If it’s been a while since your last air duct cleaning, you’re probably tempted to get someone to sanitize those ducts so you’ll get cool air throughout your home in the spring and summer.
But before you do, you need to arm yourself with some knowledge to avoid falling prey to air duct cleaning scams!
In this article, I’ll tell you how much an air duct cleaning should cost, when you need it, how to choose a company and how to avoid some common scams.
Here’s What You Need to Know About Air Duct Cleaning
We consulted an expert — Dave Baker of WSB’s Home Fix-It Show — to learn what you need to know. Here’s what Baker told Team Clark:
1. Beware of Carpet Cleaners Pulling Double Duty as Duct Cleaners
Here’s a classic upsell from carpet cleaners: They get in your home to work on your carpets and then offer to clean your air ducts, too, for a rock-bottom price.
Don’t take the bait!
“This is maybe one of the biggest scams — carpet cleaning companies that say they can clean your air ducts for $49.99. Then they just remove and vacuum your registers, stick their vacuums into the duct at the register and re-attach your registers,” Baker tells Clark.com.
Here’s What an Air Duct Cleaning Should Really Cost
Don’t treat a thorough duct cleaning as an add-on service to a carpet cleaning. Baker says you should expect to pay several hundred dollars — up to somewhere in the neighborhood of $500 — and be ready for the job to take two to four hours to complete.
That price should also include cleaning your dryer vents. “A quality duct cleaning company will and should clean your dryer vents, too,” Baker says. “They are also ducts!”
To find reputable companies for duct cleaning, Baker suggests checking with the industry organization National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
2. Know When a Duct Cleaning Is Necessary and When It Isn’t
Baker recommends an immediate duct cleaning when you move into a newly built home.
“There’s lots of construction debris. Sawdust, drywall scraps and even Doritos bags can end up in the ductwork of a newly built home,” he says.
After that, Baker says a duct cleaning should be done every seven to 10 years — unless you have someone in the house with breathing problems.
If that’s the case, then Baker advises a different route.
“You should get your HVAC provider to upgrade your furnace filtration situation. That is money better spent than on a yearly or every two-year duct cleaning scam.”
3. Make Sure Your HVAC System Will Be Cleaned, Too
“A quality duct cleaning isn’t, in my opinion, complete without getting your HVAC system cleaned at the same time,” Baker says.
But here’s the thing: Duct cleaners aren’t legally allowed to touch your HVAC unless they have a current HVAC license.
The company must provide you with the license number upon request. If they won’t, that’s not a good sign.
While we’re on the topic of HVACs and dust, most HVAC maintenance plans include regular changes of the furnace filter. But changing the filter between visits yourself — usually every three months — will help keep your system running at peak efficiency and cut down on dust.
How to Change Your HVAC Furnace Filter
Not sure how to change your HVAC furnace filter? The first thing to do is to remove the existing filter from your furnace. Make a note of the filter size. It will be something like 14x25x1 or something similar.
Remember to put the filter back when you’re done — at least until your new one is ready to install.
Next, head to the store or look online for a replacement filter. You can get a good one for anywhere from $5 to $20 at a big-box or home-improvement store. Your local supermarket may even carry filters in limited sizes. But the prices will often be higher at the grocery store than at other places.
If you’re noticing a lot of dust or other allergens in your home, it may well be worth it to pay the few extra bucks to get a filter with a higher Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating.
MERV ratings are on a scale from 1 to 16 for most residential uses, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. The higher the MERV rating, the more particles it will trap and keep out of your lungs.
Once you’ve got your new filter, you’re ready to take out the old one and put in the new one. We’ve got a DIY video here to guide you through the simple process.
4. Beware of Unsolicited Pitches
Here’s how this one works: A company calls you and says that they will be in your neighborhood next week. Then they offer to clean your ducts for $25 or some other outlandishly low price.
Baker isn’t buying it. “This has so many issues with it just on the surface — you can’t even get a pizza delivered to your house for $25 for one thing — that it screams SCAM!”
Baker says he’s gotten these calls himself. Here’s what he discovered after trying to set up an appointment:
“I pressed the lady on the phone the last time they called and told her I was interested. I agreed to set up an appointment, then asked for a number to call. After much back and forth, she gave me a bogus 555 number. We never did hook up.”
5. Push Back on the Mold Scare Tactic
Some companies will put a mold test kit in your house to convince you that you need your ducts cleaned. But they’re likely just scaring you.
If you’re told you have a mold problem by a duct-cleaning company, Baker recommends buying your own test kit at a home-improvement store to independently verify what they’re saying.
And there is an additional caveat here.
“Every decent mold test kit will detect mold in every house every time because there is mold in the air everywhere — unless you live in a hospital. So you can’t just go by the findings of a store-bought mold test to determine if your house has a serious mold problem,” Baker notes.
“Mold isn’t the only reason to clean your duct work though. [Ducts] do get dirty over time and can lead to having more dust in your home. Dust is just a fact of life, as everything emits dust.”
An air duct cleaning shouldn’t be treated as an add-on to a carpet cleaning visit. And while it can be costly to get it done right, an annual air duct cleaning isn’t necessary for most people.
So it’s wise to budget for the real cost of a legitimate cleaning every seven to 10 years. Of course, if someone in your home has breathing problems, you would want to do it more frequently.
Meanwhile, make sure you’re hiring legitimate companies by checking with industry trade groups like the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.