Important Tip: Don’t just pay attention to the high-end of the price range! – which is what I know you are all looking at, but also look at the low range. If a contractor is cheaper than this, ask “why?” Usually it is because they don’t have liability insurance, workman’s compensation insurance, are unlicensed, all of the above, or worst yet, they don’t use HVAC technicians. You are spending a lot of money.  Make sure that they are licensed (In California, check here at CSLB License Checker) and insured.
We are a hvac company that provide air duct cleaning service are minimum charge $400 to do a proper air duct cleaning with 2 techs avg 3-6 hours that includes sanitizing. I get phone calls all day about the $99 your not going to get much of a cleaning for that price it for them to get there foot in the door and up sell that the only way for them to stay in business. Just from my 15 years of duct cleaning experience.

Moisture can enter the duct system through leaks or if the system has been improperly installed or serviced. Research suggests that condensation (which occurs when a surface temperature is lower than the dew point temperature of the surrounding air) on or near cooling coils of air conditioning units is a major factor in moisture contamination of the system. The presence of condensation or high relative humidity is an important indicator of the potential for mold growth on any type of duct. Controlling moisture can often be difficult, but here are some steps you can take:
Preventing against air leakage is great, but the only way to keep dust and debris out of a duct system would be to completely seal off the return-air side of the system, which would render the system useless. Cold-air returns will always pull dust and other particles into the system. A high-MERV rated filter is definitely a good idea, but it does nothing to keep the return side of the system clean. Definitely agree though to use foil tape to seal seams, etc. Duct tape dries out over time and as it does can actually add more particles to the air.
I am a service technician [since '92].....and as to double filtering.....I have never recommended it. Granted.....it would be noticeably helpful if the fiberglass filters are the main ones used [which I also never recommend.....as long as system can deliver appropriate air flow with a pleated cotton filter...and any decent service tech can check the air flow for proper cfm]. Any particles small enough to pass through a pleated cotton filter are going to pass through a second filter as well....unless the second filters are so tight that the system is starving for air flow. Has anybody ever accidentally put two filters in their automatic drip coffee maker? What if cars used two fuel filters or air filters? I have told some homeowners to try using second filters at each register [the black thin filter material cut-to-fit....same type used in many window air conditioners].....but I only suggest this when I know they will still get at least 400 cfm per ton of air flow [350 absolute minimum]......as some homeowners know others who say it has helped and it gives them a peace of mind knowing they are doing something to help contribute to a solution, so it HAS to help [even though I think it falls in the "one-born-every-minute" category.....similar to duct cleaning].
Had our ducts cleaned late April, 2016. Sodium Chlorite was sprayed into ducts after cleaning. Ever since, we have been bothered with eye and nasal passage irritation because of a “chemical” and “musty” odor. This odor is present whether or not a/c is on.) We are told the sodium chlorite (“EnviroCon, manufactured by Bio-Cide International) is used in hospital and nursing home settings and is not hazardous to health. The air duct company’s suggestion is that they come out and spray even more sodium chlorite…we absolutely don’t want this done! Have had various other recommendations about what we need to have done to remedy our problem. We will be unable to stay in our home if a resolution cannot be found. We’d be willing to replace the ductwork if necessary. (One professional suggested that the cleaning may have “knocked something loose” inside the ductwork and that is the source of the irritant.) This home was built in 1920…no idea when the present ductwork was installed. Any suggestions would be appreciated.
They work less jobs, thus increasing profits – think about it…if they got only half of the jobs, then they only pay half of the money required to pay employees, expenses, etc., but still have the same amount of net profit. In fact, if you do the math, they actually make more profit that their competitors do…twice as much, once you factor in their savings form only doing half of the jobs at the same amount of profit (Total Revenue – (half the normal expenses) = twice the profit). In other words, they save money by doing half of the jobs as others, for the same profit, thus increasing their overall profits.
