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While the humidity keeps rising, there are ways to crank the AC without paying through the roof

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As temperatures continue to inch closer to the 90-degree mark, the sweltering heat has many people praying for an end to summer and the cool, crisp relief that autumn brings.

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According to the National Weather Service, temperatures for Kandiyohi County are expected to remain in the mid- to high 80s for the rest of the week, with heat indices in the low 90s. With little relief to the heat and humidity in sight, people are looking for ways to beat the high temperatures without racking up high electric bills in the process.

On Sunday, Willmar Municipal Utilities and Kandiyohi Power Cooperative issued an alert asking customers to conserve energy as much as possible between the hours of 11 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The market for electricity nationwide is the highest it's been all summer, making it necessary that consumers take steps to conserve, according to Diane Maurice, manager of marketing and customer service at the co-op.

"A couple years ago, there was a time when it reached a point that there was not enough power," Maurice said. "Now, with this economy, we have plenty of power, but the prices are so high."

Limiting the use of air conditioning can be an effective way to lower energy costs, but in these boiling conditions, many people are reluctant to stop blasting the AC and sweat it out instead. That's where small things can make a big difference, Maurice said.

These "small things" include actions as simple as running the dishwasher later in the evening or opting to grill out for dinner instead of using the oven. Even an everyday task -- like starting the clothes dryer -- can run just as much electricity as a small-room air conditioner, Maurice said.

The Kandiyohi Power Cooperative makes it a practice to ask consumers to "wait til late," meaning that people should wait to run major appliances until 8 p.m. or later, when the least amount of electricity is being used. If people wait until after the critical peak period -- usually around 6 or 7 p.m. -- to run appliances that use the greatest electricity, it can greatly cut down on costs, Maurice said.

"Myself, I can do the four-hour delay on my dishwasher and set it to run at midnight," she said. "Just little things like that can make a big difference."

Other measures to consider include shutting the blinds, keeping all the doors shut and using standing or ceiling fans to move air around and make the room feel cooler.

"Ceiling fans are a great asset," Maurice said.

At this rate, fall could still be a couple months away. By following these tips, you'll still sweat when you step outside -- but at least you won't have to sweat over your electric bill.

"Every little bit helps," Maurice said. "Many 'little bits' combined add up to a 'big bit.' We just appreciate everyone doing their part and conserving."

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