Winter has arrived and Connecticut Light & Power and Yankee Gas have unveiled several programs to help area residents cope with the cold weather.

"New England winters can be brutally cold and we want to help keep our customers warm," said Penni Conner, the chief customer officer for Northeast Utilities, parent company of CL&P and Yankee Gas.

"We have a variety of programs available to assist them, from making a home more energy efficient to billing and payment options."

Programs available to CL&P and Yankee Gas customers:

Home energy solutions -- Provides homeowners and renters with an energy assessment by an authorized contractor. Customers also get information on money-saving rebates on appliances and heating and cooling systems. To learn more, visit www.ctenergyinfo.com, www.energizect.com or call 877-WISE-USE.

Budget billing -- A way to manage monthly expenses by equalizing monthly utility bills based on a customers' annual energy usage. Budget billing helps avoid seasonal peaks associated with heating and cooling months. To sign up for the CL&P program, call 800-286-2000 or visit www.cl-p.com. To sign up for the Yankee Gas program, call 800-989-0900 or visit www.yankeegas.com.

Winter protection -- Protects income-eligible customers from having their electricity or natural gas shut off for nonpayment from Nov. 1 to May 1. CL&P customers interested in signing up should call 800-286-2828. Yankee Gas customers should call 800-438-2278.

Matching payment -- Allows income-qualified customers with past-due balances to work out monthly payment arrangements so service is provided year-round. Customers must heat with electricity to qualify for the CL&P program or heat with natural gas to qualify for the Yankee Gas program. They must also apply for and be granted energy assistance funds, and must make and keep a monthly payment arrangement. CL&P customers interested should call 800-286-2828. Yankee Gas customers should call 800-438-2278.

NUSTART -- Helps income-eligible CL&P customers maintain year-round electric service. Customers can reduce and eliminate past-due balances if they pay their budget amount on time each month. For information about NUSTART, call 800-286-2828.