There are a lot of factors that go into the overall cost of cleaning HVAC air ducts. Not only does the cost depend on how many vents and the type of ductwork you have, but also accessibility to the HVAC system and the number of floors in the home.
The most important factor to consider is if you even need air duct cleaning. This article will review the benefits, signs, and possible scams of having your air ducts professionally cleaned. We also offer a guide so you can clean the ducts yourself if you are so inclined.
Benefits of Air Duct Cleaning
Cleaning air ducts does have it’s benefits, especially for new homeowners. If you just moved into a home, for example, you don’t know the condition of the HVAC system. Having the ducts cleaned before moving in will help regulate the energy consumption of the unit.
There may also be an existing problem, such as rodents, that give you a reason to have the ducts cleaned. Having your air ducts cleaned should only go to help the HVAC system be more efficient. While it will help the air quality if there is an existing problem, there is no evidence that cleaning the ducts will improve your health issues or concerns.
Signs Your Air Ducts Need Cleaning
It isn’t often that there are any signs that you need to have your air ducts cleaned. While it is a service that is offered, many feel it is unnecessary. Here are some examples of when you should consider having your ductwork cleaned.
Unchanged/No Air Filter
If you have run the HVAC system without an air filter, or you have not changed the air filter in a considerable amount of time, it may be time to clean the ducts. The purpose of an air filter is to prevent contamination of pollutants and debris from entering the air system. Without a filter, the ducts can become overgrown with dirt, dust, and debris.
Visible Dust, Dirt, and Debris
If you see dust, dirt, and debris coming from your vents, it is a sign that your ducts need to be cleaned. However, this is also a sign of a bigger problem. If you use an air filter (see above), there shouldn’t be noticeable debris growth from the vents. If there is, you may need to check the air filter for a proper fit or inspect the system for damage.
Visible Mold Growth
Mold is a concern for many homes across the country, and the HVAC system can help eliminate excess humidity. However, if mold is allowed to grow inside the system, you will need to have your air ducts cleaned. You should also call a mold specialist to investigate why there is mold growth in the air ducts, as this can be a sign of a much larger problem.
Another sign you need air duct cleaning is irregular airflow from the vents. Especially if you notice that one room isn’t getting the proper air circulation, it used to.
If you hear new noises coming from your vents, it may be signs that the air is having trouble flowing freely. It could be a sign of a bigger problem, but a cleaning might be in order to help determine the underlying cause.
Signs of Rodent or Insect Infestation
Rodents and insects like cool places and your air ducts, depending on build material, make a good home. If you have signs of an infestation, especially around your exhaust vents or air filter, you should consider cleaning and extermination.
Unexplained Spikes in Your Energy Bill
Are you suddenly paying more on your monthly energy bill than you expected? Improper airflow from dirty ductwork can cause the system to work harder to cool or heat the home. Having the ducts cleaned may improve the health of the HVAC system and return your energy bill to a more expected amount.
If you or a family member smokes and does so indoors, the tar and nicotine build-up can accumulate in the ducts. Having an air filter rated to capture pollutants from cigarette and cigar smoke will help eliminate this need, but it is an option to have the air ducts cleaned.
Air Duct Cleaning Frequency
How often you should have your air ducts cleaned is a hot debate. Assuming everything is normal with your HVAC system, cleaning might not ever be needed.
However, if you have damage to the HVAC system, your home has been the victim of a flood or fire, or there are air quality issues, you may need to clean your air ducts.
This isn’t a regular job that needs doing in any case. At most, a yearly inspection with the expectation of cleaning every three to five years is plenty in most cases.
Bargain Duct Cleaning vs Expensive Cleaning Service
When you hire a professional to clean the ductwork, you are paying for more than just a scrubbing of your HVAC ducts. You are paying for their time, their expertise, and their warranty. Because you don’t need to be licensed or insured (or bonded) to clean air ducts, it opens the market to scams and operations that vanish after you pay them.
You should expect to pay an hourly rate for the labor plus other costs associated with the work. The job itself should also take a few hours or more. If you find a special offer, be warned. Low-cost duct cleaning is usually a sign of a scam.
A lot of times, as reported by Angie’s List, scammers will offer a low rate (under $100) to gain access to your home. They will then promptly tell you there is a severe and costly problem with your HVAC system.
If you require an air duct cleaning, you should expect to pay the industry average or more. You should also only stick to companies you know about and can trust. If the job is quoted as taking less than two hours, be wary. Get at least three quotes before you decide on the company that will handle the work.
Ductwork Cleaning Cost Estimate
There are quite a few factors that go into the cost of cleaning air ducts. The national average, as reported by Home Advisor, is about $366. However, this will be determined by several factors.
- The number of hours it takes to complete the job. You should expect at least three hours for a complete job, at a rate of about $50 per hour.
- The number of vents in the home. Each vent will need to be removed, and the ducts cleaned. Expect to add an additional $30 to $40 per vent.
