Jessica Mathews /

Forecasters are predicting extremely cold and snowy conditions this winter, which could mean higher energy bills for Livingston County residents.

Forecasters are predicting extreme cold and wet weather for Michigan and the upper Midwest this winter, and experts warn that high energy bills could come with it.

The National Weather Service is calling for extreme temperatures and higher chances of heavy snow, with major storms possible in January and February. Michiganders are being advised to bundle up and take steps now to make their homes and businesses more energy efficient.

Whitney Hayes with the non-profit advocacy group Elevate says while many people might not be able to afford major changes in their home heating system, there are cost-effective steps they can take to keep warm this winter. Hayes says even small things like making sure that there's air sealing around windows and doors, and electrical sockets can add up when you kind of seal it in – noting an almost 10% energy savings by doing those small little things.

The nonprofit Citizens Utility Board recommends – if people can afford it - switching from natural gas to an electric heat pump as recent advancements have made them more budget-friendly and reliable.

Environmental groups say changing from gas to electric heating is good for the climate, but the switch could also save consumers a lot of money. The U-S Energy Information Administration warns that gas prices in the Great Lakes states could rise by up to 49% this winter over last year.

While high heating bills could put some consumers in a financial bind, officials say energy assistance programs are widely available. In Michigan, regulated utilities are required to offer a Winter Protection Plan to seniors and low-income households to shield them from service cutoffs in freezing weather and make it easier to pay their bills.

AP Photo.