Duct cleaning has always been a tough sell. Even though homeowners are increasingly aware that indoor air pollution is an issue, knowing the location of dirty ducts, let alone reaping the benefits of getting them clean, remains somewhat elusive. And this is understandable if you consider how often homeowners have seen unrealistic promises made by companies offering to clean their ductwork–and charging hundreds, sometimes thousands of dollars for it.

However, not all air duct service companies are running a scam. A well-known company may charge more because they will do a better job than someone who isn’t as experienced or knowledgeable about your heating and cooling system. But there are still some tips here that you can follow to get what you pay for.

Research the company.

Before you decide to use a particular company, do some research. For one thing, carefully check out the company and what they offer. The contractors should answer all of your questions about exactly what they will do, how long it will take them, and how much they will charge. They should also provide proof that they use their equipment and that the job is completed by only one person.

Ask them for references from previous customers that you can call. This is an important step–if they are reluctant to provide names and numbers of people you may contact, this could be a sign of a scam operation.

If possible, drive-by homes where ductwork was cleaned and see if the homeowners have air conditioning units on their roofs or windows in the front of their houses or elsewhere–signs that their ducts were recently cleaned.

Get your price quote in writing.

If you ask for a price quote–be sure to get it in writing! And don’t pay any money until after the work is done. If you have to send a check or give your credit card information before services are rendered, chances are good that you won’t see those funds again either.

And if cost is an issue and you’re considering getting quotes from several companies before making a decision, be aware that most companies won’t give you a price quote over the phone. Instead, they’ll ask for a visit from one of their salespeople. So if you have your heart set on getting price quotes over the phone before you select a company, be sure to ask up front whether or not that’s an option.

Why you should get your air ducts cleaned now.

If you’ve been thinking about having your air ducts cleaned but haven’t gotten around to it yet, now might be a good time to go ahead and take care of the project. Many companies who perform this cleaning offer special pricing during certain months to get rid of inventory left over from the previous year–which means you may be able to save money by waiting until January or February before you make your purchase.

You should also determine which service is best suited to your home.

To clean the entire heating and cooling system, hire a professional who has specialized training in this area. Beware of any company that offers duct cleaning services without having done extensive training. Some companies may also offer duct sealing, which means they will inspect your ducts for leaks before applying a sealant to keep dirt and dust from passing through them. If you live in an older home with metal ductwork, it’s probably best to have all your ducts sealed because this can help reduce energy costs significantly by preventing heat loss or gain, depending on the season.

What you should know about the process before getting started.

Before anything else, be sure to shut off your furnace or air conditioning system at the main power switch. Doing this makes sure that no one can turn on your system while you are trying to get rid of whatever is in the ducts. Also, be aware that professional duct cleaning companies will most likely use brushes or other devices that spin around quickly to dislodge dust and debris from the metal surfaces of the ductwork.

The professional cleaner may also use pressurized air in conjunction with these spinning implements to ensure that they remove everything in your duct; so, don’t be surprised when they send a blast of air out into the room after removing a hose or nozzle from inside your supply duct. You should also pay attention when they’re working around any sheet metal parts of your venting system because they can be quite sharp.

Professionals will use special techniques to protect your flooring and cabinets.

Another issue that you may encounter is damage to your flooring or countertops. Some companies choose to lay tarps over these areas to prevent any damage, while others skip this step altogether because it causes additional work for the technicians. A third option is that the duct cleaner sets up a containment system in which they can attach their vacuum hose to one end of it and then place the other end into a separate part of the home (away from anything valuable). This method rarely works, but it’s worth mentioning here nonetheless.

Remove and bag all supply registers in the room that the technician will work on.

If there are any sections of your duct system where there is a concentration of accumulations, then it may make sense for them to get thoroughly washed out at this time. It’s usually best practice for the duct cleaners and the homeowner to remove and bag all of the supply registers before working on a particular room to reduce the number of dust particles within an enclosed space.

Get out of the way.

It should go without saying, but do not stand in the way of spinning tools and blasting air nozzles in use. You don’t want to get hit by these things. If you have a vent fan in your home that tends to produce an oddly-shaped pile of dust and debris in its wake, then it may be time to consider having your ducts cleaned for you as well. Particularly, if the fan is conveniently right next to your supply registers or returns.

Take your kids and pets out for a couple of hours.

It’s usually best for everyone involved if you take your pets and any children who may be present elsewhere for a couple of hours (if not days). Those few hours will be well worth it when you’re able to breathe cleaner air almost immediately after your HVAC technician finishes their job.

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