One of the best ways to know if your ducts or vents need to be cleaned is to just check them. Your eyes will be able to check for indications of mold, dust or pollen buildup. You might also be able to smell the presence of mold, which would be a clear indicator. Ductwork will have some buildup of dust, since the return registrars pull air back in. However, this doesn't mean your ducts have too much debris, and you can easily clean them with a duster or vacuum.

The key to the continued and efficient operation of your heating and cooling system is periodic maintenance. Cleaning the air duct vent system, and servicing you heating and cooling equipment will keep the system operating at its peak performance. Air ducts are cleaned for two reasons. One: to prevent debris from entering furnace and air conditioning components. Two: to prevent debris from cycling through the home. The air duct cleaning contractor needs to employ cleaning methods which successfully removes debris, and ensures that debris does not enter the occupied space. Most contractors can verify the results of the cleaning through video or pictures.


I replaced all the ducts but the trunks in my 1969 home when I replaced the horizontal furnace under the house with a gas pack. I got advice from a friend who was an HVAC contractor. I was surprised to find the trunks and other ducts very clean. I replaced the individual runs with flex primarily for the insulation. I wrapped the trunks with insulation also.
Despite such anecdotal experiences, there's no scientific evidence that regular residential air duct cleaning improves air quality, according to a 1997 brochure published by the Environmental Protection Agency. Laureen Burton, senior scientist in the EPA Indoor Environments Division, says that while the document is nearly two decades old, the science hasn't changed and the agency stands by its recommendations.
The average cost of keeping your residential ductwork orderly is going to vary greatly from that of a commercial building. This is because commercial air ducts are often larger and more extensive. Residential cleanings can cost an average of about $20-$30 per vent. For commercial buildings, service providers must do an estimate of your space before they can provide an accurate quote. Before factoring in the materials and the number A/C and furnace units, you can expect a commercial project to cost at least $35-$50 per hour.
Your HVAC unit and air ducts deliver heated or cooled air throughout your home year-in and year-out. The air your HVAC unit produces travels through your ductwork and heats or cools your home via the air vents in each room. The dust and other particles in your home’s air are known as particulate matter, which the EPA defines as "a complex mixture of extremely small particles and liquid droplets." The EPA also notes that "particle pollution is made up of a number of components, including acids (such as nitrates and sulfates), organic chemicals, metals, and soil or dust particles." Having clean air ducts means fewer of these particles moving through your home. If you remove your furnace filter and hold it up to the light, you can probably see several hundred of these minuscule particles floating in the air. 

I hired duct cleaning company out of "Service Magic" website. I did not realize the name of his company was Duck cleaning of Central Florida...that should have given me a hint.. The guy did a very poor, incomplete job, and ruined a closet full of clothes when he sprayed up to clean a vent instead of taking it down and cleaning it outside. He left me with more than 1/2 dirty vents and ducts, did not do the air handler in the garage and failed to fog the system. He spent 6 useless hours at my residence and now his insurance is denying coverage..very disappointed in Service Magic....
Greetings from Mama Duck from Ductz of Greater Atlanta. These are some awesome comments and a few are from high quality duct cleaners that I personally know. After 19 years in this industry I agree that a government agency is not always up to date with their knowledge but won't admit it. If they were out in the field with our technicians every day they would upgrade their info. I get calls all the time where customers have been taken advantage of by "go and blow" companies. The customers don't know what they don't know but many are too lazy to do the research and are just looking for cheap. The industry has gotten a bad rap due to these con artists but the customer has to take some responsibility. I ask them why they would want to do business with a company who lies to them in print? Are they stupid or just cheap? Thankfully there are those of us in the industry who are working diligently to raise the bar on quality, protect the consumer and perform high quality work. At Ductz all our technicians are NADCA certified, trained by the best in the industry and know how to clean the entire system.
I live in a 1950's ranch house in the South. The prior owners were smokers. Based on recommendations from one of the local conservation organizations, I decided to have a home energy audit done. As part of their findings, they recommended additional insulation in the attic and duct cleaning and sealing. This turned out to be a very problematic process. In terms of the ducts, it was necessary to remove the metal grates. However, these grates had been painted over many times and shoe molding covered the bottom of the grates. The vendor was not able to remove the grates without damaging them in the process. Because these grates dated back to the 1950's, it was difficult to find appropriate replacements. The ones I finally discovered were correct except they were 1/4" wider. This meant that the shoe molding had to be carved out. The duct cleaner could not provide any assistance with this problem. It took me a month of long evenings replacing the vent covers myself, carefully chiseling out the shoe molding and repainting. In terms of the extra installation in the attic, the same vendor used blow in insulation. Unfortunately, they did not recognize that the 13 floodlights whose mounting extended into the attic were not designed to be buried under insulation. The problem manifested itself in terms of expensive flood light bulbs failing continually. So, I had to have all of the light housings replaced. Yet another unexpected expense. Despite the expense, pain and suffering, I cannot report any improvement in my heating costs or the "quality" of the air. To be fair, I do not have any allergies and did not undertake this for air quality improvements but rather heating efficiency improvements.

