Your home's air ducts work hard. In fall and winter, they push heat throughout the house. In summer, they switch gears and deliver cool air. Not only that, your HVAC system has a second set of ducts that returns air to the system for recirculation.
So, it's natural dirt, dust, pollen, bacteria, pet hair, mold spores, and even spiderwebs and vermin droppings will build up inside air ducts. Air duct cleaning rids HVAC ducts of unwanted solid matter, returning the ducts to like-new condition. But how much does air duct cleaning cost, and is it worth the expense?
How Much Does It Cost to Clean Air Ducts?
Depending on where you live and on the size of your home and its HVAC system, air duct cleaning costs $450 at the low end and ranges up to $1,000. The average cost of air duct cleaning is between $700 and $750.
Air Duct Cleaning Cost Averages
Additional Air Duct Cleaning Costs
- Extra Registers (Vents): Cleaning usually includes a set number of registers. Beyond that number may cost from $20 to $25 per register.
- Video Inspection: Running a remote video camera through the ducts for inspection typically costs from $200 to $500.
- Air Duct Sealing: Sealing air ducts with a special coating that plugs up leaks costs anywhere from $1,500 to $4,000 per treatment. Sealant is misted into the air ducts, covering all interior duct surfaces.
- Mold Remediation: Hiring a separate mold remediation company to eliminate mold from the air ducts costs between $2,000 and $6,000, depending on spread and damage caused.
How Often to Clean Your Home's Air Ducts
Some air duct companies recommend that you clean your ducts every five to seven years, but both the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the trade agency National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) recommend duct-cleaning only on an as-needed basis.
Conditions That Warrant Frequent Air Duct Cleaning
You may want to clean your air ducts more frequently if your home has specific conditions or situations, which can include:
- Tobacco or other recreational smoking
- Wood-burning fireplace
- Long-haired pets
- Pets with dander
- After major home remodeling
- After drywall or indoor carpentry work
- Residents who have respiratory conditions
- Ductwork that experiences internal moisture contamination
- After a home fire or wildfires
What Happens During Air Ducts Cleaning
Air duct cleaning is usually completed within one day. Most of the indoor work is complete within two or four hours.
- Visual inspection of ducts and registers
- Optional video inspection of ducts
- Attach portable or truck-mounted vacuum collection device to a duct near air handler
- Seal all registers
- Turn on the vacuum collection device
- Open each register individually and agitate dust in the ductwork
- Clean each register and grille
- Clean blower motor, evaporator coil, and drain pan
How to Know If Your Air Ducts Need Cleaning
Since it's not necessary to regularly schedule air duct cleaning, you will need to keep an eye on the system. Clues that it's time to clean your air ducts include:
System Blows Dust From Registers
After a period of long inactivity, the system may initially blow out dust. But generally, the grilles and supply registers in room ceilings and floors should always pump out clean air.
Evidence of Vermin or Insects
Droppings from rats or mice or large infestations of insects will require air duct cleaning after the vermin or insects have been eliminated.
Visible Mold Growth
Mold in the air ducts can actively shed mold spores. When the air blows into the rooms, it carries the mold spores.
Not all mold, though, produces health-threatening mycotoxins. If a solution of 1 part bleach and 16 parts water immediately clears the suspicious growth, it likely is mold. To definitively know, purchase a mold testing test or have a mold testing service (not a mold remediation company) visit your home.
How to Keep Your Air Ducts Clean and Maintained
Total system air duct cleaning is not a do-it-yourself job. The tools are specialized and cannot be duplicated with home tools. But you can—and should—maintain and partially clean your air ducts on a regular basis.
Clean the registers and especially the air return grille with the brush attachment of a shop vacuum. Equip the vacuum with a HEPA air filter. You can even remove the registers and clean the end foot or two of the ductwork.
Damp-mop the floor near the return register on a regular basis to prevent floor debris from being pulled into the system.
How to Choose a Duct Cleaning Professional
To pick an air duct cleaning company, begin by making sure that they are in good standing with NADCA. The organization's Find a NADCA Professional page lists companies or individuals in your area, number of employees, how long they have been in business, and full contact information.
"Should You Have the Air Ducts in Your Home Cleaned?" Environmental Protection Agency.
Should You Have the Air Ducts in your Home Cleaned? United States Environmental Protection Agency.
Molds on Food: Are they Dangerous? Food Safety and Inspection Service, United States Department of Agriculture.