Making sure your air duct system functions properly is important to your health and the safety of your home. We all want our homes to be more energy efficient, and a clean, clear air duct system improves your furnace’s efficiency and your indoor air quality. Regular air duct cleanings can remove dust, allergens, and other pollutants that circulate in the air of your home through your duct system.
It’s important to have your air duct system inspected and cleaned regularly. According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), cleaning frequency depends on many factors, including things like whether or not your home has pets, smokers, or residents with asthma.1
No matter how often you elect to clean your air ducts, you want to hire the right people to get the job done properly. Here are the questions you should ask before hiring an air duct cleaning contractor.
How long has your company been in business?
You can tell a few things by the length of time a company has been in business, including how experienced and reputable it is. Make sure the company you hire for air duct cleaning has been around long enough to have the experience needed to get the job done correctly—and that it is in compliance with any state, NADCA, and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) standards. In addition, it’s reassuring to see that a company has a long track record of satisfaction from previous customers.
Do you have references?
It’s always smart to ask for references, especially when you’re hiring contractors to work inside your home. Any reputable company will be happy to provide references, and plenty of them. Also check out the air duct company’s website and online reviews to find out what people say about their experiences with the company. Look for signs that the technicians are considerate, trustworthy, and tidy.
Can you provide proof of liability insurance?
You don’t want to end up stuck with a big bill if your home is damaged or a technician is injured on your property. A reputable air duct cleaning company will have liability insurance and should happily provide you with proof. Don’t risk your home and savings by hiring a company that won’t provide written proof of insurance.
Is the quoted price what I will actually pay?
Unfortunately, air duct cleaning has become associated with bait-and-switch scams and other shady pricing practices that put consumers on guard. Some companies entice customers with a whole-house air duct cleaning for a low price of $49 and then perform a substandard, incomplete job. These companies also tend to recommend unneeded extras and costly, unnecessary work. According to HomeAdvisor, a typical air duct cleaning runs between $120 and $660, depending on factors like your system and home.2 Beware of offers that seem too good to be true.
What guidelines do you follow?
Both the EPA and the NADCA have standards and guidelines for cleaning air ducts. The EPA doesn’t certify air duct cleaners, but it does provide a post-cleaning checklist so you know what to expect from an HVAC contractor or other duct cleaning provider. You can also look for an NADCA member because meeting such strict requirements for membership means that the company adheres to high standards.
Do you use biocides or other chemicals?
The purpose of having your air duct system cleaned is to help protect your family from harmful pollutants. The last thing you want to do is make it worse by adding unnecessary chemicals to the mix. Chemical biocides are sometimes recommended for use inside air ducts to clean and prevent future growth of mold and bacteria. If such measures are recommended, do your research to fully understand the pros and cons before consenting to use. The EPA has not approved any chemical biocides for air duct systems that are internally insulated, so keep that in mind.3
How will you make sure my home, family, and pets are safe during the cleaning?
Air duct cleaning can be messy business. Look for a company that uses drop cloths to keep debris off floors and furnishings. Contractors should also apply plastic guards to protect walls and trim. In addition, technicians need to wear booties over their shoes to keep from tracking dust and other debris throughout your home. Find out what kind of vetting process the company has for its technicians: ask for technicians with years of experience on a variety of air duct systems and make sure the company conducts background checks.
Will you clean my entire air duct system?
Some air duct cleaning services—especially those advertised as “whole-house specials”—address only a portion of your duct system. NADCA states that a company should place your entire system under negative pressure.4 This usually requires truck-mounted equipment, unlike “blow-and-go” service, which uses small, portable, round brushes to clean out your duct system and doesn’t give you the protection and cleaning your air duct system requires. A reputable company should clean your furnace and air conditioner, as well as the supply and return air ducts. It will also seal up the access panel and take care of all registers and grills.
Do you provide a visual inspection once work is complete?
It’s risky to take someone else’s word for it that your air duct system is free and clear of debris and hazardous pollutants. Protect your home and investment by selecting a company that offers both before and after images of your air duct system. You should be able to clearly see where problems were identified and how they were resolved. If a company doesn’t offer visual inspection, keep shopping around.
Protecting your home and family are your top priorities. Regular maintenance, like cleaning your air duct system, is part of that protection. Use these questions to have all the information you need to make an informed decision before you invite an air duct contractor into your home.
Rebecca is the lead safety reporter and in-house expert for SafeWise.com. She has been a journalist and blogger for over 25 years, with a focus on home and community safety for the past six. Rebecca spends dozens of hours every month testing and evaluating security products and strategies. Her safety expertise is sought after by publications, broadcast journalists, non-profit organizations, podcasts, and more. You can find her work and contributions in places like TechCrunch, The Washington Post, The Chicago Tribune, HGTV, MSN, and an ever-growing library of radio and TV clips. Learn more