With summer officially underway, it’s not surprising that people are thinking of purchasing air conditioners as the days get hotter. However, consumers may be unaware that air conditioning is considered a home improvement. The County of Hawai‘i Department of Public Works Building Division reminds Hawai‘i Island residents that all home improvements, including the installation of air conditioners of any size, requires a building permit.
Air conditioners fall under Hawaiʻi County Code Section 5-19(a) of the recently updated Energy Code and existing residential construction falls under Section R503.2 as amended. Obtaining a permit for your air conditioning system enables you to have peace of mind knowing that the system is compatible with your home’s electrical system.
Here’s what you need to know if you are considering installing an air conditioner in your home.
● If I buy an air conditioner at a big box store do I need a building permit?
Yes. For an existing home or business, air conditioning is considered an improvement and requires a building permit. An electrical permit may also be required depending on the system requirements. Please check with DPWʻs Building Division electrical inspection staff at the contact information listed below.
● What if I buy an air conditioner that fits in a window opening?
That type of air conditioner also requires a building permit.
● How much will the permit cost?
According to the Hawaii County Code Section 5-31, the valuation to be used in computing the permit fees shall be the total value of all construction work for which the permit is issued, as well as all finish work, painting, roofing, electrical, plumbing, heating, air conditioning, elevators, fire-extinguishing systems, and any other permanent work or permanent equipment.
Fees could vary from $10 (minimum) upward of $200 for a $25,000 installation.
● How long will it take to get a building permit for my air conditioner? Can I use it while waiting for a home inspection or do I apply for a permit before I purchase an air conditioner?
Permits for air conditioning are considered “simple” and expedited, so a permit is likely reviewed within a week of submittal. This could be delayed if a split system is proposed and requires the Planning Department review as well. Please do not purchase or install a system prior to obtaining a permit as energy conservation improvements to the home may be required as well.
● I’ve had an air conditioner installed for years, do I still need to get a permit after the fact?
Yes. Generally, an air conditioning system installed without a permit, or “as-built” would be treated as though it were a new installation and must meet current codes and now may not comply with the new Energy Code. The improvements necessary for after-the-fact could be difficult to address. If a permit is sought then the fine would simply be double a normal permit fee but not result in a violation.
● What are the ramifications of not getting a permit?
Violations are based on investigation from complaints. A complaint and violation notice may result in an “order” for compliance. Fines are based on non-compliance of an order and could result in up to $1,000 per day that the violation persists.
● Who do I contact about getting a permit for my air conditioner or seeing if my home’s AC system already has a permit?
For more information, contact the Department of Public Works Building Division by phone (808) 961-8331 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.