Angie's List Report: Cleaning your air ducts

With winter approaching, should you have the air ducts in your home cleaned?

We have more information on what you need to know before making a decision.

Adam Ketterman says he suffered from a nagging, dry cough after some drywall work created a lot of dust in his home.

He scheduled an air duct cleaning and immediately felt his symptoms improve.

"I did feel a lot better physically right after the duct cleaning like within two to three days,” said Ketterman. “I noticed it was like flipping a switch, so I was kind of excited about that.”

There is no scientific evidence that regular duct cleaning improves air quality, but some consumers have reported that when they have their ducts cleaned, they experience fewer allergy symptoms and cleaner air.

Air duct cleaning is designed to remove air-borne dust and debris from the air duct system components of HVAC, forced air systems, gravity heaters and other related systems.

"This is the hose for the negative air machine that pulls about 5,500 cubic feet of air per minute,” Dave Adams, the owner of an air duct cleaning company. “We cut into the supply and the return side. We push through the system. The debris comes through the system, hits this hose and then is carried outside to the negative air machine filter and all of the debris is captured outside so nothing will be inside your home."

Angie's List says you must do your research when hiring to ensure you are working with a reputable contractor. Beware of bait-and-switch tactics that advertise an unbelievably low rate and then immediately start tacking on up-charges or using scare tactics.

"One of the more common things that we hear about with air duct cleaning comes down to pricing,” said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie’s List. “It's important for consumers to get written in-home estimates because a lot of times air duct cleaning is based on either the square footage of the home or the number of vents. A typical air duct cleaning might cost anywhere from $300-$500. If you find you're being offered a really low price, you're going to want to question it."

There are a couple of ways to tell if your air ducts are dirty.

"One of the easiest ways to find out is to take the vent cover off, stick a camera phone down there and take a picture,” said Adams. “They are going to be able to see down the duct. Another sign is if the house is dusty a day or two after cleaning the house."

No matter who you hire, ask a lot of questions, just to clear the air.

Qualified air duct cleaners will follow strict standards set by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.

Allowing an unqualified contractor to clean your ducts could be worse than not having them cleaned at all.

More particles could be broken up and released into your home or your heating and cooling system could be damaged.

Content:
Although the most important thing a homeowner can do is change the furnace filters and keep the home HVAC system properly maintained, some homeowners also have regular air duct cleaning.

What is air duct cleaning?
The removal of all air-borne dust and debris from the air duct system components of HVAC, forced air systems, gravity heaters and other related systems.

According to the EPA, there is no scientific evidence that regular duct cleaning improves air quality, but some consumers have reported that having their ducts cleaned has led to reduced allergy symptoms and cleaner air.

Angie's List, the nation's leading provider of consumer reviews , asked highly rated duct cleaners to share the top reasons for air duct cleaning.
1. Improve air circulation.
2. Energy savings.
3. Improve system performance.
4. Make breathing easier.

How often should I schedule duct cleaning?
Expert recommendations vary on this subject, but most experts agree that you will benefit from duct cleaning every three to five years. A cleaning may be in order if you have smokers in the household, pets with high amounts of hair and dander, notice excessive dust, water contamination or damage, after home renovations or remodeling or prior occupancy to a new home. If you want to know what the inside of your vents look like, open up the vent covers and take a picture.

Allowing an unqualified contractor to clean your ducts, though, could be worse than not having them cleaned at all. More particles could be broken up and released into your home or your HVAC system could be damaged.

Angie's List Tips: Hiring a professional air duct cleaner
1. Get written estimates from at least three different companies and check references. Most quality air duct cleaning companies use outdoor vented equipment, so all dust and debris is captured and contained outside the home.
2. Check if your state requires air duct cleaning licensure and if so, have the company provide proof of licensure - as well as proof of insurance - before you hire.
3. Make potential air duct cleaning companies provide a written checklist of exactly what they will do, and ask them to verify each task as they complete it. Qualified air duct cleaners will follow strict standards set by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). NADCA recommends source-removal practices, which generally involves placing the ductwork under negative pressure to draw out dust and pollutants that line the surface of the ducts. Ask the technician to take before and after pictures of your ducts and inspect the job before you pay.
4. Don't hire on price alone. Any deal that sounds too good to be true usually is. The cost of service averages between $300 and $500, but depends on factors such as where you live, square footage, number of vents, and how dirty your ducts are. Expect the service to take three to four hours to complete. If your home has two furnaces, the service will take longer.
5. Beware of bait-and-switch tactics that advertise an unbelievably low rate and then immediately start tacking on up-charges or using scare tactics.


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