hvac duct cleaning- scam or worthwhile?

compumomJanuary 23, 2010

Has anyone had their heating/AC ducts cleaned? My thoughts were that it's a scam, we normally change our filters once or twice a year and that's all that's ever been suggested. My mother has it in her head that she's lived in her home for 35+ years and the vents are dirty and causing more dust. I think a service call to change her filters is all that's necessary. What is your experience? I did a search on the home repair and HVAC forums on GW and didn't find any related posts.

FYI she lives in Southern CA and uses a forced air heat and a/c system.

Thanks CF'ers!

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You would be amazed at what's in those air ducts!!
I change my filters at least 4 times a year and if It were easier I would do it more often.
If you have a tank vacuum with a long hose....stick it down the vent and see what you get!
Cleaning the ducts will greatly diminish the dirt that the air going into your house has to pass over. Every low place in the ducts is a pile of crud!
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 6:54PM
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When we remodeled this house we took it down to the stud and boy o boy you wouldnÂt believe all the dirt and yucky stuff that was in the ducts. We replaced some of it but some of the unique bends DH took out and washed with a pressure washer. I donÂt know if itÂs a scam or not but even if all they did is vacuum the loose stuff out it would be worth it.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 7:59PM
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I agree, getting them cleaned is a good thing. I have a friend that has a chimney and duct cleaning business and you wouldn't believe some of the crud he has sucked out of peoples ductwork! EWWWWW!

Just thinking of that makes me glad I have no ducts! LOL


    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:11PM
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That's a resounding yes! I'm so in the mode of protecting my mother from scam artists that I figured this was one more rip-off. We've never had ours cleaned either, but perhaps it's time!

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 8:58PM
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I hope this will not create a big long discussion here. I am a non-believer in cleaning air ducts as it relates to health.

But do you own research and draw your own conclusions. It's your own money:


In the past many years in dealing with people who are responsible for $ billions of office properties, I have never heard anyone had their high occupancy, dirty urban environment air conditioning ductwork cleaned.

Some things for you to think about for the home environment:

1. Normal air filter is not much use in filtering out harmful material in the air (30%?).
2. The older the filter, the better it filters out small particles.
3. Electrostatic air filter is very efficient. (90% to 95%).
4. Special filter is required to filter out germs.
5. In-duct UV light can be effective in killing germs and viruses.
6. Laundry dryer duct has to be cleaned out regularly.
7. Kitchen exhaust duct has to be cleaned regularly.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 9:05PM
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We had ours cleaned once, and I was astounded at how much dirt/dust was removed. I was breathing easier once they were cleaned. I also have UV lights on our ductwork, which eliminated the ''sick house'' problem I was having, related to respiratory problems. (Pneumonia, chronic bronchitis, asthma.) It was totally worth it to me to have the ducts cleaned, but not something I would need to do often. It's only a scam if you're breathing well. Otherwise, I don't think it's a bad idea.

    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 9:30PM
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We just replaced our heat pump/compressor and duct work. I was appalled at how dirty that old duct work was! And at how expensive the whole job was. lol.


    Bookmark   January 23, 2010 at 11:13PM
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I think it depends on the house, climate, etc. Our neighbors in KY had it done and I was a little appalled at the amount and type of stuff pulled from the ducts. There was a lot of mold in their ducts, too. We had someone come look at ours here, and they told us it really didn't need to be done, that there wasn't much in them that a vacuuming couldn't handle. The guy said he once pulled a bunch of stuff out -- socks, Barbie, comic books, etc. The people had been going to replace their entire system because it "wasn't working right". Worked fine without a toy store in the ductwork. :)

The company I worked for in Cali used to clean all the ducts once a year. Then we spent the next two days cleaning our offices from all the mess that got blown out of the ducts but escaped their equipment. It was pretty nasty, but I can't imagine how much worse it would have been had they not done it every year.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 2:24AM
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Dust will collect inside ducts due to static electrical charge, if it is not disturbed, it will not post health problems. Cleaning the dirt inside ducts is mostly an aesthetic requirement.

While we are talking about dust and dirty inside a house, a few points about vacuum cleaners:

 Regular vacuum cleaner is not much use in cleaning the harmful particles in you home. I always wear a face mask while I vacuum because it agitates and throws all the harmful material in the air while you are vacuuming.

 As you may already know, if you have allergies, you will need to get a "Sealed HEPA" vacuum cleaner, or install a central vac system.

