Yes, ducts can look terribly dusty. However, that dust will not become aerosolized during the normal operation of your furnace. There is an easy way to test this. Rent a particle counter and test the air flowing out of your registers before and after cleaning. You will not see any improvement in the air quality or any reduction in the airborne dust level. Think of it this way. Duct cleaning companies tell you that you need to clean your ducts when you can see a layer of dust in your ducts. Yet that very layer of dust is proof that duct cleaning is unnecessary, because that dust proves that the air movement in your furnace is not fast enough to re-aerosolize the dust.
Duct cleaning generally refers to the cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing (See diagram).
I own a small mechanical company. My main work is service and system replacements. I have never been a believer in duct cleaning. The company I worked for before had our duct man come out and do my house. I saw no difference. Preventive maintance is what I recomend. Remove fan and clean, seal fan compartment to prevent dust from being pulled in, filters I install media filters, they are 5″ thick and pleated. I have tested them to make sure static presure was not a issue. Heat exchangers and AC coils need to be cleaned. I will tell you this to do a good cleaning I usually spent 1-2 hrs, When I’m finished I would not have a problem eating my diner on the system. Good filters, clean system and properly tuned up are my recomdation to anyone. I’ve included my email feel free to contact me with any questions. winkcfd@yahoo.com
The bottom line is: no one knows. There are examples of ducts that have become badly contaminated with a variety of materials that may pose risks to your health. The duct system can serve as a means to distribute these contaminants throughout a home. In these cases, duct cleaning may make sense. However, a light amount of household dust in your air ducts is normal. Duct cleaning is not considered to be a necessary part of yearly maintenance of your heating and cooling system, which consists of regular cleaning of drain pans and heating and cooling coils, regular filter changes and yearly inspections of heating equipment. Research continues in an effort to evaluate the potential benefits of air duct cleaning.
I am very interested by your post. We recently had a lead inspection on our property and one thing the lead inspector suggested was to get the air ducts cleaned out. We had our ducts cleaned last year after we under went a large renovation project (since we have a toddler in the house). This year we decided to go for lead compliance and had all our lead removed (we moved out for the work). Recently, my son had a false positive lead test, which prompted us to get a lead dust inspection around the house (including having the vents dust-wiped on the inside). The levels inside the ducts weren't crazy high (but more than would be acceptable for a floor). As it turned out my son's lead levels are very low (but not zero). Is it possible however that lead dust from the inside of a vent can come out? Would this be a scenario where you think air duct cleaning would be beneficial?
But Tim, doesn’t this mean that a less-than-honest air conditioning company can just charge what he wants and say that it’s a difficult job? No. You see, dishonest contractors, typically, aren’t the brightest people (I figure if you’re still reading this, you’re warming up to me so I’m taking off the training-wheels). They aren’t smart enough to take difficulty into account, and will probably get confused if you ask them about it. They will tell you things like, “that’s how much the unit costs,” or “California has a new law that magically adds $5,000 to the price.”  Trust me, follow your gut, and you’ll be able to tell who the honest contractors are...or just use one of our ASM-approved contractors.
PickHVAC Tips: Oil burns dirty, so it is important to have your plenum and ducts checked to see if they should be cleaned when replacing an oil furnace. If you don’t clean the plenum and ducts when replacing the furnace, the new furnace might not run as efficiently and comfortably as possible due to restricted airflow. This can also reduce the oily smell sometimes associated with oil furnaces.
Ventilation is the process of changing or replacing air in any space to control temperature or remove any combination of moisture, odors, smoke, heat, dust, airborne bacteria, or carbon dioxide, and to replenish oxygen. Ventilation includes both the exchange of air with the outside as well as circulation of air within the building. It is one of the most important factors for maintaining acceptable indoor air quality in buildings. Methods for ventilating a building may be divided into mechanical/forced and natural types.[16]
My heat pump/hvac system is not blowing cold air anymore, got checked out was told compressor broken. was told it cost  almost the same to repair/replace they recommend whole system. It's the same company that installed it 18 years ago, telling me that system is old and it will cost $9-10k for new system, because furnace has to be replaced with new hvac. what to do, need answers thanks????
They are also often harder to install. A proper location on the roof must be selected that can support the weight of the unit. Then a platform must be built and a drain pipe for the unit must be run along the roof to avoid problems with mold and corrosion. A crane must be used to lift the unit onto the roof while a team guides it into place and hooks it up.

In variable climates, the system may include a reversing valve that switches from heating in winter to cooling in summer. By reversing the flow of refrigerant, the heat pump refrigeration cycle is changed from cooling to heating or vice versa. This allows a facility to be heated and cooled by a single piece of equipment by the same means, and with the same hardware.
Some research suggests that cleaning heating and cooling system components (e.g., cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system, resulting in a longer operating life, as well as some energy and maintenance cost savings. However, little evidence exists that cleaning only the ducts will improve the efficiency of the system.
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