Mermin inspections Blog

The A/C Corner

The A/C Corner: Jacob Mermin

Saturday, July 25th, 2009

I have been in the air conditioning business since 1988 and in 1994 I became an EPA Certified Type ll air conditioning technician. I did this for two reasons, one because it gave me more knowledge and two because it was a new law that required all air conditioning technicians who were going to work with Freon comply with that law.


I believe that laws governing the HVAC industry are very important. These laws protect the homeowner in Florida. It amazes me that so many air conditioning contractors do not pull permits on their air conditioning and ductwork installations. What amazes me more is that the homeowner doesn’t care or doesn’t know that these permits need to be pulled and posted on the home in a place that can be seen from the street. This not pulling permits epidemic that has infected the air conditioning business in SW. Florida comes from the small mom and pop operation to the large corporate contractor. There are companies that sometimes pull permits and sometimes don’t. When the home is off the beaten path there is a good chance that a permit is not pulled. It costs about $100.00 considering the cost of the permit and the cost to post it to do business legally.


It is mind boggling that the County and City building departments do not have an advertising campaign to let homeowners know that it is the law that a permit must be pulled and posted for air conditioning and ductwork installations. Why don’t contractors go to the trouble of pulling and posting permits? One reason is that it can be a long ordeal at the building department to apply for these permits. It is a process that could be made easier and quicker but that is secondary to the requirement of following the law.


I believe that the companies that are not pulling permits are not doing the best work possible for the homeowner. When you pull a permit the contractor becomes responsible for any code violation issues that are at the home prior to the air conditioning installations. For example if the prior contractor who put in the previous air conditioner removed a portion of a roof strut to make that air handler fit in the attic it is the responsibility of the new contractor to fix that problem when they install the new unit. The present contractor has to bring the home to code with regards to their installation. The most important reason for pulling and posting a permit is that the work will be inspected by the appropriate building department to make sure that the job is safe and is up to code. Hopefully the code violations caused by previous contractors who did not pull a permit will be discovered by the building inspector. There are a few homeowners that have done previous work themselves that does not meet code. They do not want a permit pulled in fear that this work will be discovered. In my opinion there is no excuse for not pulling a permit. Homeowners should want the work they are paying for to be to code.


Many homeowners want the cheapest price possible and do not really care if it is done to code. I learned something recently that really made me think. I heard a statistic from the National Better Business Bureau. It stated that there were more than 10 million complaints last year against contractors. 80% of these complaints were filled against contractors who submitted the lowest bid. This means that homeowners are doing business with companies that are doing the cheapest work. I wonder how many of those companies did not pull permits on those jobs.


I am aware of many air conditioning companies that do not pull and post permits for air conditioning systems and ductwork. In my HVAC design work I will not do business with these companies when I represent one of my clients. I supervise each job and insist that these companies pull permits. I am aware of one local air conditioning company that has pulled less than 10 permits for air conditioning installations in the last two and a half years. I know of approximately 200 of their customers that permits were not pulled. This company is under investigation by all  the local building departments and the State of Florida and I am not at liberty to disclose the name of the contractor or the homeowners names. As soon as this information is public knowledge I will be reporting it in this blog.


Here is something I have heard, “Mrs. Jones since you already have an air conditioner I don’t have to pull a permit on your job, only when you don’t have air conditioning do we have to pull a permit.” Do not let contractors lie to you. If they are not pulling a permit it could mean they are cutting corners because they know that the building department is not going to do an inspection and will not see those short cuts that could be going against codes.


Remember if you do not see a permit posted on your house when the job is completed the contractor is breaking the law. Unfortunately the homeowner is also responsible for this permit and could also be liable for any fines the building departments may levy. It is your property and it is your family. Do not be apart of a code violation or a safety issue that could threaten your investment or your loved ones. I am a certified home inspector, mold inspector, air quality inspector, and air conditioning technician. I have seen problems during my inspections that I would not wish on anyone. Do not be a statistic or become a news report because shoddy work has affected your home or family.


Stand up for yourself with your contractors.


Jacob Mermin CHI/CMI