How to Stay Cool when Temperatures are Hot

by Wade Barnes 16. July 2012

Average Baltimore TemperaturesSummer is officially upon us, and with it comes the heat and humidity we know all too well here in Baltimore.  Staying cool when the temperatures are hot can be a costly proposition, but there are a few tips we’d like to share so you don’t have to break the bank.

 

The basics... 

º Blow hot air: By having a fan simply move the air around the house, you’ll actually feel cooler.  Running ceiling fans counter-clockwise, especially in elevated levels in the house, creates an upward draft, bringing the cool air up to help better circulate the efforts of your air conditioner.    

º 78° Rule: We’ve all heard it before - 78° is the magic number.  By keeping your thermostat set at 78°, your home will be comfortable and you won’t overwork your air conditioning unit.    

º Close blinds: By keeping the sunlight out, the rooms won’t heat as quickly and the temperature will remain more stable. 

º Don’t cool unused space: While this may seem intuitive, if you have unused space, there’s no need to keep it at 78°.  Close the air ducts in unused rooms and gain efficiency and comfort in rooms you do use. 

º  Plant trees: Planting trees to help block the summer sun will not only keep the sunlight from coming in through the windows, it will also keep the exterior of your house cool, which means heat won’t penetrate through the walls.  As an added bonus, when autumn comes around, the leaves will fall which will allow the sun to once again brighten your day and heat the house during the winter.

 

The mechanics...

º Air filter: Perhaps the simplest and most inexpensive tip is to replace your air filter every three months.  Allowing air to flow freely will reduce the energy required to run your air conditioning system.  On top of that, the air you’ll breath will be clean, crisp, and refreshing.

º HVAC service: You should have your air conditioning system maintenance performed annually.  By sealing leaks, cleaning ducts, and checking refrigerant levels you can see significant improvements in efficiency and reduction in cost.

º Programmable thermostat: While the 78° rule still applies, if you’re not home during the day or if you can stand it a bit warmer at night, using a programmable thermostat can really impact the bottom line. 

º Consistency: While programmable thermostats are good because they create only slight variations in the temperature difference, turning the air conditioning on and off repetitively is not.  When your system is on, you’re not only cooling the air, you’re cooling the walls, ceilings, floors and everything in-between.  It takes a long time to cool all things solid but once they’re cool, they help keep the air cool too. 

 

The replacement…

If you’ve reached the point of diminishing returns with regards to your air conditioning unit, it might make sense to upgrade.  By installing an Energy Star system, you may qualify for Energy Star tax credits, and you’ll most certainly decrease the cost to cool your home during the summer.  If your system breaks unexpectedly or you need help financing this upgrade, consider using the equity in your home by obtaining a home equity loan or line of credit. 

For more energy saving tips, see Spring Forward with These 5 Energy Saving Tips.

If you’ve decided to beat the heat by getting out of town, be sure read Traveling Tips: keep the costs low and the fun level high.

How I Graduated Debt-Free from College

by Andrew Schreiber 10. July 2012

Student LoansOur college years can be some of the best years of our lives, and of course we all know the educational benefits, but many of us do not think about the long term financial effects. That future bill left to be paid can be extremely alarming. According to Consumer Reports, the average debt outstanding for 2011 graduates is almost $23,000; however, we’ve all heard horror stories about people who have accrued well over $100,000 of debt by the time they’ve graduated. This is a scary amount of money. In another perspective, the next time any of us will borrow that kind of money will likely be to buy a house, which can take 30 years to repay.

As a soon-to-be graduate, one of my personal goals for college was to graduate debt-free, which I'm happy to say I am about to accomplish. Following through with this goal has put me in a better position for future financial success. Here are some tips to help avoid or minimize debt:

Look for Scholarships and Grants

Many students never attempt to apply for grant or scholarship money because they believe that they will never be chosen. Never assume that you do not fit the correct criteria or demographic to obtain a grant or scholarship. Apply to any opportunities available.

Work Through School

Working while attending school is not the most popular idea, but it will dramatically help in the long run. Working will help pay for those expenses that you would otherwise be dependent on loans to pay. Some complain they are too busy, but it's possible to find a job that is compatible with your school schedule. Many colleges offer job opportunities that have flexible hours and are on campus.

Pick a School Close to Home

Remaining at home after high school is not always the most enjoyable choice, but it will help minimize your future debt. Consider attending an undergraduate and/or graduate program that is close by so you can continue living at home. If living on your own is the only option, look for off campus living arrangements further away from school, where cheaper rent can be readily available.

Do Not Be Afraid to Go to Community College

I, like many other students, did not know what I wanted to study in college, so I transferred to a less expensive school. I completed all of my general requirements and received an Associate’s Degree before I finally transferred to a four year university. Doing this gave me time to decide what degree path I wanted to pursue without running up large amounts of debt.

If You Take Out Loans, Be Smart

Sometimes taking out loans is inevitable. If you do have to take out loans, be sure not to borrow more than you absolutely need. Do not borrow money to buy unnecessary things such as entertainment expenses or new tech toys. Also, try to acquire Federal loans because they are typically less expensive than private loans. A good rule to follow is avoid borrowing more than you reasonably expect to earn in your first full year of working.

To help manage your finances in college, check out our 1st Access Checking account, designed with students in mind.

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I do, I do, I do...believe in my business

by Elizabeth Sherman 5. July 2012

Lending There have been many articles written on the topic of the “Personal Guarantee” as it relates to commercial loans.  Traditionally, when a business owner comes to a bank requesting a commercial loan, one of the requirements is the owner’s Personal Guarantee.  In a nutshell, the bank wants the owner’s promise that if the business fails to generate enough income to repay the loan, the owner(s) will step up and make sure the obligation is satisfied. 

This requirement is often a sticking point in the negotiation process.  Business owners are reluctant to put their personal assets on the line and banks are reluctant to provide financing when it appears the business owner doesn’t fully stand behind his/her business. 

In some cases, the Personal Guarantee may not be required.  If the business has been around for a long time with documented financial strength or if there is a significant banking relationship already established, the bank may forgo the Personal Guarantee.  For small businesses that have only been around for a short period of time or have a history of financial ups and downs, banks will, in all likelihood, require the business owner(s) to sign a Personal Guarantee.  

This document is a promise to repay the company’s debt and to insure the bank’s interests are protected.  There are no liens filed and no collateral pledged. 

However, if the business income cannot support the debt, or the business goes under, the owner(s) need to be prepared to utilize personal assets to repay the loan.    

Banks want to help you.  We want to see your business succeed.  We also want the same commitment from you that you expect from us.  We believe in you and your business. 

Do you?

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