Dear Angie: I want to hire a reputable company to clean my air ducts. What should I expect to pay for a two-story house with about 20 vents and two air conditioner/furnaces? — Barbara C., Tulsa, Okla.
Answer: We've seen a lot of reports from Angie's List members in which they were quoted prices ranging from $49 to more than $1,000 for air-duct cleaning.
With such a wide array of pricing, how is a homeowner to know what to pay? I recommend you start by avoiding the super-low "deals."
If you hire a reputable company to clean your ducts, expect to pay $300 to $500, depending on the size of your house, the number of ducts you have and how difficult or easy it is for the company to access them.
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In your case, the cost probably will be closer to $500 than $300, but check with a few companies in your area to see what they charge.
What's most important is to find a company with a good reputation in your community. Unfortunately, duct cleaning is an industry in which we see some companies try bait-and-switch tactics. These scammers will advertise that unbelievably low rate — typically with a coupon in a mailer or flier — and then immediately start tacking on up-charges or use scare tactics, such as saying they've found mold in your ducts, almost as soon as they get in the door.
When you hire someone to fix your stove or clean your carpets, it's pretty easy to tell right away if they did the job the way they were supposed to. It's not as easy, though, to know whether your ducts were cleaned properly. A seedy company or an air-duct cleaner with little experience could overcharge you, might not have the proper equipment to do the job correctly or could do costly damage to your ductwork with inferior equipment, potentially stirring up even more dirt and dust in your home.
My advice is to do plenty of research on a company before you allow them to clean your ducts. Read reviews, talk to friends and neighbors and talk to the person who will do the cleaning. Ask about his or her process. A good company should provide a checklist of exactly what it will do. Most reputable cleaners are well-versed on the tactics of their less- scrupulous competitors and will point out red flags to look for.
Also, the majority of reputable air-duct cleaning companies use high-tech, outdoor-vented equipment that filters all the dirt and dust they capture to the outside of the house. Avoid any company that uses handheld vacuums and drills. Also, a thorough air-duct cleaning should take a few hours. If a company tries to get in and out in less than an hour, it probably did an inferior job.