Beware of air duct cleaners who 'blow and go'

Fraudulent air duct cleaners will attempt to over charge you based on the "mold test". (Photo courtesy of Michelle Mckinzie)

Fraudulent air duct cleaners will attempt to over charge you based on the "mold test". (Photo courtesy of Michelle Mckinzie)

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Every day, the National Air Duct Cleaners Association fields complaints about "blow and go" companies offering prices as low as $40, but they add charges on-site for mold remediation and various products using aggressive sales tactics.

"From the moment they pull up to your house, they're looking for ways to upsell you," says NADCA executive director John Schulte, adding that duct cleaning should cost at least $400 and take two people about four hours for an average home.

Consumer alerts from attorneys general, media and advocacy groups have recently been issued for shoddy duct cleaners across the country. In March, the Massachusetts attorney general settled with a Worcester company for $18,500 after it failed to provide services and merchandise to consumers who responded to ads for cheap duct cleaning.

In September, a Connecticut man was arrested and charged with violation of home improvement laws and larceny for allegedly scamming customers who responded to ads for $70 duct cleanings by providing substandard or unnecessary work.

Member Wael Masri thought Global Air Pro would clean the ducts in his Raleigh, N.C., home for less than $100 based on an advertisement, but he says the technician charged him $1,000 for extra services and products that weren't delivered. Then, Masri's air conditioner stopped working and he had to hire a handyman to fix damage he attributes to Global Air Pro.

"The sales guy was very suave and charming, and I was caught off guard," Masri says.

Global Air Pro's number was disconnected.

Member Nicole Kobrowski says a technician from Indy Air Care in Indianapolis tried to sell her $2,100 in services based on a mold test she says was fake. After a two-hour sales pitch, she decided to not purchase the service.

"Unfortunately, I'll never get that wasted time back," says Kobrowski, who responded to a $50 coupon for duct cleaning.

Indy Air Care did not return calls seeking comment.

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Please explain the need to clean HVAC duct work. What I mean is, describe in detail the harmful materials that You found in YOUR home (confirmed by an independent reputable lab); not the scary stuff you heard on the Today show this morning. I can send you a letter that tells you your ducts are fine for $25 if that will help you sleep better tonight. Don’t drink and drive and fasten your seat belt and stop worrying about the latest fad disease you saw on TV.

Why dont you all grow up and stop gossipping about it there are hard working men,women and children out there, so think before you speak as everyone has said in most every post (YOU GET WHAT YOU PAID FOR)

I just responded to and Angie's list special and got the hard cell. Unfortunately, I took the bate and paid $1500 for extensive cleaning in my small cape code house. The salesman was very slick. They claim they will come back every 6 months (for free) and clean the ducts. We'll see.

Yes...I worked 4 a company in charlotte n.c called united air...we were paid on commission...I didn't stay long because I am from wv and that's not how we work...this company would charge 40 dollars for initial duct cleaning and want u to sell the world to them...the duct cleaning was bull crap...u couldn't see anything the little hand held blower was supposed to blow out...needless to say...I didn't stay very long w that company...because I didn't want to rip off a hard working man

I had the same experience in Portland. There was a big add in the paper lately where they do the duct cleaning for $75 but they sell the products for $200 plus ...they actually try to sell 500 plus worth of stuff...crazy biz practice.

looking for a honest person for Airduct cleaning.Las Vegas NV

My suggestion is to use efficient filters (at least MERV 8 rated) after duct cleaning is complete or after a new system is installed. This will keep dirt from collecting in the air handler and the air feed ducts. Change them every 4 to 6 weeks. There are 4-5 inch thick filters that last longer but most homes aren't equipped for them. Beside the fact that they protect the equipment they also provide cleaner breathing air in the home and less dust on furniture.

After 21 years in the duct cleaning industry I thought I had seen it all! However the general public never ceases to amaze me. They claim to be smart but they still think THEY are different and special and CAN get a good job for a cheap price! We get so many calls that are only interested in the price. A reputable company is going to want to inspect the project and give a written quote if it is more than a small house. WHY would you do business with a company who is lying in print even when they say $99??? NADCA has been saying for YEARS it should cost $400 to $1000 for a one system standard size house and those are 1997 prices. Have you noticed that gas costs more than it did in 1997? If you want it done right use a reputable company, get testimonials, do YOUR homework or done waste your money and risk damage to your HVAC system. Ask ti see their licnese, make sure their employees are bonded, drug free and have had background checks done. I have been telling the public this for 20 years. When are they going to wake up and realize that they are being ripped off? YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR!!! And why would anyone let a carpet cleaner, chimney sweep or swimming pool cleaner touch your HVAC system unless they are properly licensed? Just because they have a vacuum hose on their truck does not make them a professional air duct cleaner. AND just because they are a member of NADCA does not GUARANTEE they will do good quality work although it does eliminate some of the worst ones and gives you someone to register a complaint with. NADCA will drop the membership of companies who get unresolved complaints. And if ducts are cleaned properly they do NOT need to be cleaned every 2 years unless you are a horrible house keeper and no doctor I have ever met will make that statement. I see this in in ads all the time. Bottom line, wake up and realize that this is a service that needs to be done every 5 to 7 years, it ain't cheap but we are barely making a profit with all the increases we have to absorb to not raise our prices. Do your home work and choose a reputable company that you can verify with referrals.

