High heating bills have already hit most Iowans’ mailboxes, prompting many of us to consider alternative ways to warm our homes. Alliant Energy spokeswoman Karmen Wilhelm says you should consider a payment plan before trying something drastic and perhaps unsafe.

Wilhelm says if you’re having trouble paying your bill, seek financial assistance to work out a plan instead of putting the family at risk by trying to heat a home using candles, space heaters, sterno fuel or portable fire pits. She says if you burn wood for heat in a stove or fireplace, make sure it’s correctly installed and is properly ventilated.

Wilhelm says to crack open a window on the opposite side of the fireplace or stove so there’s not a build-up of potentially lethal carbon monoxide. During a recent cold snap, a Mason City man brought a gas grill into his garage and lit it for heat as he worked on his car. The resulting fire destroyed the car and the garage. When the power goes out, Wilhelm says some people don’t think clearly when trying to come up with ways to stay warm.

Improper use of natural gas, propane or oil-fired appliances can deplete the oxygen and cause deadly problems. She suggest layering oneself with extra clothing and blankets or going somewhere that service is still on.