If anyone in your household has specific health concerns, such as allergies or asthma, consult your physician first. It’s important to identify the problem so your doctor can suggest alternatives to duct cleaning. Start by identifying whether your ducts are part of the problem (they probably aren’t) and whether getting them cleaned will help (it probably won’t).
On the other hand, if a service provider fails to follow proper duct cleaning procedures, duct cleaning can cause indoor air problems. For example, an inadequate vacuum collection system can release more dust, dirt and other contaminants than if you had left the ducts alone. A careless or inadequately trained service provider can damage your ducts or heating and cooling system, possibly increasing your heating and air conditioning costs or forcing you to undertake difficult and costly repairs or replacements.
A year and a half ago (fall of 2015) we replaced the furnace and air conditioner. From what we could determine this was the third forced air furnace and second air conditioner unit for the house. As part of the installation, we changed out the two 6″ ducts feeding the second floor with 8″ ducts. The idea was to get more cold air to the second floor in the summer. It worked and for the first time the second floor and first floor temperatures were the same when the air conditioner was running. Of course, to make the system work I close down upstairs duct damper doors in the winter and open them up in the summer.

I paid $49 for a groupon. When the guy came today, he did an inspection first and said the ductwork first needed to be treated for mold; $348 for a spray that would last 8 months or $680 for an UV light purifier that would last 2 years. Also, the furnace needed to be cleaned for another $260. When I told him to just clean the ductwork, he said I would owe an additional $305 because the groupon was only good for 1 return and I had 2. I sent him packing with no services performed. Thankfully I am only out of $49! I will complain to groupon.
I guess I should present my credentials first, I am a 30 year veteran of the heating and cooling industry. I started at the bottom and have participated in every area of the trade. Installer, service, maint. Ownership, rep, territory manager and so on. A forced air duct system is a large vacume. Like your vacume it has an air intake (return air) and an exhaust (supply registers). A filter just like a vacume (located next to furnace or air handler). Now I want you to visualize something. Put your head inside your vacume cleaner and breath. Get the picture? This is what your duct work looks like. Do you clean your vacume when it’s dirty? If it’s full and the filter is dirty you lose performance and it starts poluting the air you breathe. It’s common sense. I recommend hiring a duct cleaning outfit that you have researched to be honest, background checked, drug tested, insured, and highly recommended by your piers in the area. The service is a necessity, but like everything, it should be done by a qualified company.

He proceeded to clean each heat register by removing the grille and blasting it with an air pressure hose toward the duct opening thinking that the dust would magically be sucked inside. In one room this caused a ceiling smoke detector to go off because the excess dust fooled it into thinking there was smoke. I put my hand in front of a register he wasn’t working on and could hardly feel a suction. Although we discussed how I open and close damper doors, I realized later that he never checked, opened or adjusted them during the cleaning. He could have closed all but the one he was working on in order to increase suction results. His next step was to blast air into the duct and then attach a “squid-like” device that slapped around inside the duct as far as he could reach. This is important! In a newer house, ducts have long straight runs from the furnace. In older houses like mine they can turn and twist. In fact, the duct we have a problem with runs straight up from the basement inside a wall and turns 90 degrees into a soffit for three feet then into two 90 degree turns to get into the floor joist area for another two feet and finally a 90 degree turn up to the second floor register. When he cleaned this one he could only get three feet into the register with the hose or squid because of the turns. That was the case with most. Hardly what could be described as a decent cleaning.


