Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Tips to think about Before Replacing Your Air Conditioner

When it comes to cost, it is mistakenly thought that a whole new aircon system would be the one that costs more. When basically, what's the considered is the 'initial cost' but not the 'initial cost' but not the long term expenses and benefits. Repair may be best defined as your cheapest, most immediate option that solves the issue for the moment. But when you come to consider the operating cost of your old AC unit versus a new and more effective model, then the difference can be said to be by leaps and bounds.

Efficiency Rating

Air conditioning systems are rated thru the seasonal energy efficiency ratio or SEER number of their compressors. The bigger the value of the SEER, the more efficient the hardware is. To mandate better conservation of energy, federal Regulations have allowed only AC units with thirteen SEER or above to be available in the market. Today, the highest rated air conditioners range between 17 to eighteen SEER. Though the cost of the purchase now might be large, in the future purchasing a high-efficiency unit would turn out to be the industrial choice with lower operating costs and longer working life.

Sound Rating Numbers

To keep the home at its most comforting, the noise that the air conditioning system makes should also be considered. For a cooler yet quiet indoor stay, choose an aircon system that is R410A Based. These types of AC units feature an outer casing that is thick and tough enough to minimize compressor vibrations and noise. Selecting quieter models would also serve advantageous particularly if they are going to be located in areas considered as outside extensions of your living space like the garden.

HVAC Contractor

No matter if you chose the most technologically advanced model boasting the highest efficiency, your aircon system would not work as it was designed if not installed correctly and sized accurately. Incorrectly installed apparatus might also cause safety and environmental hazards. So for perfect potency, hire a certified HVAC contractor. Though finding one can be a bother, quality of the installment job is guaranteed and if in case the AC unit would have problems in the future, you would not have to go thru the selection again. The location where the hardware will be installed is also crucial. With the experience and knowledge of your employed HVAC contractor, correct air circulation or flow will be ensured.

Is There a Diet for Blocked Arteries?

Is there specifically a "diet" for blocked arteries? The answer would be NO. Are there certain things you should and should not do to prevent your arteries from becoming blocked? That answer is YES!

Blocked arteries, hardening of the arteries, clogged arteries, and any other terminology you may use is all common language for the medical terms atherosclerosis and arteriosclerosis. Both mean hardening of the arteries; one just encompasses the other. Arteriosclerosis is a general term for any hardening/loss of elasticity of the arteries. Atherosclerosis is the hardening of the arteries caused by a specific plaque (ie. cholesterol or triglycerides). So, atherosclerosis is a form of arteriosclerosis. All of this seems rather complicated, but the bottom line is, whichever "sclerosis" you are talking about, having either one isn't a good thing. Both cause clots to form in the arteries, build-up and fatty residue sticking to the walls as well; leading to coronary artery disease, further leading to stroke or even myocardial infarction, a heart attack. A hospital run is inevitable if you do not control this life threatening disease.

This complex, silent disease may not show itself for years, even decades. It usually begins in adolescence, remains asymptomatic, taking years to become detectable. The plaque build-up, artery damage, and ultimately the narrowing of the arteries from all these years of damage can show some signs, if the person is willing to test for it. A cardiac stress test is non-invasive and can detect blood flow limitations, which would give reason to do further testing. Some patients, once diagnosed, usually report having severe headaches and numbness, not thinking they were related to any blockage at the time.

Some causes of atherosclerosis are controllable and some are not. Some of the controllable causes are:

  • Diet
  • Lifestyle (sedentary vs. active)
  • Stress or depression
  • High Cholesterol and/or Triglycerides
  • High Blood Pressure (increases risk up to 60%)
  • Cigarette Smoking (can increase risk up to 200%)
  • Obesity (particularly central obesity, or abdominal obesity)

Some of the uncontrollable causes are:
  • Advanced age
  • Male sex
  • Familial Link--Having a close relative that has had some complication of atherosclerosis (coronary heart disease or stroke)

So, to combat this deadly disease, your doctor may recommend some lifestyle changes and/or medication. These may include eating a healthy diet, implementing some form of physical activity, and weight management.

