Permits for building work of any kind can be tricky to navigate, and the HVAC sector is no different.
You would think that something as important as this would have consistent rules across the country but think again—permits are locally-controlled, and regulations can change from place to place.
Researching which permits are required for mini-split work can be a nightmare because, in one county, a permit could be required, but if you go two counties east, there might not even be an inspection department.
Different jurisdictions have distinct processes for handling applications, which vary across counties and cities. Some universities even have their own building codes department.
Mini-split permit regulations are a minefield, and it’s crucial that you always check the requirements with the presiding authority in your jurisdiction.
Do I Need a Permit to Install A Mini-Split?
As a general rule, you should always assume that a permit is required for installing a mini-split. Permits are locally controlled, and you will need to speak to the authority with jurisdiction for your location to establish its requirements.
Given the bountiful organizations at the local level responsible for issuing and approving permits for mini-split heat pumps, listing all the different details, even for the counties or cities in a single state, would make this article very long.
For example, permits in Florida are regulated at the county level and managed by each local government. There are 67 counties in Florida, each with the option to vary their requirements for the installation, inspection, and approval of mini-split work.
That’s a lot of potentially different requirements, and they could, in theory, change at any time.
The rest of this article will guide you on how mini-split installation is regulated in general and provide details on the requirements in five major states, with links to further information that will point you in the right direction.
It will also cover the ins and outs of permits for mini-split work, including why permits can be a good thing for customers and contractors alike, standard requirements, and whether you should pull a permit yourself or leave it to the professionals.
So read on if you are interested in learning more about the permitting process and what you need to know to ensure this part of your project goes smoothly.
What Type of Permit Is Needed for a Mini-Split?
Typically, a building permit is required to install HVAC equipment, including a mini-split. Permits specify specific requirements that the installation must satisfy, such as filling holes, allowing correct clearances around equipment, etc.
The permits typically refer to codes that spell out the requirements to be fulfilled for the installation to be approved.
Many different standards and codes relate to construction. Some have been developed by international collaboration and represent best practices for the industry.
One of the most respected organizations for developing and publishing these is the International Code Council (ICC), which is trusted by professionals worldwide as a source of tools, codes, and resources relied upon by the construction industry.
Many of the principles and requirements set out in international documents apply universally, but individual US states have developed their own to consider local circumstances.
These are often referred to as “Uniform Codes,” which provide guidance and regulations to ensure buildings are constructed safely, energy-efficient, and resilient.
Within states, at the county or city level, individual jurisdictions are responsible for permitting building work, including HVAC. They issue the permits, inspect the work carried out and ensure everything is done to the correct standard.
You can find out how to apply for a permit by contacting your local government department at the county or city level.
If your mini-split is for a new accessory dwelling unit (ADU), you might need additional permits, such as a location permit if you’re in a landslide zone. You can read an article explaining some of these other permit requirements here.
Why Do You Need a Building Permit for a Mini-Split?
The short answer to why you need a permit for your mini-split installation is to protect yourself.
There is a nominal charge for the permit itself, and your contractor will also charge a fee for pulling the license on your behalf. This cost is well worth it because it will give you peace of mind and ensure that the work is done safely to the correct standard and has been checked by an inspector.
If your contractor isn’t keen to pull a permit for your job, you should ask why not. It might be because he isn’t licensed.
All HVAC contractors should be licensed or at least registered at the state level. The requirements for obtaining a license or registration generally include a minimum number of years of experience and education. Some require an exam as well.
This background ensures that your contractor knows what he’s doing and should do a top-notch job for you.
If they aren’t licensed, you should steer clear of that contractor because you have no guarantee of the quality or integrity of their work.
Should I Pull a Permit for a Mini-Split Myself?
Some people look at the cost of pulling a permit and think they should do this themselves.
As the guys at Fuse HVACR, Electrical & Plumbing explain in their frank and honest video, this is not usually a good idea. Here’s why:
It Takes Longer the First Time
It might seem like an excellent way to save some money on your project on paper. But if it’s the first time you’ve pulled a permit, you will spend a long time just determining how your jurisdiction handles the permitting process.
For example, some cities require you to attend in person and fill out a form by hand. Others have online portals that you need to navigate or only accept permit applications by email.
A good contractor will have done this before and will be able to handle the process in a fraction of the time it will take you.
You’ll also probably have to ask your contractor lots of questions about the finer points of detail that relate to your installation, which will slow you down further.
You Could Be Taking on Unnecessary Liability
Another big issue is that the applicant for the permit is responsible for the work done. If you apply for the license yourself, you are making yourself liable for your contractor’s work, which is sticking your neck out too far in our view.
If you are confident that you can check your contractor’s work to ensure they have correctly followed the relevant codes, you might as well do the job yourself.