Geri, mold needs moisture and a food source. could be yeast, bacteria, or mold, never trust anyones 5 senses, get it tested to be sure quantatative lab report from certified lab. don't use carpet cleaners to do the job, high overhead, low training, bad products. Ensure they are certified to test, remove etc. Stop the moisture first!, Mike the EPA doesn't recommend ducts get anti-mold chemicals sprayed. Ensure they give MSDS sheets and all statements in writing.

I own a chimney and airduct cleaning company. The minimum for a cleaning is $450. I have to pay full insurance fuel payroll and so on. When you can do $200 worth of work for $60 something is wrong!!! It takes us at LEAST an hour to set up a job and an hour to pack up. ALSO why can't the attorny genral do anything about the SCAM chimney sweeps from NY??? They are causing safety issues and are going to kill some one! Best advice get 3 estimates! If two guys say $200 and another says $60, something is wrong.... in my opinion after 3 estimates and a customer hired the guy that was a third of the price you got what you paid for.

My mom got taken by one of these "blow and go" adds. She had a coupon for a $40 initial assessment. She'd had the ducts cleaned a year before and knew that it would be a couple of hundred dollars for a complete job. The guy came in and asked her if she wanted to have her dryer vent cleaned, new, permanent AC filter, and some other things. He did clean the dusts but my mom said that it was a half-a**ed job. He said that he would send over the permanent filter. At the end he quoted her a price of almost $1000 dollars. Unfortunately, no other family member was there to challenge and she paid him. He did send over the filter after she called him and finally sent over an itemized "estimate".

I hired one of these blow and go cleaners at my house. All they wanted to do was sell me more and wanted $200 to vacuum the a/c air intake. I got them out as quick as I could. I know there are good companies out there. I know you can not expect much for a $40 service call...

Florida Air Duct Cleaners = BLOW AND GO. $1500 for pleasant smelling spray in air ducts (mold remediation) and 3 year service agreement. $1500 for less than 2 hours work. No vacuum was used. They were at house less than 2 hours. On 1st service call (6 months later), they tried again to upsell. We switched AC maintenance companies.

i own a air duct cleaning company in the ne. i myself use specials to compete with the competition out there. we do around 200 dollars of work for around 60 dollars. this is not misleading our ads are very straight forward. as a company you should be honest but still have the right to offer additional services which are beneficial in most homes. scare tactics are not ok like saying you have black mold or saying your house will be condemmed, these are wrong. the problem lies in the technicians ,and finding good honest help is hard . once the specail the customer called for is done we will offer additonal work and the customer has the right to decline all work and in some cases the customer is offered a better deal then list price depending on how much work they are looking to have us do. no work above or beyond is done with out the customers consent and signature. also yes we do thousands of jobs for the 60 ,80 or 90 dollars every year.and ive been in businees for 3 years same ofice , but we do get the blow-n-goes every year for a few weeks just trying to scrap up work. on thing about this site is it allows uneducated people slander everyone that works hard to make all realistic customers happy and try hard to offer a good service. so yes roy , in responce to your comment there are people like me that do go out for two hours of work for 40 dollars . its a risk that most people are to scared to chance , i guess the american dream has been lost.

After seeing the article about Indy Aircare it really scares me that I was dooped too. I had them clean under my house after they said they was mold. Don't believe it. How can I find out if I really have mold.

I'm a duct cleaner in NH, and fortunately there are very few blo'n'go's in this state. The sad thing is people of obvious means are always still looking for good work on the cheap. I've learned to respectfully suggest that, if a customer thinks they can get the same quality of work for a fraction of my price (covering DOT regs, Lead Safe Work regs, Workers Comp, Vehicle Ins, and Liability Ins.) then by all means hire the lo-ball comp. But if you're willing to get a great job at a fair price, we can do business. The old cliches stick around for a reason, they're true. You can't get something for nothin', If it seems too good to be true, it usually is, and YOU GET WHAT YOU PAY FOR, ALWAYS. Happy New Year Folks, and Breathe Easy in the Granite State.

@Roy, your comment about negative pressure tests is useful. Next time, could you avoid insulting the people who've been taken advantage of? One of the best things about Angie's List is that it's a friendly, cooperative community. Thanks!