1. In more detail, you should limit your saturated fats to less that 7% of your daily intake, and your overall fat intake should be around 25%. The fat source should come from mono- and poly-unsaturated sources, including omega-3 fatty acids. Some food sources that have omega-3's are salmon, tuna, and mackerel. Your fiber intake should be at least 25 g a day, and you should have less than 200 mg a day of cholesterol. To do this, increase your vegetable, fruit, legume and whole grain intake. You will not only increase your fiber intake, but also lower cholesterol as well. Lastly, you should limit your alcohol and sodium (salt) intake at all times. Too much alcohol raises your blood pressure and triglycerides; and too much sodium raises blood pressure as well.

2. Maintain a healthy weight by increasing exercise. Cardiovascular and strength training are a must when implementing an exercise program. Both burn calories/fat and add lean tissue. It also increases the "good" cholesterol (HDL) that will help to clean out the arteries of the plaque and fatty deposits.

3. QUIT SMOKING!! Need I say more?

4. Reduce your stress in healthy ways. Don't do it by eating, drinking or smoking. Use exercise, breathing, reading, or any other way that is relaxing to you to de-stress yourself.

In conclusion, most of the causes for atherosclerosis, or blocked arteries, are preventable. Having the knowledge and the ability to prevent a catastrophic event from ruining or ending you life is powerful. Take control of your destiny, and do something to stop this silent killer from sneaking up on you. 

October is over at last - Hooray! And How Presidential Elections Impact the Stock Market

Well it's sure nice to have October over. What a month. October should now be considered a four letter word. By the time that "ugly" (not the word I'd prefer to use) month came to an end, major US stock averages were down approximately 20%, and emerging markets were down almost 30%, just for the month! (Warning for when you open your monthly statement). Although things will continue to be pretty crazy, I believe there are 3 main positive factors:

1. Widespread fear and pessimism - You can't find a Bull on Wall Street to save your life. Practically everybody in Bearish and feels it's "obvious" that the market has to go down. Well, the market never does what "everybody" thinks. There's an old saying on Wall Street - "If it's obvious, it's obviously wrong!"

2. The Government Bailout is essentially a giant stimulus package - Like it or not, the amount of liquidity that is about to enter the economy is enormous and it will bump the economy significantly.

3. The news is still bad - the market is a barometer for the future, generally 9-18 months out. Stocks tend to bottom and rally while the news is still bleak, well in advance of good news, leaving most individual investors in the dust. As much as it hurts, investors have to get in while the news is still bad.

Where the low for this market is nobody knows, but it looks like we may have to re-test the lows before we can have a strong bounce. 8200 on the Dow is a strong support level, if that breaks we'd likely see the 7800 level that we saw on October 10th. It's most likely too late to sell as it should bounce very quickly and strongly when it does, and many people who sold will end up getting back in higher than where they got out.

What does the election mean?

The long term outlook based on the election may surprise you. Since 1926, the S&P 500 has performed better under a Democrats than Republicans - 66.0% vs. 44.7% total return or 6.7% vs. 4.6% annual return. Small stocks did even better, with 8.2% vs. -3.5%. Hopefully that will hold true once again.

For now, if you're a news junkie, fasten your seat belt and keep the Pepto-Bismol close by. Otherwise, go out and have some fun. The sun will continue to come up each day.

Give me a call with any comments or questions.

Cheers -Keith

Below is an excerpt from the HS Dent Newsletter.

The market has violated every

technical rule in the book and will likely continue to given the forced

and panic selling from hedge funds.

