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).
On average, we (Indians in Ontario) receive 3-5 calls per day for duct cleaning services from India. I did get ducts cleaned twice in 25 years. For a newly built house, it should be done as material goes into the ducts. Every year, before turning the heat on, I clean the ducts, using the vacuum pipe or with wet towel. Most of the dust, pet hair, small items get to the ducts from the top floors, not where system is installed. Even in winter months, I open 2-3 windows for air circulation for 15 minutes, specially right after cooking, almost daily. We breath in the same stale air, develop health issues. Also, I have an added air cleaning and fileration system installed. At a low rate, this system constantly cleans the inside air and also that it pulls from the outside. Duct cleaning is a scam, there are other efficient and cost effective methods we can use to purify the inside air.
Air duct cleaning service providers may tell you that they need to apply chemical biocide to the inside of your ducts as a means to kill bacteria (germs) and fungi (mold) and prevent future biological growth. They may also propose the application of a "sealant" to prevent dust and dirt particles from being released into the air or to seal air leaks. You should fully understand the pros and cons of permitting application of chemical biocides or sealants. While the targeted use of chemical biocides and sealants may be appropriate under specific circumstances, research has not demonstrated their effectiveness in duct cleaning or their potential adverse health effects. No chemical biocides are currently registered by EPA for use in internally-insulated air duct systems (see Should chemical biocides be applied to the inside of air ducts?).

I am very interested by your post. We recently had a lead inspection on our property and one thing the lead inspector suggested was to get the air ducts cleaned out. We had our ducts cleaned last year after we under went a large renovation project (since we have a toddler in the house). This year we decided to go for lead compliance and had all our lead removed (we moved out for the work). Recently, my son had a false positive lead test, which prompted us to get a lead dust inspection around the house (including having the vents dust-wiped on the inside). The levels inside the ducts weren't crazy high (but more than would be acceptable for a floor). As it turned out my son's lead levels are very low (but not zero). Is it possible however that lead dust from the inside of a vent can come out? Would this be a scenario where you think air duct cleaning would be beneficial?
Yes, ducts can look terribly dusty. However, that dust will not become aerosolized during the normal operation of your furnace. There is an easy way to test this. Rent a particle counter and test the air flowing out of your registers before and after cleaning. You will not see any improvement in the air quality or any reduction in the airborne dust level. Think of it this way. Duct cleaning companies tell you that you need to clean your ducts when you can see a layer of dust in your ducts. Yet that very layer of dust is proof that duct cleaning is unnecessary, because that dust proves that the air movement in your furnace is not fast enough to re-aerosolize the dust.
If the one noticeable spot is where the wall [or ceiling or floor] is white.......first.....take a pair of needle nose pliers and bend each louver of the register to a straight outward position [as they all come brand new with a slant to each side]....so the register is shooting all supply air straight outward. If its a round register [in ceiling].....no help there. You also should always burn soy or beeswax candles.
If you don't agree with duct cleaning, fine. If there are some things that HVAC people can do to make the system need cleaning less often fine, but to suggest that I need to GO TO JAIL????? If you need to knock others to make yourself look better....... If duct cleaning is such a scam, why are their governing bodies like NADCA (which I do NOT belong to),several manufacturers of equipment, and national restoration franchises (I'm not a franchise either) who provide this service? I guess the whole world is stupid and only HVAC people are smart. I suppose I am scamming them when I clean puff backs, water damage, fire damage, and clean their carpets too? Or did I wake up one morning and say "ya know, it is great to be a hard working, honest owner operator, but I would love to provide a service that unlike everything else I do is a con and rips off the 90% referral business I busted my butt to earn"
We moved to a house built in 1965 from a 1915 house with a dirt basement. Against what I anticipated, the 1965 house was much dustier. It was like felt on top of everything. I cleaned and cleaned and it did become less dusty over time. We then found out a cat lady with over 2 dozen cats lived in the house in the past. We then had to get our furnace replaced and I was able to look down some of the duct work, the dirt and debris was 3-5 inches deep. Additionally, the basement ducts were entirely plugged with debris including dirt, seeds, ants, toys, etc. I had already removed what I could from those. We had our ducts cleaned last year, and the dust in the house is greatly reduced. Also have lost the runny nose I got after moving here. There are duct cleaning con artists out there, but ours did a good job.
I hope that those customers you have with breathing problems don't follow your advice too closely. You are doing them a disservice. Dirt in your ducts does not always stay there, depending on what the contaminants are. I bet you tell your customers not to worry about mold either- just to kill it with bleach. Educate yourself before opening your mouth- You may kill someone someday with your opinion.
A small number of products are currently registered by EPA specifically for use on the inside of bare sheet metal air ducts. A number of products are also registered for use as sanitizers on hard surfaces, which could include the interior of bare sheet metal ducts. While many such products may be used legally inside of unlined ducts if all label directions are followed, some of the directions on the label may be inappropriate for use in ducts. For example, if the directions indicate "rinse with water", the added moisture could stimulate mold growth.
In most modern homes with up-to-date heating and air conditioning systems, filters are changed regularly through the year, so you may not even need to hire a professional. However, keep your eyes open for the accumulation of dust, dirt, dander and mold. If you see it despite regularly changing your filters it could be an indication you need a high-pressure cleaning.
Having evaporator and condenser coils cleaned could cost between $100 and $400. If your coils can be accessed in-place, you'll be looking at a lower service cost. If your technician needs to remove the them first, the cost should be around $400. Having the evaporator and condenser coils cleaned can have a significant impact on the efficiency of your system. If your coils are excessively dirty, they won't be able to do their job and your system will have to work harder. Keeping up with the hygiene of these components can save you money in both the short and long-term. For example, replacing evaporator coils can cost anywhere from $650 to $1200.
And if you have flex duct and/or fiberglass ductboard in your home- the last thing you want is a big brush or anything abrasive running through it. Even high-pressure air can erode ductboard so I wouldn’t clean it with anything. If it becomes contaminated, get rid of it and install real ductwork. If your ductwork is accessible in the basement – the best thing to do is take it down and manually clean it if it’s full of junk. It’s not going to cost a nickel more to do that than to pay $500-1000 for a ‘duct cleaning machine” AKA big blower and vacuum – to do the job.
Hello, I read your comment and I know it was two years ago but I hope you see my message. I am trying to figure out what to do as I was told that there is some cat odor in the finished basement. I think with the air conditioning running that it may carry odor. The litter boxes are always kept clean. I wonder if odor can be trapped in the ducts, if Air Duct Cleaning could help, but it is quite expensive plus I'm concerned that it may not help. Please elaborate as to why you think it doesn't work that well. Do you have any other advise? Did you work in the field of Air Duct Cleaning? Thanks so much!
You may consider having your air ducts cleaned simply because it seems logical that air ducts will get dirty over time and should be occasionally cleaned. Provided that the cleaning is done properly, no evidence suggests that such cleaning would be detrimental. EPA does not recommend that the air ducts be cleaned routinely, but only as needed. 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.
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