I’m really not convinced that duct cleaning is of any value. My roommate wanted the ducts cleaned so he called some company. My scam senses is already tingling. They came in with a big negative pressure fan. Did some blowing and sucking in different vents. Then they tried to upsell a full system cleaning. They wanted to pull the blower and clean the heat transfer box at $700 per heater unit. I have a big house so we have two units. They also tried to sell us some “custom” $250.00 Air Lifetime air filters. At that point I pulled the BS get the hell out bell. After paying $520.00 for just the cleaning, I paid the bill and sent them on their way. I replaced the existing filter with the good old and cheap paper filters at $10.00 each. Duct cleaning… I’m not Impressed.
I agree that good filtration and a sealed system will prevent the need for duct cleaning. However, when we do get called it is because the duct work has reached a noticeable state of restriction or dust or the homeowner is hyper-sensitive to these pollutants in their home. Most of the time we find that no filter or a cheap (99 cent) filter is being used or they have serious duct leaks in the system. If you are hiring a cleaner make sure they are using professional cleaning equipment which will consist of a rotating brush system and a vacuum source. Be highly skeptical of the contractor with no branded system or the guy who shows up with just chimney brushes and a shop vac. He will not be able to reach around all the corners or all the runs in your system and he will be taking your money for a superficial cleaning at best. Only trust a company that offers VIDEO inspection and more importantly.... a contractor who repairs, installs and seals ducts if a problem is discovered or heaven forbid, created. Good luck and get your ducts sealed if you do have a leak! It is one of the greatest energy losses to a home other than being poorly insulated.
Venice warns homeowners to beware of air duct cleaning scams, especially the sort where unscrupulous cleaners offer a $49 special deal but start piling on extra fees. “It’s a bait and switch scam where they say they’ll offer unlimited cleaning, but then they throw around terms you might not understand, such as extra fees for a ‘main duct line,’” he says. “And many times, these cleaners end up walking out the door with twice the amount of money a reputable duct cleaner would charge. They’ve gotten very sophisticated at upselling.”

I spent a lot of time reading all these posts and frankly I can’t believe the way some people think. 1. If there is dust and dirt of any kind in my HVAC system I want it out, the mentality that it can stay there and it’s fine is fulish as the system turns on and off microscopic particulates will move in and out of your living space and you will definitely breath them in. The air quality of your home or office will only be as clean as the system that produces it. We don’t not clean things simply because we can’t see them, it’s what we can’t see that can do the most harm. Dust will build up in a system fairly quickly and will get damp at times allowing mold to grow and mold releases spores without any movement as part of its defense meconisam so don’t tell me that when your system turns on it won’t blow the spores out into the living spaces of your home. A build up of dust will cause failures to your system over time, equipment that works harder to do its job will run hotter with more strain and this will lead to brake downs and until then the system will run less efficient then it should. The system was engineered to move a certain volume of air through a specific duct size, when that duct size starts to become narowed down with dust build up your system has to work harder to move that air this is why you will end up with a loss of efficiency and eventually breakdowns or failures. I have seen systems develop a significant amount of dust build up in as little as two years, just look at how fast the filter gets clogged up and it isn’t all that hard to believe. As for all the scams that are out there they hurt the industry because people can’t decipher between them and the legitimate companies, BBB is helpful. Recommendations from HVAC contractors will be a good resource and a good company will provide a written estimate with a complete brake down of what they are going to do and why, most of which is comen sence once they explain it to you, then if you spend about 5 minutes watching them once they are set up you can see they are doing what they said they would do and let’s get real would you do a job that should take approx 3 hours per system for $29/$39/59 or something close to that, if you think you are going to get a good job from a comp that has to make money at that price you shouldn’t be mad at anyone but your self for trying to get quality work at a scam price. If it’s done right it will be very beneficial and depending on the size of your system and where you are in the world it’s going to cost you approx $300 to $600 per system large and or older systems may cost even more. Remember a quality job isn’t wasting money but a lousy job is, even if it’s only $29. I’d rather spend $600 on a quality job then $29 on a lousy job!! Good luck..
Vacuum the ducts as much as possible. Consider renting a heavy duty vacuum for this purpose. The standard household vacuum isn't powerful enough to clean deep into the crevices of the ducts. Make sure that the vacuum you rent has a long hose to reach deep into the ducts. This is important, as there may be mold and mildew growing inside the air ducts [source: Repair Home]. If you want the ducts to be cleaned more thoroughly, consider hiring a professional to do the job.
I to had an odd layer of white'ish dust building up especially during seasonal periods when the HVAC ran a a lot. I carefully swept up the fine dust into a small pile and had it analyzed. Turns out it was very fine fiberglass powder dust. It turns out it is the insulation form the attic! (My attic has blown in insulation). Turns out if you (I) had small gaps around my HVAC registers in the ceiling whee the airs blows into the room. What occurred in my case was that the exiting air at that seam creates a vacuum effect at the grate vent cover and draws and then blows fine insulation dust from the attic into the house. Removing each register grate and sealing each tin outlet gap with calking between the dry wall ceiling and tin fixed the issue. A couple were so bad with bowed gaps I had to screw down the bowed tin to the attaching stud better. Checking the very same glass top desk that catches and shows any dust accumulation now shows only very small amounts of normal house dust build up over several weeks. A big, big improvement. You might have a look by simply removing a couple vent covers yourself.
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.
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