You may decide to tackle a home renovation project as a resident at some point. Pulling a permit is a crucial step that should never be skipped. 

You can evaluate whether or not a permit is required based on the extent of the activity. S the question is- Do I need a permit to replace an air conditioner in California?

It is against the law to install an air conditioner without first obtaining a permit. When updating your air conditioning system, every professional HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) contractor is needed to get permits. 

As of 2019, all building departments in California need a competent third party to certify that the system is operating as intended. Building permits are necessary for an air conditioning project since they are meant to keep you and everyone else involved safe.

do i need a permit to replace my air conditioner in california

Do I Need A Permit To Replace My Air Conditioner In California?

Every California building code regulation, including the California energy code, must be followed by all contractors. Contractors must get building permits when installing air conditioners worth $500 or more.

The extended answer focuses on why permission is necessary in the first place and other important things related to the process.

“Permits?” You Might Wonder

When most homeowners hear the term “construction permit,” they probably think of large-scale projects like building a garage, adding on to their home, or replacing their roof. But did you know that a permit is also required for some modest home improvement projects?

And, yes, a building permit is required for the installation or replacement of your air conditioning unit; a short call to your local permits and verifications department will confirm this. 

When adding or upgrading your air ducts, furnace (gas or electric), or fireplace, you’ll also require a permit.

Read more: Do I Need A Permit To Replace My Air Conditioner In Florida?

What Is A Building Permit, And How Does It Work?

A building permit is a documented authorization to construct a project provided by a city or county. most construction and renovation projects require building permits to guarantee worker safety and adherence to building, construction, and zoning laws.

Permits are required for the following HVAC projects, but not limited to:

1. Installation of a new HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) 


2. Replacement of the HVAC system

3. Furnace, coil, Fan, or condenser replacement

4. An existing HVAC unit is being relocated.

5. More than 40 feet of ducting is being added or replaced.

Is It Necessary To Obtain A Permit For An Air Conditioner?

When it comes to air conditioning projects, permits are crucial. the purpose of a building permit is to keep you and everyone else participating in the process safe. Permits are required for projects that affect a building’s construction, usage or potentially cause dangerous working conditions.

Permits may appear to be a roadblock to your home improvement, but they are in place for the following reasons:

  1. A construction permit is necessary for any home improvement project that modifies the structure, usage, or might result in dangerous working conditions.

A permit assures that the work (in this example, ac installation) is done correctly and safely, following local building standards and legislation.

  1. Building permits ensure that the air conditioning unit is placed in your house meets the nationally mandated seasonal energy efficiency ratio (seer) ratings and is safe and energy-efficient, in addition to assuring safety and compliance.
  1. Building permits also offer you a paper trail that allows you to track the progress of the project. This can come in handy if you decide to put your house on the market.

Is It True That These Rules Apply Throughout The State (California)?

Nope, regulations only operate in the California Energy Commission’s (CEC) designated climatic zones (climate zones 2, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, and 16). these are inland climatic zones where air conditioning or heating is used extensively. 

Mild climatic locations near the shore are exempt from the restrictions.

Who Is In Charge Of The Permit?

Take into account that the person who obtains the permit is also the one who is accountable for adhering to the building codes. Typically, the permit is pulled by the contractor you hired for the job. 

You could get the permit as a homeowner, but you’d be deemed the contractor and accountable if there were any complications. However, because the contractor is experienced with the process and the city’s inspectors, it is advisable to have them pull the permit.

Consult your contractor about any necessary air conditioner permits

during your last contractor meeting, it’s critical to explain what permissions are being obtained. Your contractor should be able to provide you with a documentation trail for the following:

  1. Plans for the project
  1. Permit evidence
  1. Insurance documentation

Inquire with your contractor about state and local air conditioning permit regulations.

Contractors often need to be licensed or registered with the state to apply for homeowners’ permits.

For every home repair job, modernize always advises homeowners to choose a qualified and vetted contractor.

Benefits Of Having Permits

Permits safeguard you by preventing unlicensed contractors from working on your property.

Sure, the job may be less expensive, but as we, all know, “You get what you pay for.” unlicensed contractors are notorious for cutting corners and defrauding customers. 

It is illegal to work without a valid license. There is no recourse against an unlicensed contractor if the work done in your house does not meet code or craftsmanship requirements. 

As a result, you may end up paying several times the amount of money you thought you’d save by correcting the job that did wrong.

Read more: Should I Replace My 20 Year Old Air Conditioner?

What Happens If I Don’t Get A Permit?

If your project needs a permit, obtain one. if your contractor proposes ignoring this stage, you should find another contractor.