What we have here is the $2 trillion hedge fund industry blowing up

and melting down after leveraging money as much as 30:1. That is

why the selling is so irrational and persistent. This crisis began with

the slowdown in housing, but its real cause was a new class of

mortgage (CMO) and debt-backed (CDO securities that were rated

AAA by the rating agencies, then leveraged heavily by hedge funds

and investment firms to take advantage of their "quality" and low

volatility, then insured through credit default swaps (CDS) that

were unregulated (and hence had questionable assets backing

them), and then those CDS derivatives were traded and leveraged

growing to a massive market of $60 trillion dollars. Almost no one

saw this coming as the securities that underlay this whole leverage

scheme were AAA rated. But they shouldn't have been and now the

whole financial system is melting down.

Many indices from the S&P 500 to the Nasdaq to the EEM (emerging

markets) have made new lows, although the Dow held above its

10/10 lows of 7,882. The Nikkei in Japan fell below its 2003 lows

before rallying. Hopefully we have a seen a bottom for months to

come and we continue to rally towards 12,000 or so well into 2009.

If we rally to the most likely near term target of 10,000 - 10,100,

that could represent the 4th wave of a broader A-wave that could

see a final bottom closer to 7,000 if there is bad news ahead on the

economy, or more bank crises. The strongest support for U.S.

stocks is the 7,200 - 7,400 area where the 1998, 2002 and 2003

bottoms occurred. There was also a minor low in late 1997 close to

7,000, so the range is 7,000 - 7,400 for very strong support.

All of the sharp rallies thus far have merely

been short squeezes, which was typical in the 1929 - 1932 crash. For

now, there is a better chance that we have seen the lows for now and we

get a continued, but choppy rally for months ahead.

The irrational panic selling in the stock market is not coming as

much from normal investors and mutual fund managers as in the

early 2000s. It is coming from highly leveraged hedge funds that

are incurring huge losses and redemptions which forces them to

sell all of their good stocks as well to get liquid.

If the market does end up bottoming on 10/10 at 7,882

on the Dow, then an eventual recovery

from an increasingly successful Treasury plan will be the

likely scenario. And then inflation pressures, rising

interest rates and commodity prices will be very likely

and ultimately defeat such a rally. The stock market

could advance more to 12,000 - 13,200 in that scenario

and into spring or even summer (March - September).

That will give investors a chance to sell stocks at more

attractive prices and to unload real estate in a slightly

better market, as real estate won't rebound for many years!

Is There A Cure For Anxiety?

Treatment vs. cure. This is the question that would be still playing in your mind, right? Well, let me tell you that there is no cure for anxiety as this is a reflex reaction that your body adopts in time of danger. You "cure" anxiety and you would be left helpless in times of danger - physical or otherwise. Therefore, in this context 'cure' would be more harm than help. When I say no cure, it doesn't mean you won't be fully recovered. Everyone have different level of anxiety, and you want to be fully recovered to a normal person with normal level of anxiety!

The Best Treatment Is Tailor-Made There are many ways you can treat anxiety successfully, which means you can keep it in control, which is as good as being healthy. You could choose one particular treatment and excel at it, or you could have your own cocktail of techniques adjusted perfectly to your needs. Give yourself time to find out the right combination and be patient when looking for results. Sometimes, you may need a few weeks or even months until you realize you are walking on the right path.

Seek And Accept Professional Help You may feel you are in control but very often when you suffer from anxiety and/or depression, you are not. You feel normal, but you are in fact ill. Do not hesitate or delay seeking professional help. I say 'professional' here because it is important that you receive the right kind of help. Over-the-counter medication, half-baked recipes for relaxation, things that worked for X, and other such 'great advices' would not really help you. It would rather push you into deeper trouble and complicate the already existing problems. Seeing a psychiatrist or psychologists does not mean you are crazy; it means you need help with things pertaining to the mind and the function of the brain. Fight the temptation to give in to such myths and heresy; do the right thing.

