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Suggestions for Choosing a Duct Cleaning Service Provider


To find companies that provide duct cleaning services, check your Yellow Pages under "duct cleaning" or contact the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) at the address and phone number in the information section located at the end of this guidance. Do not assume that all duct cleaning service providers are equally knowledgeable and responsible. Talk to at least three different service providers and get written estimates before deciding whether to have your ducts cleaned. When the service providers come to your home, ask them to show you the contamination that would justify having your ducts cleaned.
  • Do not hire duct cleaners who make sweeping claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning — such claims are unsubstantiated. Do not hire duct cleaners who recommend duct cleaning as a routine part of your heating and cooling system maintenance. You should also be wary of duct cleaners who claim to be certified by EPA. Note: EPA neither establishes duct cleaning standards nor certifies, endorses, or approves duct cleaning companies.
  • Do not allow the use of chemical biocides or chemical treatments unless you fully understand the pros and the cons (See "Unresolved Issues of Duct Cleaning).
  • Check references to be sure other customers were satisfied and did not experience any problems with their heating and cooling system after cleaning.
  • Contact your county or city office of consumer affairs or local Better Business Bureau to determine if complaints have been lodged against any of the companies you are considering. Interview potential service providers to ensure:
    • they are experienced in duct cleaning and have worked on systems like yours;
    • they will use procedures to protect you, your pets, and your home from contamination; and
    • they comply with NADCA's air duct cleaning standards and, if your ducts are constructed of fiber glass duct board or insulated internally with fiber glass duct liner, with the North American Insulation Manufacturers Association's (NAIMA) recommendations.
  • Ask the service provider whether they hold any relevant state licenses. As of 1996, the following states require air duct cleaners to hold special licenses: Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan and Texas. Other states may require them as well.
  • If the service provider charges by the hour, request an estimate of the number of hours or days the job will take, and find out whether there will be interruptions in the work. Make sure the duct cleaner you choose will provide a written agreement outlining the total cost and scope of the job before work begins.

What to Expect From an Air Duct Cleaning Service Provider


If you choose to have your ducts cleaned, the service provider should:
  • Open access ports or doors to allow the entire system to be cleaned and inspected. Inspect the system before cleaning to be sure that there are no asbestos-containing materials (e.g., insulation, register boots, etc.) in the heating and cooling system. Asbestos-containing materials require specialized procedures and should not be disturbed or removed except by specially trained and equipped contractors.
  • Use vacuum equipment that exhausts particles outside of the home or use only high-efficiency particle air (HEPA) vacuuming equipment if the vacuum exhausts inside the home.
  • Protect carpet and household furnishings during cleaning.
  • Use well-controlled brushing of duct surfaces in conjunction with contact vacuum cleaning to dislodge dust and other particles.
  • Use only soft-bristled brushes for fiberglass duct board and sheet metal ducts internally lined with fiberglass. (Although flex duct can also be cleaned using soft-bristled brushes, it can be more economical to simply replace accessible flex duct.)
  • Take care to protect the duct work, including sealing and re-insulating any access holes the service provider may have made or used so they are airtight.
  • Follow NADCA's standards for air duct cleaning and NAIMA's recommended practice for ducts containing fiber glass lining or constructed of fiber glass duct board.

How to Determine if the Duct Cleaner Did A Thorough Job


A thorough visual inspection is the best way to verify the cleanliness of your heating and cooling system. Some service providers use remote photography to document conditions inside ducts. All portions of the system should be visibly clean; you should not be able to detect any debris with the naked eye. Show the Post-Cleaning Consumer Checklist to the service provider before the work begins. After completing the job, ask the service provider to show you each component of your system to verify that the job was performed satisfactorily.

If you answer "No" to any of the questions on the checklist, this may indicate a problem with the job. Ask your service provider to correct any deficiencies until you can answer "yes" to all the questions on the checklist.

Post Cleaning Consumer Checklist Yes No
General Did the service provider obtain access to and clean the entire heating and cooling system, including ductwork and all components (drain pans, humidifiers, coils, and fans)?
Has the service provider adequately demonstrated that duct work and plenums are clean? (Plenum is a space in which supply or return air is mixed or moves; can be duct, joist space, attic and crawl spaces, or wall cavity.)
Heating Is the heat exchanger surface visibly clean?
Cooling Components Are both sides of the cooling coil visibly clean?
If you point a flashlight into the cooling coil, does light shine through the other side? It should if the coil is clean.
Are the coil fins straight and evenly spaced (as opposed to being bent over and smashed together)?
Is the coil drain pan completely clean and draining properly?
Blower Are the blower blades clean and free of oil and debris?
Is the blower compartment free of visible dust or debris?
Plenums Is the return air plenum free of visible dust or debris?
Do filters fit properly and are they the proper efficiency as recommended by HVAC system manufacturer?
Is the supply air plenum (directly downstream of the air handling unit) free of moisture stains and contaminants?
Metal Ducts Are interior ductwork surfaces free of visible debris? (Select several sites at random in both the return and supply sides of the system.)
Fiber Glass Is all fiber glass material in good condition (i.e., free of tears and abrasions; well adhered to underlying materials)?
Access Doors Are newly installed access doors in sheet metal ducts attached with more than just duct tape (e.g., screws, rivets, mastic, etc.)?
With the system running, is air leakage through access doors or covers very slight or non-existent?
Air Vents Have all registers, grilles, and diffusers been firmly reattached to the walls, floors, and/or ceilings?
Are the registers, grilles, and diffusers visibly clean?
System Operation Does the system function properly in both the heating and cooling modes after cleaning?
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