Anyone that believes these adds are living in a fantasy world or not to bright. People, wake up for Gods sake. Do you actually think that anyone is going to clean your ducting for $40.00. It cost more than that to actually get the technician and the equipment to your home. If you hire these crooks you deserve what you get. All these adds say under negative pressure. Very few systems will hold a negative pressure test and that is their way out of the low price and it goes up from there. Just use your head, would you work at some ones house doing anything for $40.00 and spend two hours to earn it. This 2011, think about it.

First, I am sure you meant to say TOO bright. Please refrain from bashing people while utilizing improper spelling. Secondly, I used a coupon from Valpak from local guys in our city. It was for a 69.99 cleaning and I READ the fine details of the print and I knew it would cost more money to get done what I needed done to my system. So, with having my coils serviced as well, It cost $290. It works 100x better now and it fixed our problem we were having with our coils freezing and thus leaking water from the furnace. Thirdly and quote, “All these adds say under negative pressure.” Surely, I assume you mean ads with one d and not two. Again, you insult the intelligence of others when you clearly display a lack of yourself. With this being said, I will go ahead and correct some more of your errors since you are unable to think outside the box yourself. First, you do not always have to pay for a service fee. In fact, a lot of well-respected establishments will offer you a free estimate. YES, that is in the year 2013! Can you believe that? Secondly, a lot of well-respected establishments also have deals for free service calls WITH a repair or maintenance. So please, know your market and stop spreading slander on the internet. I am sure you are not Mr. Perfect yourself; you have already displayed this. Thanks again and you have a GREAT day!

Roy, do you really think that it's the fault of the people who buy a deal or respond to an ad? You sound like a scammer supporter. There are people who are new home owners who have no idea what it entails. All companies should be honest of forthcoming, end of story.

you get what you pay for

DO NOT USE FIRST DUCT CLEANING SERVICES (AKA International Duct Cleaning) of Chicago, IL. Company headquartered in Skokie, IL, Website: I am embarrassed to say this but I was taken by one of these “blow and go” ads I received in a Valpak of coupons that comes to my house monthly. I recently purchased a house that was in foreclosure for almost a year so I thought it would be a good idea to get the air ducts cleaned. I found a company that promised to do the entire house for $29.99-10% military discount. I contacted the company and they setup the appointment. A week later they arrived and I handed them my coupon. They told me to throw it away it is worthless but they would give me an even better deal but did not say how much. They literally used a handvac and a brush attached to a drill (not joking), sprayed some smelly cologne like deodorizer, and gave me an invoice for $1,000.00! I was so upset and refused to pay it but these Middle Eastern people would not take no for an answer. I looked at the charges and they charged for oxine $25.00, envirocon $50.00, BBJ (I do not know what it is either $125.00) and for the brush and drill use for 30 minutes they charged a staggering $400.00! I am currently disputing the charges and will be filing a civil lawsuit for damages due to them making the air in the house worse!

Aug. 9, 2011- One day until school starts, WOOHOO! TIP TO ADD HERE: Don't hire a handyman to fix your A/C. "Then, Masri's air conditioner stopped working and he had to hire a handyman to fix damage he attributes to..." I got a call from a renter (wake up call for crooked landlords- another subject worth investigating, Angie) who had some moisture/mold problems in the ceiling. They also said that their dryer vent was pouring water back into their home. This was my first time hearing that problem, but I had an idea as to why. Skeptical, I went and checked it out and sure enough, water was pouring out in spurts. Upon investigation I found that the vent tube was clogged with years of lint buildup. The moisture was caused by condensation, humidity and the lack of air escape. I wish I took some photos of the dripping shopping bag I filled with wet lint. Now the renter's energy bill was sure to be a little lower, he would not have to replace the dryer so frequently a third time, and his mold and moisture problem at the ceiling could now be addressed and repaired. There were plenty of “upsells” that, if not remediated, would inevitably lead to a bigger problems and not just with the walls, but "possibly" even with the resident’s health (or his children’s health). Not mentioning the problem would have made me the bad guy (at least in my own mind). The problem with this customer was that he kept listening to all those negative ads by the likes of Angie Hicks (bless her heart, she does a fantastic job), but sometimes listening to all those negative ads can become a bigger disaster in itself. Then how much will it cost to repair? Oh, and by the way, this ain't no one way street here; there are plenty of crooked customers, too. That’s another story in itself. Especially in today's economy, there are plenty of crooks, cons and thieves out there, but that doesn't mean every one of us professionals are the same. Despite not-so-pleasant times, I still have to turn people down or make them wait for service. I guess that's what integrity does to the good guys (and gals). There’s my full name. Do a background check on me if you please. :)

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