Pulling Permits for HVAC Work: Why It’s Crucial

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Pulling permits for HVAC work at your home

You want a brand new HVAC system. Maybe your old one finally gave out after years of use, or you are building your dream home. You know the right heating and cooling system is essential for a comfortable home. But now you need to know the reasons to always pull a permit.

It’s not the glamorous side of home improvement, but pulling the correct permits can protect you from safety hazards and legal headaches.

Why Pulling Permits for HVAC Work is Important

Permits exist to ensure that any work done on your house – electrical, structural, or otherwise – meets specific safety standards. These standards are in place to protect you and your family from shoddy and potentially dangerous work. A building permit for your HVAC system signals that your city has reviewed the plans for your project.

A local government issues a building permit to permit a contractor or homeowner to alter, move, or add to structures on their property. Permits are required by law, and while getting them can feel like a hassle, they’re there for a good reason.

Pulling Permits Protects You

Permits protect homeowners on multiple levels. By ensuring the company or individual you hire to do your HVAC installation is properly permitted, you gain additional assurance about their expertise and legitimacy.

Licensed contractors who pull permits may only sometimes offer the cheapest option, but their adherence to regulations reflects a commitment to quality.

They have more on the line if something were to go wrong. Think of it this way. Would you want an electrician who cuts corners working on your home’s electrical system?

Pulling Permits Protects Your Investment

Imagine this: You decide to sell your house. You are almost to closing when the buyer’s inspector uncovers an HVAC system installed without proper permitting. This discovery could delay your closing or even lead to you needing to hire a new contractor to bring the work up to code, adding unforeseen costs and delays.

California residents risk paying much more in the long run if their contractors don’t pull the required permits. Avoid this nightmare scenario with a permit in the first place.

The Dangers of Improper HVAC Installation

Beyond the permits, a proper HVAC installation requires a specialized understanding of heating and cooling systems, ventilation, and, often, gas lines. In 2020, a local family in Ohio died after installing a water heater themselves. They didn’t get permits or an inspection, and the consequences were devastating.

Faulty HVAC work can also lead to less immediately life-threatening – but still expensive and frustrating – problems such as:

  • Inefficient energy usage and higher utility bills
  • Frequent system breakdowns and the need for repairs
  • Compromised air quality in your home

Do I Need a Permit for HVAC Work?

Almost always, yes. In most states, cities, and counties, permits are required whenever you install a new HVAC system or make significant changes to an existing one. The specifics, however, vary greatly. While a new HVAC system usually means pulling permits for HVAC work, replacing an air filter most likely won’t.

When determining if you need permits, consider whether or not you are changing the scope or footprint of the work. Replacing an old furnace with a new one of the same size and in your home’s exact location will likely only require a simple permit. This would also be true for like-for-like replacements.

However, if you decide to move the furnace to a new location in your home, add new ductwork, or increase the size and capacity of the unit, it becomes a more complicated matter.

This often entails a more involved permitting process, sometimes requiring multiple inspections throughout the different stages of work.

Some jobs may even require what is known as a two-trip permit, which involves both a “rough” inspection and a final inspection.

In this case, you’d have an inspector visit once when framing and ductwork were exposed but unfinished and again after the drywall goes up to ensure the finished product is up to code.

The following list outlines common HVAC projects and their permit requirements:

1. Replacing existing equipment with like-kind, same location
Permit required? Most likely, but generally, it is a simple process.

2. Relocating a furnace or condenser unit
Permit required? Yes, almost always.

3. Adding new ductwork
Permit required? Yes, often requires a two-trip permit.

4. Adding a new HVAC system to a home or addition that doesn’t have one
Permit required? Yes, will involve extensive documentation and plan reviews.

What About DIY?

While tackling projects yourself might be tempting to save money, it’s essential to know the risks when pulling permits for HVAC work. If you’re installing an HVAC system on your own without a license, you won’t be able to obtain the permits for the work.

An inspection provides an objective assessment of your HVAC installation. Inspectors check if everything adheres to building codes and the manufacturer’s instructions. Because even highly skilled, certified contractors can occasionally overlook things, it’s essential to have a third-party review.

What Happens If a Contractor Doesn’t Pull Permits?

There are various reasons why a contractor might try to skirt the permitting process. They might need to be appropriately licensed or insured, or they could be trying to cut corners or save money.

In some locations, unlicensed contractors can face steep fines or even be charged with a misdemeanor for working without a license. Contractors who operate without a license are breaking the law.

In Ohio, unlicensed contractors can be charged with up to a fourth-degree misdemeanor. This means a contractor in Ohio can even go to jail for doing work without a license. If they’re willing to operate outside the law like this, imagine what else they might cut corners on.

How Do I Find a Contractor Who Will Pull Permits?

find contractors with HVAC permits

Protecting yourself is simple: Always ensure you are hiring licensed contractors and that pulling permits is part of the project plan.

Before hiring a contractor for HVAC work:

1. Verify that the HVAC contractor holds all required licenses in your state. For instance, in California, you can verify the contractor’s license number on CSLB’s website at www.cslb.ca.gov to ensure the license is in good standing.

2. Confirm that they consistently obtain permits for their projects.

3. Request that the cost of the permit be included in their written quote so you are aware of the total cost from the start. Be wary of contractors who later add the price of a permit as an unexpected “hidden fee.”

A contractor in any industry must satisfy certain requirements to get and remain licensed. These typically include years of experience, passing a licensing exam, and demonstrating proof of insurance and bonding.

Choosing a licensed contractor might mean paying a slightly higher price, but it gives you valuable peace of mind. For many, the risks of an improperly installed HVAC system are not worth skimping.

To find licensed professionals in your area, you can either search your city’s building and permitting office online or call them to learn about their processes.

Do I Need a Permit to Replace HVAC in California?

In California, you generally need permits whenever you install a new HVAC system or replace an existing one. You’ll also need a separate electrical permit.

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Ensuring Quality and Compliance with Proper HVAC Permits

Although permits for HVAC work aren’t exactly something homeowners get excited about, you see why they’re essential by now.

Remember, you’re making a significant investment in your home, and a properly installed, safe HVAC system is critical to protecting your family’s well-being and financial investment. Pulling permits for HVAC work, sometimes viewed as just another hoop to jump through, offers essential protection and assurance throughout the entire HVAC installation.

Work with professionals prioritizing quality and compliance to ensure your HVAC project is done right. Contact us today to get started!

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