaning their furnace filter once a month, installing a programmable thermostat and setting the thermostat temperature. Winterizing a home helps too ? blocking drafts will keep warm air inside.

People who use natural gas won?t be catching a break either. Even though it?s usually cheaper than oil, natural gas prices will also double in price this winter.