- How dirty is your ductwork? The dirtier the air ducts are, the more it will cost. Extra services can cost as much as $100 more for a deep clean.
- Ease of access. If your HVAC system or furnace is challenging to get to, additional fees or higher labor costs may be included.
- Existing damage. If your HVAC system has existing damage, it may be uncovered by the duct cleaning. This can be costly to repair, though it may be necessary.
You should expect to pay at least $500 for a professional service. Anything below the national average of $366 should be avoided due to possible scams.
Choosing a Duct Cleaning Service Provider
To help avoid scams and other fly-by-night operations just taking your money, you should find a reputable service provider.
How can you be sure?
There are a few proven methods, such as finding a professional through Angie’s List or other vetting services.
However, you can do the work on your own by following the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) guidelines.
You can download the NADCA checklist to assist you in your vetting process.
This checklist will cover work details, estimates, as well as licensed and insured professionals.
DIY Duct Cleaning Guide
It is possible to clean the air ducts yourself and save some money in the process. If you are interested, here are the items you will need.
- A heavy-duty vacuum with a long hose attachment.
- Step stool or ladder to reach higher vents and accesses.
- Stiff-bristled dusting brush.
- Cleaning clots and cleaning solution.
- Screwdriver with multiple tips.
- A new air filter.
The cleaning process is quite simple. Turn the system off so that it won’t kick on while you have vents open and the air filter removed. Then go through each room one by one and remove the air exchange vent covers. Using the brush and vacuum, clean the entire length of the ductwork loosening and removing the debris inside.
Vacuum all vents before affixing back to the register. Remove the air filter and clean the air filter housing area as well as any intake registers or common duct areas around the home. Once that is complete, install the new air filter and move to the furnace or air conditioner itself. You may need to remove the ducting from the furnace to gain access: vacuum and clean the ductwork leading from the furnace as applicable.
Double-check that all vent covers and removed parts are securely in place and restore power to the HVAC system.
Professional vs DIY Cleaning Cost
You can save a few hundred dollars by cleaning the ductwork yourself. However, the benefits end there. A professional will have the proper equipment to get into the areas you cannot reach. Most professionals will also offer a warranty of some sort that you won’t be able to provide for yourself.
It is also essential to know what type of ducts you have. Fiberglass and metal ducting are typical in older homes. However, newer installations use simple insulation wrap instead of proper ductwork materials. Cleaning this type of duct can cause irreparable damage and cost you more to replace broken sections.
If you want to see a professional at work to see what a DIY project would entail, watch this short video.
Minimizing Air Duct Contamination
To minimize contamination as well as the need for costly duct cleaning, you should follow a few simple steps.
- Have the entire system checked when you first move in.
- Ensure you have the proper filters and that they are installed correctly.
- Change your filters at or before the stated time frame for that particular filter.
- Run an annual HVAC inspection (DIY or professional) to check for signs of debris or broken elements.
- Don’t smoke indoors.
- Don’t run the air conditioner or heater without a filter in place.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s answer some of the more common questions associated with air duct cleaning.
Can I rent air duct cleaning equipment?
In most areas, you can find a rental company that carries air duct cleaning equipment. You should try home improvement stores that do rentals such as Lowes or Home Depot.
How do I determine if the duct cleaner did a thorough job?
It can be difficult to tell if the completed job was thorough. If you use the NADCA checklist, you can walk around with the hired professional to make sure all the areas were cleaned. Otherwise, the only way to tell is by visual inspection, or if you had an issue prompting the cleaning, note if the problem is gone.
How do I get rid of molds in air ducts? How to prevent mold growth?
Mold removal should be handled by a licensed professional. If you suspect (or know) that you have mold in your HVAC system or air ducts, call a professional mold specialist for an evaluation and treatment. You can prevent mold growth by limiting the humidity level inside your home, repairing parts as soon as possible and changing your filter regularly.
Which HVAC cleaning company is the best in Houston?
While it is near impossible to state which company is the best in Houston, for locals to the area, it is advised that they check with Angie’s List to find a reputable company that has been reviewed and vetted.
Can I find a NADCA certified air duct cleaner in Denver?
You can search the NADCA database for local companies in the Denver area that specialize in air duct cleaning.
How do I locate NADCA certified air duct cleaning contractors in Las Vegas?
You can search the NADCA database for local companies in the Las Vegas area that specialize in air duct cleaning.
Cleaning air ducts isn’t something that needs to be continuously done. It doesn’t even need to be done annually. However, there are times when air duct cleaning is required, and deciding on hiring a professional or doing it yourself is a debate only you can end.
Hiring a professional is advised as there are many setbacks and downsides to a DIY project like air duct cleaning. As long as you use a well-known professional, you won’t fall victim to a scam. Play it safe and be prepared to pay a higher fee, but the result will be worth it.
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