Adding air conditioning to claim 2011 tax credits

Taxpayers could reap big benefits by making home improvements before the year's end.

This holiday season, you may want to consider making green home improvements around the house. We've all heard of the federal tax credits for remodeling, but you may not know this tax credit expires on December 31. Experts also don't know if the program is likely to be expanded past this date. So, if you've been thinking about adding air conditioning, new windows or heating equipment – along with a whole host of other improvements – you may want to act fast. 

If you qualify for the credit – formally known as the nonbusiness energy property credit – you can get up to $500 off of your tax returns, according to the experts at Forbes, which makes this a worthwhile project, especially for those who tend to procrastinate. (Note, this doesn't work like an instant rebate, you'll have to wait until April to see the benefits of this investment).

But, while I encourage every reader to make use of the credit – I claimed the credit under the original 2006/2007 incarnation and can't qualify again – if you do undertake the project, make sure you follow the guidelines put forth by the government for your chosen project.

For example, if you want to install new doors, insulation or windows as a way to claim the credit, the doors have to be of a high enough quality that you can guarantee they will last for at least five years without the occurrence of a major disaster. (Usually, a two-year warranty on a product can show tax officials that you've made the right buy, experts say.)

There are other details to bear in mind. For example, the improvements need to be done to your primary residence. For other homes, tried-and-true energy saving methods such as purchasing an electric heater for the winter are still your best bet. 

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