Washington Consumers’ Checkbook magazine and Checkbook.org is a nonprofit organization with a mission to help consumers get the best service and lowest prices. We are supported by consumers and take no money from the service providers we evaluate. You can access Checkbook’s ratings of local HVAC companies free of charge until Feb. 28 at Checkbook.org/washingtonpost/ducts.

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.
There are a few signs to watch out for to catch them in time. For one, if your breathing starts acting up or you start coughing or sneezing, there is probably some buildup in the vents. If you suspect mold or start hearing scritches in your pipes, there's a good chance you have enough dirt for bigger problems to unfold. You should clean your ducts and vents every few months just to be safe. This is even more important and should be done more frequently if you live in a very humid or dusty climate.
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 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.
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.

The EPA and CMHC researchers used different methodologies. The CMHC study called on several duct-cleaning services. The companies were not made aware they were part of a study, and the researchers did not control for time spent or methods used. The EPA study prescribed and controlled methods used on a smaller number of homes. While the duct-cleaning industry argues both studies have flaws, no other research has challenged the findings. And although the equipment and methods used by duct-cleaning companies have changed since these studies were conducted, the air ducts in homes haven’t.
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.
I called the company and John answered. We set a time for him to come over that was convenient for us both. He came exactly on time and went right to work. He removed all of the vent covers, including some screens that were over the vents that I had no idea were there. He washed all of the vent covers with soap and water and then started to vacuum all of the ducts, doing a complete and thorough job. He was extremely friendly, professional and worked quickly and thoroughly. He even checked the dryer vent exhaust on the roof to make sure it was clear. After he finished vacuuming the ducts, he sanitized them and then reattached all of the vents.
The next step was cleaning the cold air returns. He found a good spot to drill an 8” hole for his vacuum hose. The procedure matched the other air ducts except that when he finished at the two cold return registers he drilled several holes in the cold ducts in the basement and blasted air into them. Because of our houses age and the upgraded return system, I noticed that the main sheet metal return duct had no top but was just butted up against the ceiling in the basement. When he blasted air in, dust and crap shot out the edges along the ceiling. Once he finished that he removed the filter and “swept” out anything at the bottom of the return with his hand into the 8” hose.
#3 The ONLY time Duct cleaning is needed is when the home had a fire, Bad roof leak on to FIBERGLASS ductwork or house sat vacant for many years with out the air running. And its better to replace than to do “abrasive” duct cleaning. If the duct cleaning has a rotating brush it will remove part of the glue that is holding the Fiberglass in the ducts together, PERIOD no matter how much the say it don’t because the brush is soft.
i called in and spoke to paula who said 6 weeks to get an appointment. i asked what cleaners they use to sanatize and deoderize. she said she was the only one there and didnt know. i explained i have severe allergies and she said someone would call me and let me know. they never called. brian came today and vaccumed my vents- and not all of them. i called and spoke to someone who said they were the manager named jennifer- she kept laughing at me and refused to let me talk to anyone else-she said she is the owner and would not give a refund.

Some research suggests that cleaning heating and cooling system components (e.g., cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system, resulting in a longer operating life, as well as some energy and maintenance cost savings. However, little evidence exists that cleaning only the ducts will improve the efficiency of the system.

×