While there are reputable, professional HVAC cleaning services out there, there are scams as well. Anytime scare tactics can be used to make the claim that your home might be “unhealthy,” homeowners run the risk of being frightened into emptying their checkbooks.
Here are some tips for avoiding scams if you decide to look into having the ducts and HVAC system in your home cleaned:
Full Service: Don’t settle for just duct cleaning, make sure the cleaning service is also going to do a full cleaning of the heating/cooling unit.
References: Get and check references in your area to find out what was provided for the money, and whether customers were satisfied.
Estimates: Ask for written estimates from at least three HVAC cleaning services. A reputable company should provide a free inspection and estimate.
Avoid Gimmicks: Ads for “$79 whole-house specials” are scams. At most a few ducts will get a very cursory vacuum; and at worst, you’ll end up talked into a much more expensive package. High-quality duct and HVAC cleaning should cost upwards of $500, take several hours with sophisticated equipment, and involve multiple workers.
Certifications: The cleaning company should be certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), which sets standards for HVAC system cleaning. The EPA does not certify duct cleaners, so avoid anyone making that claim. Check for relevant licenses and insurance – some states require a license for duct cleaning while others don’t.
Verify Results: You should be offered a complete visual inspection of the HVAC system and ductwork, either in person or by remote camera. Make sure every single duct is clean, and insist on an inspection of the inside of the HVAC unit, before paying for the service.
Don’t Get Fooled: Keep in mind that intake ducts (room ducts that return air to the heating/cooling unit) are likely to be dirtier than supply ducts (which deliver conditioned air from the HVAC unit), since they often don’t have filters. Make sure any “before-and-after” photos are of the supply ducts, where it’s most important that the air is clean.
Avoid Sealants and Sprays: Both the EPA and the NADCA recommend against the use of sprayed sealants or other potentially harmful chemicals inside air ducts. Biocides and anti-microbial treatments are also iffy, since the chemicals may cause more harm than good to your health. No chemicals are currently registered with the EPA for use inside ductwork.
Avoid Steam Cleaning: Any kind of duct cleaning involving steam or moisture should be avoided.