If you suspect a mold problem — either because of visible growth or a musty smell consistently coming from supply vents — cleaning ducts won’t do much good if it doesn’t eliminate the mold. Mold begins with a moisture problem, and the ducts themselves are unlikely to be the source. The most likely culprits are the cooling system’s evaporator coils, which your heating and air-conditioning contractor — and most duct-cleaning companies — can inspect and maintain. Leaky return ducts can also introduce moisture. Again, if you suspect a mold problem, consider having a service company inspect the duct system for leaks.
A thorough visual inspection is the best way to verify the cleanliness of your heating and cooling system. Some service providers use remote photography to document conditions inside ducts. All portions of the system should be visibly clean; you should not be able to detect any debris with the naked eye. Show the Post-Cleaning Consumer Checklist to the service provider before the work begins. After completing the job, ask the service provider to show you each component of your system to verify that the job was performed satisfactorily.
Backed by his 40-year remodeling career, Danny served as the home improvement expert for CBS’s The Early Show and The Weather Channel for more than a decade. His extensive hands-on experience and understanding of the industry make him the go-to source for all things having to do with the home – from advice on simple repairs, to complete remodels, to helping homeowners prepare their homes for extreme weather and seasons.
A year and a half ago (fall of 2015) we replaced the furnace and air conditioner. From what we could determine this was the third forced air furnace and second air conditioner unit for the house. As part of the installation, we changed out the two 6″ ducts feeding the second floor with 8″ ducts. The idea was to get more cold air to the second floor in the summer. It worked and for the first time the second floor and first floor temperatures were the same when the air conditioner was running. Of course, to make the system work I close down upstairs duct damper doors in the winter and open them up in the summer.
I purchased a Groupon to have the air ducts cleaned at my home by Best Air DC here in Cincinnati. When I called to redeem the deal, I was surprised to learn that I had to make the appointment 5 weeks out because they had no availability. I didn't think much of it since they had the Groupon deal out there. After the service, I've now realized they have deals out on at least 2 other "discount deal" websites. and the funny thing is they have different regular retail values - $229 & $289 value...for the exact same work! They arrived within the time range I was given, and they even called about 20-30 minutes before arrival, so that was appreciated. They arrived and started bringing some equipment - A shop vac (yea, like you can buy at any hardware store), a handheld vacuum cleaner, and large vacuum that came in on wheels. After showing them the locations of all of the vents in the home and cold air returns, the technician (Simon) started going over a few things with me about their plan for cleaning and showing me the dust & dog hair build up in one of the vents. After showing me that, he started to try to up-sell me on additional services. That additional service was to insert a 'brush' that would agitate the dust/pet hair and allow for the vacuum to get everything out of the vents. I was hesitant to have him do that for the price he quoted me. It would have been an extra $275+ for additional cleaning!! I certainly wasn't prepared for that, so I declined the offer. After his assistant started to use the shop vac to get some debris out of the vents, he came back in and said he was just on the phone with the office and he can lower the price of the additional service for me. He wrote up an estimate for me and said that I could call him if I'd like to do the service. After they left, I was feeling uneasy about the quality of work that was performed. I used a camera to get some video of the vents that they cleaned. They looked pretty good, but then I started to remember how they were cleaning them. They only used their large, commercial vacuum on one vent. They also did NOT clean 2 air returns under Negative Pressure like the Groupon said they would. I did a little research and found that they should have cut open an access point in duct work in the basement and sealed up the vents with plastic to create that negative pressure. To make things even more interesting, I called their number this morning to do some investigation on what they actually do. After I revealed to the girl I had the service done a day prior and that my technician, Simon, didn't clean them like it should be done she drops a bomb on me. Simon is actually the owner!! The whole time, he is telling me that he is on the phone with the office to see if the can get me a better price on the additional cleaning, he is basically full of sh!+. An owner doesn't need to do that - he is just pulling a bait & switch on me. A few positives - Simon & his co-worker were very nice. They did clean the vents, but certainly not the way they should have been done. It saved me from getting my shop vac out and getting a little dirty to do it on my own. He gave me a few tips on making sure I get good air circulation to the 2nd floor of my house. Be very careful, and definitely consider going with a different company if you want your air ducts cleaned. They were in & out in a hurry, which leads me to believe they kind of half a$$ed the work. They're just like a restaurant that turns tables so quickly that the service really lacks. Save your $49 or $59 for the discounted deal and put that towards the cost of a company coming out and doing an actual good job.
If there is stuff in the ducts, the fact that it’s laying there and not being blown into the rooms is proof positive that it is hurting no-one. The 5-6 exceptions you cite in this article I’ll buy, but only with the caveat that at least some of those could have been avoided by proper protection (during remodeling for example) – and if asbestos/lead/whatever winds up in your ducts- the remodeling contractor should be the one paying to remove it.
As I type this, I am having my ducts cleaned. About 30 including returns and the furnace. $543.00. I am watching the team do it and can see the clear vacuuming tubing and how dirty it has become. I like the gentleman’s comment on “stick your head in your vacuum and breath”….I get it. The team showed me the machine and it’s filtration system…and they will show me it again after the cleaning. However, like I said before, I am actively seeing the tubing that is clear before they start and how dirty it is once they begin and continue cleaning. Reputable company and not a “fly by night” coupon service. People don’t be so cheap, that is your problem.
I purchased an Air Duct Cleaning from this company through Groupon. When I originally scheduled the latest cleaning it was Nov. 8, 2017. They finally showed up today March 8, 2018. When they arrived they got set up looked in the vents with there camera and said it looks like you will need an Air Duct Cleaning; we will be vacuuming today. Best Air Rep: The cleaning after looking inside will be $200-$500 additional. ??? I was floored. The next statement from the Best Air rep was: Who did your last cleaning? "They did a horrible job." What he did not realize is that they had done the last supposedly Air Duct Cleaning on May 3, 2016.
My 48 yr old house (mine for the last 4 yrs) has considerable dust in the return plenum (fiber duct). I’m remodeling and recently re-sealed the return plenum AND the site-fabbed transition built when the new unit was installed, 2013. The return was leaky no doubt drawing musty, dusty air from the crawl space due to the Red-Neck fab & seal job! Pitiful craftsmanship! It took me 7 hours to fix the new transition piece. Anyway, the dust in the house is the same “color” as whats in the return duct and I’m getting way too much & too often in the house. I’ve also cleaned my coils, which were not that dirty.

fact is most homes have bad filter racks. when you insert the filter it doesn’t seal well to the sides so some of the air and dust bypass it and end up in the supply ductwork and into the house. Most of the dust in the supply ductwork settles down and doesn’t get blown in the house but some of it does when the blower starts up or when you put a new filter. If you have allergies or other health problems put in an electronic air cleaner, get your ducts cleaned and run the fan as much as you can afford. you can also get an ECM motor installed which is going to be worth it if you want to run the fan 24/7. If you have uninsulated metal ducts take down the ones you can and wash them. Then put them back and seal the joints. Cleaning the ductwork also improves airflow which is important to AC and Heat pump systems for efficiency. An electronic air cleaner will also improve airflow and static pressure because they usually have a much larger filter surface area. An electronic air cleaner also keeps the ac coil clean like new which means better efficiency and no cleaning needed. AC furnaces sometimes grow mold around the coil because of the condensation. Electronic air cleaners should be able to filter mold spores but the best remedy is installing a UV light next to the coil which will kill the mold.

EPA does not recommend that air ducts be cleaned except on an as-needed basis because of the continuing uncertainty about the benefits of duct cleaning under most circumstances. EPA does, however, recommend that if you have a fuel burning furnace, stove, or fireplace, they be inspected for proper functioning and serviced before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. Some research also suggests that cleaning dirty cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers can improve the efficiency of heating and cooling systems. However, little evidence exists to indicate that simply cleaning the duct system will increase your system's efficiency.
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