How often you should clean your air ducts depends on your situation. If you or someone in the home has asthma or is acutely allergic to certain airborne materials or pollen, regular duct cleaning may be helpful. The Environmental Protection Agency doesn’t have an official position on the necessity of air duct cleaning unless the ducts have been contaminated by rodents, insects or mold, or you are aware of particles blowing out through the vents. The EPA recommends you have your air ducts cleaned on an as-needed basis. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) suggests having air ducts cleaned every three to five years.
Be cautious with companies that offer “whole house air duct cleaning,” urges the NADCA. The company may be using unscrupulous tactics to upsell you once they get started. Before any work begins, always clarify in writing what the job entails and what the cost will be. To protect yourself against fraud, read customer reviews and verify that your HVAC cleaning service has applicable licenses and certifications.
If your furnace needs to be repaired, you’ll want to find a qualified heating, ventilating and air conditioning (HVAC) repair technician. Each state has its own licensing requirements; some require all HVAC technicians to have an HVAC license, while others only require someone operating an HVAC service and installation company with employees to hold a contractor’s license. For example, in Alabama, the Alabama Board of Heating Air Conditioning, and Refrigeration Contractors regulates licensing, while in Kansas there is no state regulatory body and HVAC licensing can vary by region. For simple furnace repairs like changing out a filter, a trusted handyman can probably handle the job, but a trained professional should be hired for tasks like replacing a gas valve, installing a new inducer fan motor or other critical furnace repair jobs that involve dealing with gas leaks or other dangerous conditions. For more, check out our tips for smart hiring on Thumbtack.
Air duct cleaning is done by heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) professionals. The pros use industrial-strength, truck-mounted vacuums and powerful brushes and hoses to clean inside the metal ducts that make up your forced air heating and cooling system. The Environmental Protection Agency recommends duct cleaning if there is “substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface ducts, ducts that are infested with vermin such as rodents or insects, or ducts that are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.”
You should also have air ducts cleaned after recent water contamination or water damage to prevent mold; after renovations or remodeling to ensure debris and dust didn’t settle in the vents and ducts; if you are having problems with allergies or asthma; or when you are moving into a newly purchased home, especially if the previous owners smoked or had pets. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommends getting your air ducts cleaned every three to five years, or every two to three years in regions where homeowners use their air conditioning and heater for many months of the year, while the EPA suggests homeowners have duct cleaning done as needed.
The letters in HVAC stand for heating, ventilation and air conditioning. An HVAC system enables you to regulate your home or building’s internal temperature (thermal control) for comfortable living and working. You can bring heat levels down in the summer and up in the winter, keeping your home or office livable year-round. HVAC systems can also help with humidity levels and regulate indoor air quality in a home or office. There are many types of HVAC systems and technologies available.
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system. Both the heating and the central air conditioning units share a ductwork system where they either push in or pull out warm or cooled air. There are also heating and cooling systems that don’t require ductwork — such as ductless mini-splits — but work on the same principles of heat exchange. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670, with costs varying depending on the work you need done and the equipment you are installing.
The amount of time air duct cleaning takes can depend on how extensive your duct system is, how old your air ducts are, and whether they have ever been cleaned. On average, expect a standard size home (between 2,000 and 3,000 square feet) to take 2-5 hours for one to two technicians to clean. Here are the proper protocol and equipment you should expect from a professional duct cleaning service, as recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency:
- All doors and access ports opened to ensure the entire duct system is inspected and cleaned.
- Thorough system inspection prior to cleaning to identify possible asbestos-containing materials. If asbestos is present, specially trained and equipped contractors must do the removal.
- Use of approved vacuum equipment that exhausts particles outside of your house. If the vacuum exhausts inside your home, it must be HEPA equipment.
- Furnishings and carpet covered and protected.
- Soft-bristled brushes only on fiberglass duct board and sheet metal ducts internally lined with fiberglass.
- Ductwork properly protected.
- Adherence to guidelines and practices set down by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.
The national average dryer vent cleaning costs range from $190 to $260. Dryer vent or duct cleaning costs can vary based on where you live in the country and what ductwork repairs may be required. Duct cleaning pros will use a brush cleaning method, a forced air vacuum, or a combination of the two to remove lint and other debris that can collect in your dryer duct, lint trap housing and vent. If left unchecked, this buildup of highly flammable debris can catch fire and lead to a home fire, says the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. In addition to home safety, a great reason for regular cleaning is the money you’ll likely save on energy bills and improved indoor air quality. Pros may offer a lower rate on their dryer duct cleaning costs when you also hire them to clean your entire HVAC duct system. To ensure you’re working with a pro who will keep your home as safe as possible, read their reviews and check whether they have been certified by a reputable organization such as the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) or the Chimney Safety Institute of America (CSIA). Many duct cleaning pros will also show you before-and-after photos as proof of the cleaning.