As inconvenient as the procedure may be, it will be preferable to deal with the city if it discovers you should be doing anything but don’t have permission. The city may require you to seek a permit and may increase or treble your permit payments. 

The penalties for failing to get an HVAC building permit to vary by city. If there is a doubt about whether the work was done according to the building code, the city may shut down your project or order you to knock it down.

Projects completed without obtaining permissions may also:

  1. Put your insurance coverage and costs at risk. even worse, if their insurance provider discovers that work has been done on the premises without a permit, a homeowner’s coverage may be canceled.
  1. Frighten prospective buyers away.

3.  Decreased resale value.

You’re taking a significant risk if you think the buyer won’t find out. If a fire or other calamity occurs as a consequence of an unpermitted building, you may be setting yourself up for a future lawsuit. 

When a future owner discovers that the building was done without permission, their house insurance provider will refuse to pay any damage.

If The Contractor Is Caught Conducting Work In Your House Without A Permit:

If this happens, then:

  1. His license might be revoked.
  1. You and the contractor might both be held legally responsible.
  1. You may be required to remove the air conditioning unit at your own expense by the city.

4. If you don’t comply with the city’s requests, you might be sued.

Is A California Hvac License Required?

HVAC professionals in California who perform services worth more than $500 must be licensed by the state. A person must complete the following qualifications to get licensed as an HVAC professional: submit an application for a c-20 license to the board. 

Have a minimum of four years of experience.

Peace Of Mind

When the city building inspector comes to your house, the first thing they look for is safety. 

They look for carbon monoxide dangers, electrical hazards, and installation workmanship. When it comes to air conditioning and heating installation, there are several methods for a contractor to save money by not obtaining permits.

How Much Does An Air Conditioning Permit Cost?

An air conditioning permit typically costs between $250 and $400, plus the cost of a third-party duct/energy audit. The third-party report ranged in price from $300 to $450. 

To replace your air conditioning system, most HVAC companies will charge you an additional $2000 or more from the individual who takes shortcuts. 

The extra expense stems from the necessity for additional parts to pass inspection, which may be omitted if all you want is hot and cold air. The labour to ensure that your installation is done correctly takes longer to finish.

Going to the city, dealing with the third-party audit, and filling out all the paperwork to have the job approved takes time. In the long run, securing a permit is much less expensive than having your home burn down or your system fail when you need it most.

Legit Permits Save Money!

You will save money by obtaining permits while installing your air conditioning system. Knowing that the task will be completed correctly the first time. 

Several studies show that correctly installing your air conditioning system will save you money on your energy bills. When you acquire a permit, the city will inspect it to make sure it’s placed correctly. 

As of 2019, all building departments in California need a competent third party to certify that the system is operating as intended. 

This may appear excessive, but studies show that only 10% of all air conditioning installations in the united states are completed correctly. Study shows that 90% of air conditioning systems lose energy in some way, from leaky ducts to improper refrigerant charge levels.

Before Choosing A Contractor

When embarking on a home improvement project, it’s critical to keep the following in mind:

  1. Find out what permits are required in your area.
  1. Request that your contractor send you copies of the permit (s).
  1. A copy of the permission should be displayed in the front window. In some cities, this may be required.

4. For the job, hire only licensed and bonded contractors.

Additionally, while choosing a contractor to work on their property, the club offers the following recommendations:

  1. To ensure that the contractor’s license is in good standing, check the Cslb’s website at
  1. As a down payment, don’t pay more than 10% or $1,000, whichever is less. There are around two dozen licensees who have specific bonds to safeguard customers. On the Cslb’s website, some exclusions are listed.
  1. Allowing compensation to take precedence over effort is not a good idea.
  1. Obtain at least three quotes, verify references, and sign a contract in writing.

Do You Intend To Sell Your Home?

If you want to sell your house and had work done without a permit, even if it was 10 years ago, most home inspectors will notice. Before transferring the title of the property, you will be held responsible for obtaining all relevant permissions and inspections.

The issue with this is that you now need to engage a professional contractor to assess the work, acquire a permit, make any required adjustments (building rules vary over time, so a system put seven years ago may require a lot of corrections), and pass all inspections.

This will not only cost you money, but it will also take time away from selling your house, maybe causing the buyer to back out.


As you have gone through the article, now you have all the necessary information about your question to- Do I need a permit to replace an air conditioner in California?

Research and analyze everything before installing an air conditioner unit. Follow your local permission rules to avoid any potential future difficulties. In addition, it will protect you and your family secure at home, ensuring the property value at the same time.

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