Take the time right now to tune up air-conditioning system for summer

Keeping your cool this year may be easier if you give your air-conditioning system a tune-up before the weather gets any warmer.

All it takes is a few simple steps to make sure your air-conditioning system is ready to properly cool your home.

Here are some tips from the U.S. Department of Energy and experts from a leading manufacturer:

• Keeping the cool air inside is just as important as keeping the warm air outside.

Caulking, weather stripping and adding additional attic insulation will help keep cool air inside during the summer.

• Make sure the air is flowing properly through the vents. Inspect the ductwork for holes or separated joints and hire a professional to repair them.

• Add insulation around air-conditioning ducts when they are located in such unconditioned spaces as attics, crawl spaces and garages. Do the same for whole-house fans where they open to the exterior or attic.

• Homeowners should check the Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio, or SEER, rating of their air-conditioning unit. The higher the SEER rating, the more energy efficient the unit is and the lower your utility bills will be.

Upgrading to a higher SEER rating can save homeowners hundreds of dollars a year on their energy bills.

If the air-conditioning unit needs to be replaced, homeowners should be aware of the U.S. Department of Energy legislation that requires all new, central air-conditioning units manufactured after January 23, 2006, to have a SEER of at least 13.

Consumers may want to consider an energy-efficient model.

Newer models use environmentally friendly refrigerant and have high-efficiency scroll compressors that enhance reliability and contribute to the extremely quiet operation of the units.