To keep your furnace in good working order it’s important to have it regularly cleaned. The national average furnace cleaning cost ranges from $60 to $80, though prices can vary greatly based on where you live in the country and what your furnace maintenance includes. An HVAC company may have different rates for different levels of furnace maintenance. For example,one company may offer general furnace maintenance for $79 and advanced maintenance for $138. Another company may offer a 38-point maintenance check for $89 and a 64-point maintenance check for $178. According to Energy.gov, a standard furnace cleaning and maintenance visit can include:
- Checking the vent connection pipe and chimney
- Checking the physical integrity of the heat exchanger
- Adjusting the controls to provide optimum air temperatures
- Checking the combustion chamber for cracks
- Testing for carbon monoxide (CO)
- Adjusting the blower control and supply-air temperature
- Cleaning and oiling the blower
- Removing soot and corrosion from the furnace
- Checking the fuel input and flame characteristics
- Sealing the connections between the furnace and the main ducts
The cost to replace your gas furnace will vary based on the type and size of furnace you select, labor and installation costs, and any repairs your HVAC system may need. Nationally, average HVAC prices for a heating specialist range between $1,800 and $2,500. It’s important to select the right size gas furnace for your heating needs. A furnace that’s too small won’t heat your house properly, while a furnace that’s too large will run inefficiently, cycling on and off and likely breaking down sooner. HVAC specialists calculate your exact heat needs by measuring your home and incorporating variables such as the regional climate and your home’s level of insulation. Retail pricing for gas furnaces can range from $650 up to $3,000 and more. The higher the AFUE (annual fuel utilization efficiency) rating of the furnace, the more efficient it is at turning fuel into heat and the lower your carbon footprint and utility bill will be. HVAC installation costs are often based on an hourly rate and can range from under $50 to over $100 per hour, depending on the company and the furnace being installed. Higher-end furnaces cost more to install because they require added labor and expertise. For a typical installation, it might take two HVAC installation pros one day or less to remove your old furnace and replace it with a new one.
If you’re concerned about dust, allergens or mold, it may be time to have your air ducts cleaned. The national average cost for air duct cleaning ranges from $190 to $250. Air duct cleaning costs will vary based on a number of factors such as your location in the country, the age and condition of your air ducts, the number of linear feet to be cleaned, and any repairs your ducts may need. HVAC cleaning companies should clearly outline what is included in their services and at what rate, so always make sure you understand and have a written agreement before work begins. Here are some examples of average air duct cleaning costs:
- Tiered pricing for different levels of service:
- Standard cleaning: $100, which may include truck-mounted industrial vacuums, high-pressure air wands and air snakes to clean all supply and return vents, branch lines, and main trunk lines.
- Advanced cleaning: $200, which may include standard cleaning services, plus rotobrush or viper clean sweep in the main trunk lines.
- Ultimate cleaning: $400, which may include advanced cleaning, plus insertion of a viper microline into all vents to force debris down the branch lines and into the main trunk lines, to be handled by the viper clean sweep. Typically, all ductwork surface is contacted, before-and-after photos are provided, and the furnace is cleaned.
- A flat rate for unlimited vents: $289.
- Additional fees for larger houses: $20 for each additional 500 square feet over 2,500.
When your furnace isn’t regularly serviced it can operate less efficiently. This increases your energy bills and also prevents your furnace from keeping your home as warm as you like. Keep your furnace properly maintained with regular service. The national average furnace service cost is between $60 and $80. Companies may offer tuneup specials that cover all the necessary testing, tightening, measuring and cleaning to keep your equipment running at top efficiency. If you have a newer system, furnace service costs may be covered by your warranty. Outside of warranty, a basic tuneup might start at $58 and a more advanced maintenance cleaning could be over $120. Here are some signs your furnace may need service:
- The furnace has stopped functioning entirely.
- The temperature cannot be regulated.
- Rooms in the home are either too hot or too cold.
- The heated air coming from the furnace smells like gas.
- The thermostat isn’t working.
- Strange noises are coming from the furnace.