Pennsylvania's Public Utility Commission says too many homes are headed into the coldest part of the year without heat from a utility service.

This year, there appear to be about 1,500 fewer homes without gas or electric services compared with last year's survey.

And that count may be inflated - some homes are double-counted because they have neither gas nor electric services.

But the observed lack of utility services in nearly 16,000 households could lead people to resort to potentially unsafe heating sources.

PUC spokeswoman Jennifer Kocher says the survey turned up about 2,000 such households in Pennsylvania.

"They're using space heaters, many of them are using ovens, fireplaces, kerosene heaters, those types of things, that are a fire hazard," she said. "We would rather see them work with a utility, get on a payment plan."

Major utilities provide discounted service to qualifying low-income customers. Another program helps people shrink their utility bills by installing energy-saving devices.

And the state provides grants for paying heating bills through the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.