If not properly installed, maintained and operated, these components may become contaminated with particles of dust, pollen or other debris. If moisture is present, the potential for microbiological growth (e.g., mold) is increased and spores from such growth may be released into the home's living space. Some of these contaminants may cause allergic reactions or other symptoms in people if they are exposed to them. If you decide to have your heating and cooling system cleaned, it is important to make sure the service provider agrees to clean all components of the system and is qualified to do so. Failure to clean a component of a contaminated system can result in re-contamination of the entire system, thus negating any potential benefits. Methods of duct cleaning vary, although standards have been established by industry associations concerned with air duct cleaning. Typically, a service provider will use specialized tools to dislodge dirt and other debris in ducts, then vacuum them out with a high-powered vacuum cleaner.
Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing (See diagram).
Air duct cleaning service providers may tell you that they need to apply a chemical biocide to the inside of your ducts to kill bacteria (germs) and fungi (mold), and prevent future biological growth. Some duct cleaning service providers may propose to introduce ozone to kill biological contaminants. Ozone is a highly reactive gas that is regulated in the outside air as a lung irritant. However, there remains considerable controversy over the necessity and wisdom of introducing chemical biocides or ozone into the duct work.
Most organizations concerned with duct cleaning, including EPA, NADCA, NAIMA and the Sheet Metal and Air Conditioning Contractors' National Association (SMACNA) do not currently recommend the routine use of sealants to encapsulate contaminants in any type of duct. Instances when the use of sealants to encapsulate the duct surfaces may be appropriate include the repair of damaged fiber glass insulation or when combating fire damage within ducts. Sealants should never be used on wet duct liner, to cover actively growing mold, or to cover debris in the ducts, and should only be applied after cleaning according to NADCA or other appropriate guidelines or standards.
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.
To find companies that provide duct cleaning services, check your Yellow Pages under "duct cleaning" or contact the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) at the address and phone number in the information section located at the end of this guidance. Do not assume that all duct cleaning service providers are equally knowledgeable and responsible. Talk to at least three different service providers and get written estimates before deciding whether to have your ducts cleaned. When the service providers come to your home, ask them to show you the contamination that would justify having your ducts cleaned.
Although duct-cleaning operations may insist duct cleaning is essential for your health, the evidence does not support their claims. Companies that perform duct cleaning often advertise health benefits or suggest duct cleaning will lower your power bills by improving your system’s efficiency. Some ads even use language like, “Studies have shown . . . ” but no data back up these claims. Even if your ducts are dirty, cleaning them probably won’t provide any measurable benefits. In fact, the little independent research performed on duct cleaning indicates that the process stirs up so much dust that it creates a bigger problem than it solves.
Manufacturers of products marketed to coat and encapsulate duct surfaces claim that these sealants prevent dust and dirt particles inside air ducts from being released into the air. As with biocides, a sealant is often applied by spraying it into the operating duct system. Laboratory tests indicate that materials introduced in this manner tend not to completely coat the duct surface. Application of sealants may also affect the acoustical (noise) and fire retarding characteristics of fiber glass lined or constructed ducts and may invalidate the manufacturer's warranty.
We are a hvac company that provide air duct cleaning service are minimum charge $400 to do a proper air duct cleaning with 2 techs avg 3-6 hours that includes sanitizing. I get phone calls all day about the $99 your not going to get much of a cleaning for that price it for them to get there foot in the door and up sell that the only way for them to stay in business. Just from my 15 years of duct cleaning experience.
We've used this company several times in the past and have always been happy with the service.  My husband and I have allergies, so it's important to us to get the air ducts cleaned.  They cleaned up any dust that came out of the air ducts when they removed the vents.  I called several companies for estimates, and this company gave me the best estimate.
I had someone out to clean my ducts last weekend. He took a blue bag up in my attic. He came back down in just a few minutes and said I had mold and he even showed me a picture of something saying it was mold but I couldn’t really tell. I refused his service to take care of the mold. He went back up in the attic for a little while and then came down. I never heard any sounds that he was actually up there doing anything. How do I know if he actually cleaned the air ducts?
The amount of time air duct cleaning takes can depend on how extensive your duct system is, how old your air ducts are, and whether they have ever been cleaned. On average, expect a standard size home (between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet) to take 2-5 hours for one to two technicians to clean. Here are the proper protocol and equipment you should expect from a professional duct cleaning service, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency:
I bought a Groupon for an air duct cleaning and deodorizing for $59. I read all of the fine print and it said "unlimited ducts." When they came to perform the service they said it would cost an additional $200 to cover the entire house. I ended up canceling the whole service and the guy who was there do to the work said he is leaving the company because of issues like this. He said 25% of their customers end up canceling when they arrive to do the service because of the dishonest advertising. Later the same day, the manager called me to discuss why I canceled the service. I told her the Groupon was dishonest and intentionally misleading and her response was, "I don't work on the advertising." I told her that as the manager she has some responsibility for what is advertised about the company and she said, "I just work here, I don't own the company." So apparently the management has no responsibilities at Best Air DC, perhaps that is part of the problem. I will never use them again and hope no one else does either. Save your money!
The fact is if they are dirty why not clean them. As for the Dr’s comment about if it is not disrupted it is fine. As a pet owner sometimes un disrupted pet hair will sit in the corner of a room or under a counter un disrupted but I still clean it when I notice it. Just because you cant see it doesn’t mean you should leave it there to collect more and more. The people that don’t want there air ducts clean either simply cant afford it but would like it done. OR! the crowd that are to cheap.. You should Clean all portions of your house.
Do not hire duct cleaners who make sweeping claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning — such claims are unsubstantiated. Do not hire duct cleaners who recommend duct cleaning as a routine part of your heating and cooling system maintenance. You should also be wary of duct cleaners who claim to be certified by EPA. Note: EPA neither establishes duct cleaning standards nor certifies, endorses, or approves duct cleaning companies.

But we don’t recommend hiring a duct cleaner to perform these tasks; too many don’t really know what they’re doing, according to the ratings of duct-cleaning outfits we have collected from local consumers. Consider hiring a top-notch heating and air-conditioning contractor to do this type of work, or pay them to do it during their next service visit. Readers can access Checkbook’s HVAC company ratings through Feb. 28 at Checkbook.org/washingtonpost/ducts.
I moved into a house built in 2003 last year, and spent a lot of time researching air filters because I realize air pollution inside the house is many times higher than outside, and my health and the health of children and youngers can be so adversely impacted by inhaling these indoor pollutants.  I spent a lot of money on the best filters because here in northern Kentucky, I discovered I am allergic to something in the air starting in Spring that made me sick for 10 days - sort of a Upper Respiratory Illness.  It never occurred to me the previous owner had never cleaned the air ducts, although he had both very young children, two dogs and a cat.
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.
If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.
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