Taking advantage of tax breaks is a great way to pay less to Uncle Sam. But sometimes, tax laws change, and tax breaks that used to exist go away. Using those breaks while they're still available is always a smart move, but in one particular case, it's almost a no-brainer.

In the following video, Dan Caplinger, The Motley Fool's director of investment planning, runs through the details on the residential energy property credit. Dan discusses how the break offers a tax credit of up to $500 for a variety of home improvements targeting energy efficiency. Although Dan notes that the credit used to be higher, taxpayers can still claim it if they haven't used it in previous years for anything from insulation to new windows and other improvements.

Dan observes that as helpful as the credit is, these improvements often pay for themselves even without the credit, making the tax break just extra incentive. However, with the credit slated to expire at the end of 2013, it's best to go ahead and use it while it's available. Dan concludes with the investing angle for the credit, noting the impact the credit has had on companies like insulation maker Owens Corning (NYSE:OC) and home-improvement retailers Home Depot (NYSE:HD) and Lowe's (NYSE:LOW).

Fool contributor Dan Caplinger has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool recommends Home Depot. Try any of our Foolish newsletter services free for 30 days. We Fools don't all hold the same opinions, but we all believe that considering a diverse range of insights makes us better investors. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.