Make Relaxation An Integral Part Of Your Life Whatever it is you are doing professionally and personally, you need to make time for relaxation. This should be something you do every day, like brushing your teeth or taking a bath. Choose the method or a combination of methods which suit you best and ensure that you do it every day without fail. Do not get stuck on one type, even if that helps you best. With time, you might grow insensitive to one particular type; try identifying and rotating some of your favorite recipes for relaxation for best results.

Develop A Positive Attitude - Believe In Yourself You would have never seen an airplane if the Wright Brothers would have given up when the whole world told them they were mad to think that they could make a machine that flies. You would not have had the bulb if Edison would have dumped his project after the 100 times he failed in his experiment. Come to think of it, you would have precious little today if some extraordinary men and women did not believe in themselves despite tremendous odds piled against them and discouragement from their peers. You need to internalize the fact that you are unique and special. You are not comparable to anybody and you are not inferior to anyone. Nurture positive thoughts promote positive attitude and sustain a healthy outlook towards life; and you will never what anxiety is.

Medication Should Be Taken Under Strict Medical Supervision You will find that in many cases you would need medication to regain control over anxiety attacks. Do not be tempted any time to self-medicate yourself, even on the same prescription. Anxiety and depression medicines can be extremely harmful if taken irresponsibly. Keep your doctor updated about any and all changes in your condition. You also need to inform your doctor if you change your diet, adopt an alternative medicine treatment or take up any type of relaxation methods. Do not do anything without the approval and endorsement of your doctor.

Diet Is Important - Eat Healthy If you expect and crave for a healthy body and mind, you need to ensure that what goes inside the body is healthy, too. Avoid fast foods, irregular meals, caffeine, nicotine, alcohol, drugs and late nights. Adopt a disciplined and healthy life. This does not mean that you could not let your hair down from time to time. By all means, have your parties and fun and all - but when it comes to regular days, stick to healthy foods and habits.

Are you changing for good?

Are you changing for good?

I've been reading the book "Changing For Good: A Revolutionary Six-Stage Program for Overcoming Bad Habits and Moving Your Life Positively Forward" (Authors James O. Prochaska, PH.D., John C. Norcross, PH.D., and Carlo C. Diclemente, PH.D.). I first heard about it from a colleague who said it would be a good book for me to read to better understand how and why people change. As a coach, that's one of the BIG things I work on with my clients…CHANGE; whether it's changing their habits for greater success, changing their marketing for a clearer message and more business, or changing personally for growth and greater fulfillment.

I hope to enlighten you, as my reading has done for me, and encourage you to not give up too early on your changes. Below I've summarized the six well-defined stages of change as outlined by the authors:

Precontemplation - Precontemplators resist change.

In this stage there is generally no recognition of the problem or intention to change. On the outside, others may see the problem very clearly, but the precontemplator cannot. Often precontemplators don't want to change but rather desire those around them to change instead.

Contemplation - In this stage the problem is recognized, but the contemplator isn't quite ready to move into action.

When in this stage, a person acknowledges they have a problem and begin to think seriously about changing it. They may even have plans for taking action within the next six months, but no actual commitment to do so. When transition begins to occur from this stage of change to the next, a person begins focusing more on the solution vs. the problem and thinking more about the future instead of dwelling on the past.

Preparation - Plans for action are being put in place and being made public.

The person in the preparation phase may appear to be ready for action, but they may still need to convince themselves that taking action is what's best for them. They are often already beginning to make small behavioral changes. Their awareness of the problem is high and they are anticipating the changes and action to come.

Action - Now habits are modified and fears confronted! This stage is the only time a person makes progress for overcoming their problem.

During the action phase of change, "…a person makes the move for which they've been preparing." Action is visible to those around them. Encouragement and support are critical at this stage. This is the busiest stage and takes a great deal of commitment of time and energy. However, this stage does NOT complete the changes.

Maintenance - For change to be permanent, previous gains attained must be combined and lapses or relapses prevented.