Air Conveyance Treatment Services
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Price Differences for Air Duct Cleaning: Why the Disparity?

Consumers are bombarded by mailed packages with coupons that include duct cleaning specials, and when searching the internet for pricing, they come away more confused than ever about the true cost of duct cleaning. One page has advertisements for $49 specials, and another estimates the cost to be almost $1000. Even the consumer guide websites that refer homeowner to services will give wildly different quotes from three to five different providers. How can this be?

Duct cleaning is duct cleaning, right?  Wrong.

As with any home contractors, buyers must make sure they are comparing equal services.  There are both good companies and bad ones who offer duct cleaning, but there are also different methods to consider. 

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that properly cleaning an entire system in an average-sized home ranges from $450 to $1000.The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) states that several factors affect cost and time estimates, including the type of ductwork, the system size and accessibility, the number of crew members required, the level of contamination and environmental factors.

NADCA also tells consumers to beware of advertisements that have “whole house specials” for very low prices.  Many of those only include the main ducts in their advertised prices and charge extra for the air handler, blower fans, coils, registers and cutting the access holes.  Once onsite, they add onto the bill for each portion not included (in the fine print if you can find it), many times to excessive amounts.  What started as a $49 discounted rate becomes $600, $800 or even more than $1000 in total.

Those consumers who stick to their guns and request the contractor just complete the advertised service for the discounted price may think they are getting a bargain.  But what are they truly receiving? Incomplete cleaning can result in even worse conditions within their home and HVAC system. So-called “blow and go” contractors will disturb more dirt within the system and not completely remove it.  They only accomplish cleaning within their reach or what is covered for that low price—leaving much of the system still dirty.

NADCA certified companies estimate that cleaning of the full HVAC system, including the ductwork, should take at two technicians 3-4 hours on average for a simple system, but the project could take up to 6 hours or more.  How would $49 be feasible for companies trying to make a living, even if they send just one technician?  It’s only workable for these contractors if their crews can “up-sell” buyers into more complete services.  And if they don’t agree to more services, the job won’t be complete. 

Even among certified providers, the pricing structure can differ considerably. Many websites offer free estimates only after a site inspection, which is not a bad thing, as consumers should then have a full written scope of work that shows what they will receive.  

Other websites show price lists on a more ala carte style:

Example 1 states $399-$699 range for a single duct system up to 15 vents, with $5 for each additional vent.   (Ductwork alone on this site shows $399-$499.  You need to add the furnace blower at $130, and the AC coils at $70.)

Example 2 states $199 includes 8 vents and 2 returns-- with $9.99 for each additional vent, an additional main line adds $24.99, additional returns adds $14.99, then the blower is $99-$349.99, the AC coil $99-$249, cutting each access hole is an additional $19.99 (difficult to clean ductwork without accessing it!).  (This makes the starting total easily $600 to $800.)

 

The photo above shows dirt left behind after a “bargain-priced” duct cleaning, sitting on top of the air conditioning coils. Air passes right through this and into the ducts of the home. This is after the filters, not before, so it will re-contaminate any previously cleaned ductwork.

This bargain company customer found dirt blowing from her vents. One week earlier she had a $39.99 duct cleaning performed that ended up costing her $200. When she called the original contractor to complain about the cleaning, she was told that it was “normal” to have dirt blowing out after a cleaning, and if she wanted all of the dirt gone it would be $800 to “thoroughly” clean her system.  She did more research and eventually was referred Robert Rizen, currently general manager of Air Conveyance Treatment Services.

When inspecting the system, he found that the previous contractor had pushed all the dirt from inside the duct system into the top of the air handler and the air conditioning coil compartment. The other company even claimed to use a “negative air system” to capture all the debris. Does this look captured to you? Is this their “visibly clean” standard?

If this debris were left alone in the summer months it would become wet with moisture from the air conditioning coils, and it could potentially become a source for mold and fungus growth.  Rizen cleaned her entire duct system including wet cleaning of her air conditioning coil.

Moral of the story? You get what you pay for, yes. But more importantly, think about what you’re trying to accomplish.  Do you want your HVAC system, including the ducts, to be clean?  Then hire a certified professional, and get estimates before you make your decision, so you can compare apples to apples.  Cleaning only the duct work is like cleaning only the top of your dirty drinking glass-water drank out of that same glass with dirt remaining in the bottom will still give you mud.

Clearing the Air: What an HVAC cleaner should real...
 

Comments 3

Guest - Joven Ruthford (website) on Thursday, 17 December 2020 07:10

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that properly cleaning an entire system in an average-sized home ranges from $450 to $1000. I think it's reasonable.

The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that properly cleaning an entire system in an average-sized home ranges from $450 to $1000. I think it's reasonable.
Guest - Kopernikas Green (website) on Monday, 18 January 2021 05:13

The National Air Duct Cleaners States that several factors affect cost and time estimates, including the type of ductwork, the system size and accessibility, the number of crew members required, the level of contamination and environmental factors.

The National Air Duct Cleaners States that several factors affect cost and time estimates, including the type of ductwork, the system size and accessibility, the number of crew members required, the level of contamination and environmental factors.
Guest - Duct Cleaning Portland Pro (website) on Thursday, 14 October 2021 02:27

Great article! I love how you talked about air duct cleaning, so interesting. Thanks, and keep on sharing.

Great article! I love how you talked about air duct cleaning, so interesting. Thanks, and keep on sharing. :)
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