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Air Duct Cleaning: Is It a Scam?

air duct cleaning tips and definitions

If you’ve ever had an HVAC tech push you to invest in air duct cleaning services, you were probably a bit conflicted.

On one hand, it sounds logical. It makes sense that your air ducts get dirty over time and, like any other part of your system, if it’s dirty it should be cleaned...right?

On the other hand, how can you be sure that your air ducts are actually dirty? Is “air duct cleaning” really necessary or are you being scammed?

Well, here’s the true answer according to the Environmental Protection Agency:

You should never invest in air duct cleaning except on an “as-needed” basis.

So when is air duct cleaning needed? 

When you have one of these 3 issues:

  • Visible mold growth
  • Ducts infested with vermin
  • Dirt/dust clogged ducts

Want to know how to spot the signs of each of these situations? Then, read on…

Mold growth

Signs: Mold visible on air vents, smells musty (sometimes described as a pungent, sweet cedar smell or dirty socks)

What to do: If you think you have mold in your air ducts, you can try taking picture of the inside of your air ducts with your phone to confirm that there is mold. Otherwise, have a professional inspect the ducts for mold. If they come back saying that there is mold, make sure they can show you a picture.

If there is mold, you’ll need to remove the conditions causing it, otherwise the mold will just come back. For example, if your ducts are insulated and the insulation got wet and grew mold, the insulation needs to be removed and replaced.


Signs: A rotting smell that gets worse when the AC turns on, you see bugs crawling out of vents, you notice small droppings, food or remains of pests when you remove register and look into vents.

What to do: First, you’ll want to call an exterminator to get rid of the pests. Then, have a professional clean your ducts to remove the bacteria, droppings, dander, skin, etc. left behind by the pests.

Dirt & Dust

Signs: A puff of dust shoots out from registers when AC kicks on, the house is dusty a day or two after cleaning the house.

What to do: Have a professional come in to clean your ducts.

Notice any of these signs? Tips on picking a company

If you think you have any of these issues, your next step is to choose a company that offers duct cleaning services.

But beware, there are plenty of companies who claim to offer duct cleaning services but don’t actually clean your air ducts thoroughly. Or they may only clean a small portion of the ductwork (i.e. only the part of the ducts that are visible when peering into the registers).

To differentiate between an honest company and one that is just out for your money, check out these tips:

Signs of an honest duct cleaning company:

  • Techs certified by the NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaner Association)
  • References from satisfied past clients
  • Advanced vacuum systems powerful enough to thoroughly clean ducts
  • Written, in-home estimates of the job

Signs of a dishonest duct cleaning company:

  • Unusually low prices (average prices should range from $300-$1,000)
  • Techs who can’t show photo proof of problems (should be able to show both before and after photo proof)
  • Techs who insist you need “regular” or “annual” air duct cleaning

Need air duct cleaning services from a licensed tech?

At MSP, we provide air duct cleaning services but will never push a homeowner to invest in the service unless it’s absolutely needed.

Think you have one of the 3 issues we discussed above?

No worries. Just schedule your appointment with our licensed techs today.

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Categories: Air Conditioning