Real Estate Report: Air Duct Cleaning – Scam or Useful?

Real Estate Report: Air Duct Cleaning – Scam or Useful?

Pat Colburn

I noticed some “coupons” for air duct cleaning in the mail and decided to take a closer look at the services offered. On the internet, I found examples of bait and switch artists ripping off unsuspecting homeowners and some seemingly legitimate contractors performing this service. But according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), air duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems.

So why have them cleaned?

If you just don’t like the idea of anything being dirty in your house, be aware that your concern could cost you hundreds of dollars on top of that $49 special. And, as EPA studies show, dirty air ducts do not increase particle levels in homes.

If someone in your household has allergies or asthma and you think the trigger is coming from your ducts, simply cleaning them will not resolve the problem. Most likely, you have leaky ducts that are pulling in pollens and molds from the basement, crawlspace or attic. Remember though, just because something may look like mold, only a laboratory analysis can confirm it. For about $50, some microbiology laboratories can tell you whether a sample sent to them on a clear strip of sticky household tape is mold or simply a substance that it resembles.

Sealing ducts can be a DIY project, but you will need the right materials. While there are a 1001 uses for duct tape, sealing your ducts is not one of them. Ask the hardware store for the special tape that is made for duct sealing. It needs to be UL listed and have a 181 written on it. The 181B may be easier to mold around the ducts. Or you may prefer the paste over the tape. Mastic is a water-based adhesive that creates an air-tight seal on duct seams and joints and is available in tubes or tubs. According to some, the Mastic provides a better seal.

By eliminating the air leakage, you will increase the overall efficiency of the duct system, which will eliminate unwanted pollutants entering your house and cut energy costs. It may surprise you to learn how much you’ve spent heating that crawlspace!

If you still want to have your ducts cleaned, contact the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) for a referral to a licensed professional. Show the EPA Post-Cleaning Consumer Checklist to the service provider before the work begins and upon completion, ask the service provider to confirm each component of your system was performed satisfactorily.

If you’re concerned about air quality in your home, EPA recommends that your furnace, stove or fireplace be inspected for proper functioning and serviced before each heating season to protect against carbon monoxide poisoning. The best source for locating a contractor for this work is Energy Upgrade California. Whether you decide to participate in this rebate program or not, the contractors listed on this website have taken rigorous training and would be the best choice to check your furnace systems and how your entire house operates.