I agree that good filtration and a sealed system will prevent the need for duct cleaning. However, when we do get called it is because the duct work has reached a noticeable state of restriction or dust or the homeowner is hyper-sensitive to these pollutants in their home. Most of the time we find that no filter or a cheap (99 cent) filter is being used or they have serious duct leaks in the system. If you are hiring a cleaner make sure they are using professional cleaning equipment which will consist of a rotating brush system and a vacuum source. Be highly skeptical of the contractor with no branded system or the guy who shows up with just chimney brushes and a shop vac. He will not be able to reach around all the corners or all the runs in your system and he will be taking your money for a superficial cleaning at best. Only trust a company that offers VIDEO inspection and more importantly.... a contractor who repairs, installs and seals ducts if a problem is discovered or heaven forbid, created. Good luck and get your ducts sealed if you do have a leak! It is one of the greatest energy losses to a home other than being poorly insulated.
I was able to get a next day appointment with them last week after multiple other providers did not have availability. The tech was on time and did a good job to diagnose and eventually replace the circuit board and get it up running again. The service itself would be 5 stars, although it did take a week to complete the job due to ordering the part.
In most modern homes with up-to-date heating and air conditioning systems, filters are changed regularly through the year, so you may not even need to hire a professional. However, keep your eyes open for the accumulation of dust, dirt, dander and mold. If you see it despite regularly changing your filters it could be an indication you need a high-pressure cleaning.
R-22 Freon is being phased out & isn't readily available. So the service company may only purchase as needed and the lack of availability would make their cost high. But, as long as they can get it, whatever the cost, unfortunately, is less expensive than replacing the A/C. Which will be the case eventually since it's no longer manufactured or sooner as in my case with a not so old a/c that sprang a leak, that would have been just a repair, but since it uses R-22 the whole unit has to be upgraded(replaced).  
Hello, I read your comment and I know it was two years ago but I hope you see my message. I am trying to figure out what to do as I was told that there is some cat odor in the finished basement. I think with the air conditioning running that it may carry odor. The litter boxes are always kept clean. I wonder if odor can be trapped in the ducts, if Air Duct Cleaning could help, but it is quite expensive plus I'm concerned that it may not help. Please elaborate as to why you think it doesn't work that well. Do you have any other advise? Did you work in the field of Air Duct Cleaning? Thanks so much!
I guess I should present my credentials first, I am a 30 year veteran of the heating and cooling industry. I started at the bottom and have participated in every area of the trade. Installer, service, maint. Ownership, rep, territory manager and so on. A forced air duct system is a large vacume. Like your vacume it has an air intake (return air) and an exhaust (supply registers). A filter just like a vacume (located next to furnace or air handler). Now I want you to visualize something. Put your head inside your vacume cleaner and breath. Get the picture? This is what your duct work looks like. Do you clean your vacume when it’s dirty? If it’s full and the filter is dirty you lose performance and it starts poluting the air you breathe. It’s common sense. I recommend hiring a duct cleaning outfit that you have researched to be honest, background checked, drug tested, insured, and highly recommended by your piers in the area. The service is a necessity, but like everything, it should be done by a qualified company.
An EER certifies the cooling efficiency of HVAC units. It's calculated by the rate of the cooling in British thermal units (Btus) per hour and divided by the rate of energy input in watts at a specific temperature. The calculation goes as BtuH/WATT at dry bulb (db) versus wet bulb (wb) temperatures. The optimal rating for a cooling unit is about 80db/67wb inside and 95db/75wb outside.
One of the best ways to know if your ducts or vents need to be cleaned is to just check them. Your eyes will be able to check for indications of mold, dust or pollen buildup. You might also be able to smell the presence of mold, which would be a clear indicator. Ductwork will have some buildup of dust, since the return registrars pull air back in. However, this doesn't mean your ducts have too much debris, and you can easily clean them with a duster or vacuum.
Air duct cleaning service providers may tell you that they need to apply chemical biocide to the inside of your ducts as a means to kill bacteria (germs) and fungi (mold) and prevent future biological growth. They may also propose the application of a "sealant" to prevent dust and dirt particles from being released into the air or to seal air leaks. You should fully understand the pros and cons of permitting application of chemical biocides or sealants. While the targeted use of chemical biocides and sealants may be appropriate under specific circumstances, research has not demonstrated their effectiveness in duct cleaning or their potential adverse health effects. No chemical biocides are currently registered by EPA for use in internally-insulated air duct systems (see Should chemical biocides be applied to the inside of air ducts?).
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