If you pull the permit yourself, there could even be complications for liabilities and insurance if things don’t go to plan.
In our opinion, it’s worth getting your contractor to pull the permit. It will be easier and safer for you, and the cost will be worth it.
You’re clearly a DIY enthusiast if you’re still convinced you should pull the permit yourself. If that’s the case, perhaps you’ll be interested in reading our article about the most affordable tools for efficient DIY projects.
State Permit Requirements for Mini-Splits
Some excellent resources are available online to help you learn about the state and local amendments and permit requirements for your location. However, the best thing to avoid any doubt is to contact your local regulating authority.
As mentioned, different states have different requirements for building permits, and within states, there can be variations at the county level and beyond.
With that said, let’s look at the approach prominent states take, to give a high-level view of this issue in different parts of the country.
New York State
The Department of State’s Division of Building Standards and Codes (part of the NYS Department of State) develops, administers, and enforces the Uniform Fire Prevention and Building Code (Uniform Code) and Energy Conservation Construction Code.
These codes seek to ensure that buildings across the state are constructed to satisfactory safety standards and have good energy efficiency and resilience.
New York has published the Mechanical Code of New York State (MCNYS), which forms part of the Uniform Code and covers the installation and design of appliances, mechanical systems, and ventilation systems, including mini-splits.
The MCNYS is adopted statewide except for New York City, which has its distinct requirements, including for historic buildings.
There is a mechanism for introducing more restrictive local standards than those that apply statewide. It’s therefore crucial that you check with the authority that has jurisdiction in your location to ensure you comply with any more restrictive standards.
A permit is required for installing a mini-split in New York State, which building owners must do per the requirements set out in the MCNYS.
You can download a copy of a Building Permit Application form here.
There is no requirement for workers carrying out HVAC work to be licensed by the State of New York, but local governments have their own specifications.
In contrast to New York, California requires HVAC workers to hold a C-20 HVAC license. These are issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board.
According to California’s Department of Consumer Affairs Contractors State License Board (CSLB), almost any significant building work requires a separate permit from the building official for each building.
There are variations in California’s code requirements for different counties and cities, so it’s essential to check county, city, and town building departments as appropriate to your location.
You can find further details, including links to the relevant departments and how to get a permit for your mini-split, on the CSLB’s building permit requirements page.
HVAC workers in Florida must obtain an HVAC license from the Department of Business and Professional Regulation (DBPR). They can either apply for a statewide license or become a registered contractor, which allows them to operate in only one city.
You should ensure your chosen contractor has a valid license, which you can do on the DBPR website, here.
The Florida Building Code, Mechanical, requires obtaining a building permit before installing, replacing, or removing AC or mini-split systems.
A licensed contractor will know the specific requirements, and these can vary across each city or township. Again, check the requirements for your jurisdiction with the appropriate office.
In Texas, HVAC workers need to be licensed by the Texas Air Conditioning and Refrigeration Contractors Advisory Board. A building permit is required for mechanical work in Texas, which includes the installation of mini-splits.
Cities issue building permits in Texas, so you’ll need to contact the building department or planning office of your local municipality to get details on the application process.
Although there are many similarities in the requirements stipulated by different cities across Texas, you should make sure you’re aware of the specifics to avoid being tripped up.
For example, permits issued by the City of Center expire after 180 days if work has not started or if work stops for more than 180 days. However, it does allow one-time extensions if a request is submitted in writing.
In contrast, in the City of University Park, permits expire after just 60 days if no inspections have been made. After that, a phone call is needed to reactivate the permit or apply for another.
Pennsylvania’s Uniform Construction Code sets out the requirements for construction projects in the state.
The code references the International Mechanical Code 2015, which provides specifics on the standards required for HVAC equipment, including mini-splits.
Each city or township in Pennsylvania has its own set of requirements. Most of these jurisdictions will require a permit and an inspection for both electric and mechanical work.
Most townships will insist on contractors having a PA Home Improvement Contractor License, a state-level document, before applying for a township license to authorize them to do the work.
A permit will almost always be required to install a mini-split system. Usually, they are controlled at the county or city level, so there could be variations in the requirements and restrictions between different locations.
There are codes laying out best practices for working on HVAC equipment, including mini-splits. These include international codes, state-level codes, and city, county, or township codes.
The fundamental principles of these codes share many similarities and ensure the safety, efficiency, and resilience of installations. However, local municipalities have the option to require more stringent conditions that must be met in their permits.
As a result, you should always contact your local government office to find out their specific requirements.
It is also vital to ensure that your contractor is appropriately licensed to install mini-splits in your state.
We don’t advise you pull a permit for your mini-split installation yourself. Obtaining a permit is something best left to your contractor, who will handle it efficiently, correctly, and at a reasonable price.