Is Air Duct Cleaning Worth It?

According to the (NADCA), National Air Duct Cleaners Association, a professional association based in Washington, D.C., air duct cleaning is a buyer-beware service. Some companies promoting duct cleaning may be either bait and switch operations or companies that do inferior jobs with unprofessional equipment.

Any professional cleaners would question a company that employ only shop-vac sized machines with a single 2-inch hose. To do a good job, powerful machines mounted in specially equipped vehicles with varying types of hoses and attachments will be needed in most cases to adequately address all duct areas.

But even if the technician is prepared, the above information begs the question: "Is air duct cleaning really worthwhile?" You can check some of your own ducts with a mirror and a flashlight. Unscrew several of your wall or floor vents and, using your mirror, look into the ducts.

If there are no large deposits of dust, dirt or mold, or if no one in your home suffers allergies or asthma, having air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary, according to advice provided by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Also, just because you have dirty return registers doesn't mean you have disgusting ducts. It's normal for dust-laden air to be pulled through the grates leaving telltale black streaks that can be easily vacuumed or cleaned at the point in question. NADCA recommends that ducts should be cleaned under the following circumstances:

  • The home has been remodeled.
  • Water has damaged the home.
  • There are four-leg pets.
  • Someone smokes.
  • Your carpeting is old.

According to industry experts, in cases where there are truly dirty ducts in a 2,000-square foot house, duct cleaners may fill three grocery sacks with dirt and debris. Expect to pay $250-500 for a typical home's duct cleaning by a qualified professional. Larger homes with a more extensive duct system will cost proportionately more.

If duct cleaning is done improperly, or needlessly, the outcome can do more harm than good. Disturbing a basically intact and inert dust layer and then not removing the residue creates air borne contaminants that might not otherwise have been a problem. Homeowners should seek the advice and information on the pros and cons of duct cleaning before hiring a contractor.

The EPA advises that a professional cleaning should include:

  • Opening access ports or doors to allow the entire system to be inspected and cleaned.
  • Use of only high-efficiency particle (HEPA) air vacuuming equipment.
  • Protection of the carpeting and household furnishings during cleaning.
  • Use of well-controlled brushing equipment with powerful vacuums to dislodge dust and other particles.
  • Taking care to protect ductwork including sealing and re-insulating any access holes.

For more information on duct cleaning visit the EPA website.

Remember, these tips are only general guidelines. Since each situation is different, contact a professional if you have questions about a specific issue. More home safety and maintenance information is available online at

This information is provided for general guidance purposes only. Neither DBR Franchising, LLC nor the local HouseMaster® franchise warrants its accuracy and assumes no liability related to its use. Contact the local franchise office and/or qualified specialists for advice pertinent to your specific house or circumstances. © Copyright 2008 DBR. Each HouseMaster franchise is an independently owned and operated business. HouseMaster is a registered trademark of DBR Franchising, LLC.

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