Posted January 31st 2013 by: Matt Mountain
It's that old adage again: You get what you pay for. It can be especially true in the cleaning industry. You've probably received some direct mail advertising packets with duct cleaning companies offering some pretty great sounding packages. There are quite a few companies in town that advertise "Whole House Duct Cleaning" specials for $149, $89, even $59. After spending twelve years working in this industry, and nearly six working in the Minneapolis - St. Paul metro, I've found that these offers lead to one of two results.
The first is a bait-and-switch. Once you get the technician out to your home they'll tell you what the $89 special includes (usually 10 vents and one main trunk line); they'll also tell you that to really clean the entire system it'll cost you upwards of $400-$700. You can see an example of this in Part I of a Dateline NBC video I posted a while back.
The second result is that the company will honor the advertised price, but their definition of "Whole House Cleaning"? is a bit flimsy to say the least. Whereas the first situation is a moral issue, this second situation is the more dangerous for the consumer. Companies like these are referred to in the industry as blow-and-go duct cleaners. Their technicians come into your home, cut a couple holes, blow air into the ducts, and basically make a lot of noise for 45-60 minutes and say they got the whole system clean. In general they clean the parts that the customer can see, and take the money and run. Aside from being a waste of money, having this type of work done in your home can actually cause more harm than good.
By not taking the time to properly clean the entire system these companies can actually have a more negative impact on your indoor air quality than never having your ducts cleaned at all. Improper or inadequate cleaning can leave large amounts of loosened particles in your duct system. These particles are now free to flow into the airstream and can even damage some mechanical parts of your HVAC system. Parts such as the fan blower and the evaporator coil are expensive and can be damaged by free-flowing debris.
Regardless of who you choose to clean your air duct system, it's best to make sure you ask the right questions before agreeing to any work. Ask: How long will the cleaning process take? What does this process entail? Is this a guaranteed price? Is your work satisfaction guaranteed? Questions like these can help protect you from one of the scams I discussed above.