 It makes no difference how powerful the vacuum cleaner motor is, a 1,000 horse power motor cannot create more suction power than a one horse power motor once a vacuum has been achieve. A small vacuum cleaner can suck up a bowling ball just the same as a big shop vac.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 8:40AM
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If you have your ducts cleaned, you will be amazed at how much cleaner the walls and draperies where the ducts are will stay.
Vacuums today are so much better at not spewing dust into the air, much better than the old ones with the cloth bag.
I used to date a guy who wore a face mask when he vacuumed and ran around every day with a swiffer, but had great dusty cobweb strings behind the doors and I had to scrape the kitchen counters and the stove with a razor blade.
I don't see him any more!
Linda C

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 9:50AM
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Even if the air quality was not affected by the dust in the ducts, just knowing there was a lot of crud in there would make me consider cleaning them. Nothing I would do all the time, or even yearly, but now that you mention it, I think I might want to clean mine out.

    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 11:44AM
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"Posted by sheshebop --------Even if the air quality was not affected by the dust in the ducts, just knowing there was a lot of crud in there would make me consider cleaning them. Nothing I would do all the time, or even yearly, but now that you mention it, I think I might want to clean mine out. "

It may be a good idea to have it done when it's warm. The equipment they use in cleaning ducts does not guarantee 100% cleaning. There will be many areas that the equipment cannot reach. Yet some of the dirt inside the duct will be disturbed and detached. You may want to have the whole house air out for a while.


    Bookmark   January 24, 2010 at 1:37PM
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When DH and I bought our first house, the previous owner had lived there for 20 years with her 3 cats. DH is highly allergic to cats. Even after washing the walls, floors, and every surface, he still had some reactions after we moved in.

Getting the ducts cleaned seemed to help and eventually, he seemed to stop have reactions in the house. But I don't know if it's something I'd do under normal circumstances.

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 9:47AM
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Here's my school of thought--if it aint broke, don't fix it. If you're having a dust problem in the house, the first place to look are the filters. Yes, dust collects in the ducts for a whole lot of reasons, but it doesn't necessarily get into the house from there, it stays in the ducts unless disturbed. That's how the ducts GOT so dusty in the first place. BUT, if you're highly sensitive to dust and you've already thoroughly investigated the filters issue and maybe even installed an air filter in your home (they can make a huge difference), then maybe spending the money on the duct cleaning will be worth while. To me it would depend on if I had a dust problem or not, and if I thought duct cleaning would solve it. If I didn't have a problem, then to me it seems like a waste of money to have something done that may have a negligible effect. But I'm not dust sensitive, so that would be the deciding factor for me. BTW, I run an air filter in my basement and it helps a lot with dust, I can compare that to the upstairs without the filter. To me, that would be a better investment if I was worried about dust in the air. But if your mom isn't experiencing any problems, then I would say it is just an unnecessary sales pitch. It would be difficult to make an across the board recommendation for something that may only help in certain circumstances. I say, let sleeping dust lie! :) But if your mom is uncomfortable with the dust in there, and has the money to spend, go for it. Somebody had to have jobs in this economy, might as well be duct cleaners! :)

    Bookmark   January 26, 2010 at 10:30PM
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According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), there is uncertainty about the benefits of air duct cleaning and cleaning the ducts has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Studies show that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes do not increase because of dirty air ducts.

There are only three reasons you may need to have your air ducts cleaned.
� There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system.

Although it may look like mold, only a laboratory analysis will confirm. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that it resembles.

� Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects); or
� Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.

If any of these conditions exist, it usually suggests underlying causes, such as leaky ducts. Leaky ducts also waste energy.
If you Google air duct cleaning, you'll find a number of videos and articles about the scams. There is a right way and a wrong way for the job to be done, so check out the Environmental Protection Agency website for a checklist to ensure the job is done correctly. Go to http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airduct.html for more info.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2012 at 12:37PM
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DH and I are both licensed HVAC, refrigeration, hydronics contractors (but he knows way more than me, I'll admit). He agrees with dcarch and lpink and feels duct cleaning is unnecessary. Most of the debris (if there is debris) is from construction and if left undisturbed won't hurt anything. We do commercial work and have done hospitals where cleaning the ducts is specified; however, if you cover the ends of the ducts and cover the grills while installing then they usually waive the cleaning requirement. The most important thing to do is change your filters promptly. He particularly likes the 4" deep pleated 30/30 filters -- this takes care of most problems.

    Bookmark   July 14, 2012 at 1:48PM
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Good to know, thanks for the updates. Mom's house was sold without cleaning the ducts. In our home we have a contract where they come out to check the systems and change the filters. I've never felt a need for our ducts to be cleaned.

    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 2:10AM
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"---DH and I are both licensed HVAC, refrigeration, hydronics contractors ---"

Most HVAC system use centrifugal blowers to circulate air. Actually, the fan wheel (squirrel cage) and the fan housing are dirtier than anything else.

If you do decide to do a duct cleaning, it's a good idea to specify that the blower be disassembled and the fan wheel and the fan housing be cleaned.

The reason for the removal of the fan wheel for cleaning is because the wheel must be cleaned completely, otherwise it will become unbalanced and create noise and vibration and possibly damage the bearing.


    Bookmark   July 15, 2012 at 7:30AM
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