HVAC professional performing duct cleaning in home with wood floors
HVAC professional performing duct cleaning in home with wood floors

Is duct cleaning a waste of money? While we can’t definitively claim that duct cleaning is a waste of money, we can say that duct cleaning is not a necessary routine maintenance task. Duct cleaning services often profess that cleaning the ducts with specialized vacuum equipment improves a home’s air quality, but this claim is not entirely accurate.

Dust and other debris accumulates in ductwork over time, and duct cleaning is beneficial and even necessary under some circumstances. However, duct cleaning might be inconsequential when there is no severe duct system issue, according to the Environmental Protection Agency. In some situations, duct cleaning can harm your air quality and residential HVAC system.

Before you schedule a duct cleaning:

  • Make sure you’ve considered the facts about duct cleaning.
  • Recognize which issues necessitate duct cleaning.
  • Implement alternative methods to manage your home’s air quality.

5 Things to Consider Before Cleaning Your Air Ducts

Don’t clean your ducts or schedule a cleaning until you have considered these essential points.

1. Many air duct cleaning services are scams.

Scammers often go door-to-door or send out mailers and coupons offering duct cleaning specials for under $100 to solicit clients. Once hired, they sometimes claim to find mold in the ducts and demand more money to remove it. Legitimate duct cleaning companies and HVAC contractors charge $500 to $1500 for duct cleaning, depending on the house’s size.

Tips to Avoid Being Scammed:

  • Consult at least three companies and obtain estimates.
  • Verify each company’s membership with the National Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) or other professional HVAC association by phone.
  • Ask for proof that your ducts require cleaning.
  • Don’t hire a company that makes unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning or claims to be certified, endorsed, or approved by the EPA.
  • Check each company’s references and contact the Better Business Bureau to determine if complaints have been filed against them.
  • Ask for a written agreement detailing the work that will be performed and the total cost beforehand.

2. Duct cleaning may not prevent health issues.

Dirt, dust, pet dander, pollen, and particles from home construction projects accumulate in the ductwork, but the accumulations are not greatly stirred up by the air blowing past them. Cleaning the ducts might only be beneficial if a resident is allergic to dust.

Other household cleaning tasks might have a more significant impact on your air quality. Carpets, curtains, upholstery, and bedding often contain large amounts of dust that people in the house stir up. Vacuum and wash textiles regularly to reduce dust in the home. Cooking, smoking, and harsh cleaning products harm your home’s air quality more than dust adhesions in the ducts.

3. Finding dust buildup on registers doesn’t mean dust is in the ducts.

Cold air return registers regularly accumulate layers of dust. The grates or air filters behind the registers trap most of it before it enters the ducts.

Regularly vacuum the registers with a brush attachment, and wipe them down with a wet rag. If your registers have filters, change them often.

4. Improper duct-cleaning can create more problems than it solves.

Untrained technicians using inadequate equipment to clean your ducts can release dust accumulations into your home and degrade your air quality. They might also damage your ducts, negatively affecting the HVAC system’s operation and leading to costly repairs.

Qualified technicians will safely and carefully clean the ducts and vent the vacuum’s air outside the home.

5. Cleaning air ducts is not a do-it-yourself job.

You can damage your ducts and release contaminants into your home by trying to vacuum the ducts yourself. Professionals use high-end roto bristol brush machines with HEPA filters and vent the vacuums outside of houses. They start by cleaning the duct furthest from the furnace and run the equipment through the ducts multiple times.

Removing the floor registers and vacuuming visible dirt and debris directly below the register is acceptable. Don’t push the vacuum hose deeper into the ducts than eight to ten inches.

Issues That Warrant Duct Cleaning

Although duct cleaning is not necessary for every house, certain problems call for professional duct cleaning services.

Substantial Mold Growth

Your ducts should be cleaned if you notice a pervasive musty smell every time the furnace or AC runs or locate mold growth inside or on the HVAC equipment. Mold spores can release into your home’s air and trigger allergy symptoms and respiratory issues. But if a service provider says you have a mold problem, ask for proof.

