A homeowner installing a wall-mounted mini-split air handler below the ceiling

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 vary.

Researching permit requirements for HVAC work can be a nightmare. 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.

Do I Need a Permit to Install A Mini-Split?

The answer is: it depends.

It depends on your location, if any structural changes need to be made for the mini split installation and if you need to run electric to the unit. As a general rule, you should always assume that a permit is required for any work done to your home.

To be safe, it is a good idea to contact your local jurisdiction. Most building permits can be applied for online but if you have questions, they will have a number you can call.

Alternatively, ask your HVAC contractor when they come out to give you an estimate. It’s their job to know the requirements within their service area. But it is never a bad idea to double check the information yourself.

A technician standing next to the exterior compressor component of a mini-split outside a home
Courtesy of Paul the Plumber

What Type of Permit Is Needed for a Mini-Split?

Typically, a building permit is required to install HVAC equipment, including a mini-split. Typically, a building permit is required to install HVAC equipment, including a mini-split. If you are replacing an existing system, this may not be the case. But as stated above, many areas have different rules, so it is better to double check.

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.

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.

Note: 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.

a wood frame accessory dwelling unit sitting on a concrete foundation in the backyard
An ADU under construction in Saint Petersburg, Florida

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.

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

Pulling the permit yourself seem like an excellent way to save some money on your project. But if it’s the first time you’ve pulled a permit, you will likely 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.

Closeup on a building permit application for a mini-split installation

A good contractor will have done this many times before and will be able to handle the process in a fraction of the time it will take you.

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.

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, you might run into complications for liabilities and insurance if things don’t go to plan.

Some excellent resources are available online to help you learn about the state and local amendments and permit requirements for your location. But again, the best thing to avoid any doubt is to contact your local regulating authority.

Summary

A permit will almost always be required for new installations, whether that be a mini split or a central HVAC system. Usually, permits are controlled at the county or city level, so there could be variations in the requirements and restrictions between different locations.

Permits are meant to ensure the install is up to code. Building codes aren’t there to cause you a headache, they are to ensure your safety. This is why we don’t often recommend you do HVAC jobs yourself. 

HVAC contractors have been trained to follow the code requirements. Permits and inspections make sure the job was done correctly and ensure the safety, efficiency, and resilience of installations.

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