Beware of Duct Cleaning Scams

SAN DIEGO, CALIFORNIA — While there are many air conditioning services that will help you save energy and money, there is one that is a waste of money for the majority of people with residential HVAC systems.

“What some San Diego heating and air conditioning companies are doing is offering a cut-rate deal on ductwork cleaning, then convincing homeowners once inside the home that they need additional, pricey services for the sake of their health,” says Gabriel Carini.

According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. (http://www.epa.gov/iaq/pubs/airduct.html) Not only is duct cleaning typically ineffective, there is also a good chance that portions of the system and ductwork will be damaged in the process. Meanwhile, these services can cost anywhere from $450 to $1,000, depending on the services offered, the size of the system to be cleaned, system accessibility, climatic region and the level of contamination.

“I’ve had personal experience with duct cleaning and have seen how much damage it can cause. Most companies use a disinfectant spray that has a nice smell to it that fools the customer into thinking the ducts are clean,” Carini says.

NBC’s Dateline did a hidden-camera investigation about duct cleaning companies back in 2011 and found that many of them were using these bait and switch marketing tactics. Some businesses were prosecuted for fraud and shut down but just moved to open businesses in another state. (http://openchannel.nbcnews.com/_news/2011/01/30/5956602-dateline-looks-inside-national-network-of-air-duct-cleaning-scams)

The threat is still a problem. The Better Business Bureau published a press release in January about companies in Texas that are scamming people after receiving complaints from consumers in the greater Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth areas. (http://www.bbb.org/blog/2013/01/air-duct-company-cleans-out-consumers-wallets/)

“Instead of trying to clean dirty ductwork, I would recommend putting the money into replacing or sealing it, so you know that the ducts are clean and intact,” says Carini. “If ductwork is truly dirty, identifying the source of the problem and correcting it is the only way to make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Some problems with ductwork are easy to spot if you know what you’re looking for, but an air conditioning technician can determine exactly what the problem is and recommend the best long-term solution. These are the two most common causes of dirty ductwork:Flexible ductwork may have tears in the protective coating, kinks, flattened areas, exposed insulation or poor sealing at joints – all of which can allow dirt and pollutants to be sucked into the ductwork to be circulated through your home.

  • Flexible ductwork may have tears in the protective coating, kinks, flattened areas, exposed insulation or poor sealing at joints – all of which can allow dirt and pollutants to be sucked into the ductwork to be circulated through your home.
  • Sometimes the culprit of damaged ductwork is wildlife that has made its home inside your home. Roof rats, squirrels and raccoons can severely damage flexible ductwork and compromise your system.

“Whether or not you decide to have the air ducts in your home cleaned, replaced or sealed, committing to a routine preventive maintenance program is essential to minimize duct contamination and keep your system running properly,”

No matter what you decide, finding the right company to take care of your heating and air conditioning needs is extremely important like we’ve talked about on our blog before. (http://www.cariniair.com/tips-for-hiring-a-heating-and-cooling-service-repair-and-installation-expert/) Some heating and cooling services providers are more interested in making money than their customers’ best interest. They may use technicians with no education, training or certifications or rely on high-pressure sales tactics to get you to buy services you don’t need.

“While I wouldn’t advise people get their ductwork cleaned, if they’re convinced they need it I’d recommend getting a reputable business to give them an estimate and to check with the BBB and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association before hiring them,” says Carini.