Mold begins with a moisture problem, and cleaning the ducts won’t eliminate the issue. The problem’s source must be found and dealt with promptly. Common sources of excess moisture are dirty AC evaporator coils, leaky ducts, and leaky pipes. Hire an HVAC technician or plumber to resolve moisture issues.

Infestation of insects or rodents

Your ducts should be cleaned if you find dead bugs, rodent droppings, or nests in the ducts. Infestations can release bacteria into your home’s air. The infestation might extend to the walls and floors of your house, so hire an exterminator to eliminate the issue.

Excessive Amounts of Dust and Debris and/or Particles

Your ducts should be cleaned if they contain so much dust and debris that the ducts are obstructed, or contaminants are released into the household’s air from the supply registers. This situation often occurs if the registers aren’t sealed during a renovation project.

Take Control of Your Indoor Air Quality

Implement these three tips to improve air quality instead of cleaning your ducts.

man upgrading furnace air filter

Upgrade Your Filter

Air filters improve air quality by trapping contaminants before they make their way into your HVAC equipment and ductwork. Use the thickest filter your system can accommodate. Thicker filters have more surface area to trap contaminants and can be changed less often. Never force a filter into a space not designed to hold it.

Air filter MERV rating is more important than thickness regarding improved air quality. Filters with higher MERV ratings are more effective at filtering pollutants, though too high of a rating can reduce airflow and strain the HVAC system. Use the highest efficiency your system can safely handle. MERV 8 filters trap airborne contaminants in most homes, such as dust, mold, and pollen. MERV 13 air filters can trap smaller particles from smoke, smog, and viruses, but they might be overly restrictive for some HVAC systems.

older man changing out dirty furnace air filter

Change Your Filter Regularly

Regularly changing your air filter maintains good airflow and prevents contaminants from entering the HVAC system. How often you should change your air filter depends on its thickness and MERV rating. Change one-inch filters and filters with MERV ratings between 1 and 4 every month. Change filters with MERV ratings between 5 and 13 a minimum of four times a year. Four-inch filters can be changed every three to six months. Basically, change your filter when it appears dirty.

HVAC professional performing routine furnace maintenance

Routine HVAC Maintenance

Routine HVAC maintenance frees your system from mold, dirt, and debris. Some maintenance tasks like cleaning the drain pans, heating and cooling coils, and changing the air filter can be done by homeowners. Still, yearly professional inspections and furnace tune ups are recommended for optimal HVAC system performance and lifespan.

Is Duct Cleaning A Waste Of Money?

Duct cleaning is a waste of money in some cases, but it’s beneficial in specific situations. Duct cleaning is recommended if…

  • There is visible mold in your ducts
  • Your ducts are infested with insects or rodents
  • Your ducts are excessively clogged with dust and debris

Duct cleaning is not a necessary routine maintenance task. If you want to improve your home’s air quality and don’t have any issues that necessitate duct cleaning, there are other steps you can take:

  • Upgrade your filter
  • Change your filter regularly
  • Perform routine HVAC maintenance and schedule yearly professional inspections

Frequently Asked Questions

Will duct cleaning remove mold?

Reputable duct cleaners are capable of removing mold from the ducts. However, mold stems from moisture issues in the home. The mold will return if the moisture problem is not located and resolved.

Will duct cleaning improve the airflow?

Duct cleaning does not improve airflow or energy efficiency, according to a study conducted by the Canada Mortgage and Housing Corporation and U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in the 1990s.

Can duct cleaning help allergies?

Whether duct cleaning is effective against allergies is undetermined. Air flowing through moldy ducts can distribute mold spores to household air; in this case, duct cleaning would be beneficial. However, it’s unknown whether the removal of ordinary dust and dirt is helpful to allergy sufferers.

Air qualityFurnaces

1 comment

Elina Brooks

Elina Brooks

I’m grateful you informed us that duct cleaning is much recommended if we notice visible molds in our ducts. I noticed a musty odor around the house these days, so I suspect that the mold must be growing around the ducts. I’ll have to contact air duct cleaning services to deal with it as soon as possible. https://www.secleaners.com/Beloit-Wisconsin-Carpet-Cleaning-Air-Duct-Cleaning-Dryer-Vent-Cleaning-Floor-Cleaning

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