Air duct cleaning

Many HVAC repair and maintenance companies also offer air duct cleaning services, which typically cost $300 to $500.

Some companies specialize as air duct cleaners. They generally recommend having air ducts cleaned every 3 to 5 years, or even more frequently to reduce pollutants in the air.

However, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency warns that there is no scientific evidence that cleaning air ducts regularly improves air quality, and some HVAC professionals say it is a waste of money.

Yet some allergy sufferers, including Angie's List members, have reported that having their ducts cleaned has led to reduced allergy symptoms and cleaner air.

Although the EPA does not recommend routinely hiring air duct cleaning services, it does suggest it be done when there are specific reasons for doing so. This would include factors such as:

• You see substantial quantities of visible mold growth within the heating ducts or present on other parts of your home's HVAC system.

• Pests such as mice, rats or insects have infested portions of the duct system.

• Excessive amounts of dust or debris clog the duct system and release dust or debris into the home through the vent registers when the system operates.

The National Air Duct Cleaners Association agrees with most of the EPA's stance on air duct cleaning with one exception -- it does recommend routine work by quality air duct cleaners every few years.

According to the NADCA, consider the following when making a decision whether or not to hire an air duct cleaner:

• Smokers in the household

• Pets that shed high amounts of hair and dander

• Water contamination or damage to the home or HVAC system

• Residents with allergies or asthma who might benefit from a reduction in the amount of indoor air pollutants in the home's HVAC system

• After home renovations or remodeling

• Prior to occupancy of a new home

Avoid duct-cleaning scams

When you hire someone to put up wallpaper or build a fence, it's easy to see whether it's a good job. But with services like air duct cleaning, there's much more risk of fraud because the homeowner can't easily check the work. A disreputable company may not have the proper equipment to do a quality air duct cleaning job, may overcharge you, may leave the ducts dirty or filled with debris and may even do costly damage to your home's HVAC system. Some companies entice you with very low offers, such as $59 for a whole-house cleaning, then pile on extra charges. 

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