Do You Need A Permit To Install Central Air? (Find Out Now!)

Jessica Allen
by Jessica Allen

Ever since the 1970s, central air conditioning has been a popular choice for cooling homes. But the installation of a central air conditioning system can be labor-intensive and costly. Is it possible to do it yourself, or do you need a professional with a permit to install air conditioning?

You need a permit to install, modify, or replace a central air conditioning system due to the potential hazards. A permit ensures safety, creates a paper trail, complies with energy efficiency and environmental factors, and provides peace of mind. Without a permit, you and the contractor can both be held liable, and you’ll likely have to cover additional expenses.

Read on to learn more about central air conditioning and why a permit is necessary to install it. We’ll also cover what could happen if you choose to install central AC without a permit. Then we’ll go over the cost of getting a permit for central air conditioning installation.

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What Is Central Air Conditioning?

Before we get into the permits needed to install central air, let’s discuss what central air is. It’s a system that cools air in a central location. Then, ductwork and fans distribute the cooled air into different rooms.

Central air conditioners are powered by air compressors. Within the compressor, refrigerant gas is compressed to discharge heat from the house. This is how the cool air is created.

Central AC comes with plenty of benefits. One is that it conveniently cools multiple rooms at once. It also reduces humidity levels in your home and improves the overall air quality. Central air conditioning is low-maintenance compared to other systems, and it can even increase your home’s resale value!

Is A Permit Needed To Install Central Air?

You’ll want to check the requirements and restrictions of your city, municipality, and subdivision before installing central air conditioning. But regardless of where you live, you’re going to need a permit for HVAC installation. (HVAC stands for heating, ventilation, and air conditioning.)

Anytime you want to install, modify, or replace a permanent heating or air conditioning system, you’ll need a permit. This applies to furnaces and boilers as well as air conditioners.

Reasons For Permits

What’s the point of getting a permit to install central air? Is it really necessary? We’ll cover all of the reasons why you need a permit below.


Building permits are meant to keep you and anyone else involved in the installation process safe. When you’re doing a project that changes a building’s structure or use, hazardous conditions can result.

Paper Trail

Aside from making sure the project is conducted safely, permits create a paper trail for homeowners. This way, you can easily keep track of the work that’s taken place. This is particularly important if you plan on selling your home in the future.

Energy Efficiency And Environmental Considerations

A permit guarantees that the air conditioning system is up to code regarding the government’s energy efficiency standards. Every air conditioning unit has a SEER (Seasonal Energy Efficiency Ratio) rating. This rating guarantees that the system is environmentally friendly and safe.

Financial Savings

Getting a permit before installation is sure to save you money in the long run. A permit ensures the job is done right the first time so that the system runs more efficiently. Improper installation, on the other hand, can result in higher energy costs.

Peace of Mind

When you get a permit for air conditioning installation, the city building inspector will check the workmanship. They’ll identify any electrical hazards and carbon monoxide hazards.

These types of issues can be dangerous if not identified and taken care of. Therefore, a permit can provide peace of mind because you’ll know that professionals have checked for potential hazards.

What Happens If You Install Central Air Without A Permit?

You might wonder if you can get away with central air installation without a permit. This definitely isn’t recommended! If you have a contractor do work without a permit in your home, they can lose their license. Both you and the contractor can potentially be held liable if things go wrong.

Plus, there’s a chance the city will require you to remove the central air conditioning system at your own expense. The city could even sue you for not complying with their requirements!

Another issue is that without a permit, you don’t know that your air conditioning system is safe. You won’t have a paper trail to follow if you plan to resell the house, either.

How Much Does A Permit For Central Air Installation Cost?

On average, the permit for central air conditioning installation costs between $250 and $400. You’ll also have to consider the cost of the third-party duct and energy audit. This usually runs between $300 and $450.

Compared to a person who cuts corners during installation, an HVAC company that provides a permit will cost more. In fact, they can cost as much as $2000 more. This increased cost comes from the additional parts that are necessary to purchase and install to pass the inspection.

Although this isn’t an insignificant expense, paying for a permit before installation is cheaper than fixing improper installation later on. This is assuming the city doesn’t sue you or make you pay for the removal of the incorrectly installed system! The best choice is always to get a permit before installing central air conditioning.

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Related Questions

Is central air the same as air conditioning?

Central air is a shorthand for “central air conditioning” or central AC. Central air conditioning is a system where the air is cooled at a central location. Then the air is distributed to various rooms using fans and ductwork.

Is central air electric?

All central air conditioners use electricity rather than gas.

Is central air more efficient than ductless?

Ductless air conditioning systems are generally more efficient than central air conditioning systems. However, ductless A/C is more expensive to install.

Let’s say you live in a warmer climate and use air conditioning most of the year. In this case, you can potentially save $1000 per year by using a ductless system.

Jessica Allen
Jessica Allen

With a lifelong passion for writing plus strong enthusiasm for home improvement and DIY projects, joining the team at Upgraded Home was an easy choice. Jessica Allen likes to share helpful information with current and aspiring homeowners. Aside from writing, Jessica loves doing yoga, playing the piano, and dabbling in graphic design.

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