About Stephen Hicks Southridge Capital

Stephen M. Hicks is the Chief Executive Officer and founding principal of Southridge. Mr. Hicks sets the overall strategic direction for the Southridge group of companies, and is responsible for business development and execution. You can learn more about stephen hicks and southrdige capital here

You Can Improve Air Conditioning: Suggestions to Boost Efficiency

If you haven’t thought about your air conditioning system by now, the real heat of summer should remind you pretty soon. There are a few things you can do to make your air conditioning system run more efficiently.

If you haven’t cleaned the filters in a while, now is a perfect time. Generally, filters need to be cleaned usually with a mild detergent or replaced every 3 to 6 months. If you’re like me, and have furry household pets, it’s important to replace or clean filters more frequently.

Other things you can do to make your system run more efficiently include:

* Keep your windows and doors closed when the system is in operation.

* Close coverings on windows that face the sun.

* Caulk and weatherstrip all doors and windows to prevent cold air from escaping.

* Follow the manufacturer’s preventive maintenance guide.

* Wash or dry clothes in early morning or evening to avoid producing more heat during the warmest parts of the day, when the air conditioner already is taxed.

* Use your exhaust fan to vent heat when cooking.

Most residential air conditioning systems last about 10 to 15 years. If your system breaks down during that time, it’s probably best to replace components. When your system begins to go, however, major components such as a motor or compressor will fail first. Get an estimate from at least three companies on replacing components and on replacing the system. Also, get estimates from other companies on only replacing the system. A company might want to sell you a new unit more than it wants to fix the existing system. Weigh the costs of repair and replacement carefully.

Consider, too, that in the past few years, the technology of air conditioning systems has advanced significantly, increasing efficiency. Compare the cost of repairing and running your old system with the cost of a installing and operating a new system over the next few years. You might be in for some surprises.

Before You Donate to Charity

Americans donate $124 billion to charities each year, not merely for a tax advantage but to do some good.

Overall confidence in non-profit groups has been on the wane, however.

According to a Gallup poll, more than half of 1,000 respondents think charities have become less trustworthy during the past decade.

At one time or another, everyone wonders whether contributions will really wind up where intended. In some cases, a charity’s goals may be of the highest order but the organization may not be well-run.

Always know the non-profit group you’re contributing to and how your dollars are being used. The majority of charities are reputable and have nothing to fear from your heads-up attitude.

Industry experts say that fund-raising and administration should constitute no more than 50 cents of each dollar raised; the rest should go directly to programs.

“A controversy in recent years has been that a number of charities categorize part of their expenses for direct mail or other appeals as `program services’ and `educational tools’ rather than exclusively fund-raising,” says Bennett Weiner, vice president with the Philanthropic Advisory Service of the Council of Better Business Bureaus.

Middlemen can diminish the amount of money going to the cause.

“It’s best to donate to charity rather than to commercial fund-raisers, who can take a large percentage for themselves,” says Daniel Borochoff, president of the American Institute of Philanthropy, a watchdog group that rates charities.

“Whenever you’re asked to contribute, ask who’s doing the asking. If it’s an independent person, simply say `No thanks’ and instead give directly to the charity.”

Coin canister collections are risky, Borochoff warns, because money may not make it back to the charity. Don’t be bashful about contacting the charity to find out whether the person presenting the can is receiving a cut of the money or is even affiliated with the charity.

Some points to consider in charitable giving:

When solicited by phone, ask that an annual report and financial statement be sent. Never give out your credit card number.

Resist pressure to fork over money immediately.

Always make your contribution with a check made out to the charity, not to the individual collector.

Watch out for charities whose names sound impressive or closely resemble the names of more familiar organizations.

If you are sent items you never ordered (cards, key rings, or pens), you are under no obligation to pay or to return the merchandise.

Beware of solicitations that tug on your heartstrings but give no explanation of the charity’s actual programs.