It's always changing: Some newer thermostats take advantage of wireless technology. You can adjust your thermostat remotely so that if you leave and forget to adjust it, or if you are going to be home later than you thought, you can adjust it via your smartphone. Some can even give you reports on how efficient your system is performing based on usage. These are very efficient models, but they are also very expensive with some costing over $250.00.
HVAC System Quality Installation Contractor Checklist -- This checklist identifies all of the steps the contractor has taken for the Energy Star Certification and identifies what work the contractor has done. If the system is later modified, this checklist can help identify what was done to proper Energy Star specifications and what was added later that may not meet the requirements.
We bought 2 top of the line Lennox HAC for $29,000 less about $3,500 rebates, thinking they would at least last 10 years. Well, after 6 years, the system leaked. We are paying $1,700 to fix that leak. We thought at least it is still under warranty - yes BUT - the warranty covered $15 & the rest we were up for ,even though they advertise 10 year warranty. We are trying to sell & move out of high cost southern Calif & have looked at 20+ places in Arizona. Most of the houses we looked at were built from 1998 to 2005. We asked if the HAC was original & in most case it was - even though the highs were 115 to 120 & the lows 90F - versus where we live the highs run 85 to 95 & the lows are in the 60s. I asked the repairman WHY ours went out at 6 years. He replied that they just do not build them the same anymore. In Arizona, I did not see any Lennox - mostly Trane or Carrier. We had Fujistu in Australia which were fantastic - nothing went wrong in the 9 years we had them. Also, they had full induction motors not like the energy consuming 2 stage motors in Lennox. Maybe the Japanese built Fujusita still builds quality & the warranty is meaningful?

Internal insulation provides better acoustical (noise) control. Flexible duct is very low cost. These products are engineered specifically for use in ducts or as ducts themselves, and are tested in accordance with standards established by Underwriters Laboratories (UL), the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). Many insulated duct systems have operated for years without supporting significant mold growth. Keeping them reasonably clean and dry is generally adequate. However, there is substantial debate about whether porous insulation materials (e.g., fiber glass) are more prone to microbial contamination than bare sheet metal ducts. If enough dirt and moisture are permitted to enter the duct system, there may be no significant difference in the rate or extent of microbial growth in internally lined or bare sheet metal ducts. However, treatment of mold contamination on bare sheet metal is much easier. Cleaning and treatment with an EPA-registered biocide are possible. Once fiberglass duct liner is contaminated with mold, cleaning is not sufficient to prevent re-growth and there are no EPA-registered biocides for the treatment of porous duct materials. EPA, NADCA and NAIMA all recommend the replacement of wet or moldy fiber glass duct material.

We moved to a house built in 1965 from a 1915 house with a dirt basement. Against what I anticipated, the 1965 house was much dustier. It was like felt on top of everything. I cleaned and cleaned and it did become less dusty over time. We then found out a cat lady with over 2 dozen cats lived in the house in the past. We then had to get our furnace replaced and I was able to look down some of the duct work, the dirt and debris was 3-5 inches deep. Additionally, the basement ducts were entirely plugged with debris including dirt, seeds, ants, toys, etc. I had already removed what I could from those. We had our ducts cleaned last year, and the dust in the house is greatly reduced. Also have lost the runny nose I got after moving here. There are duct cleaning con artists out there, but ours did a good job.
I'm very glad that I found another guy to come replace the circuit board and put it away from the water, fix the water leak, and also find and fix another impending failure.  All of that was for much less than HVAC Service wanted to charge for repair or replacement. The other guy did a great repair, so I'm confident it will not break down again, but if it does, I will not call HVAC Service. Don't get suckered by their Yelp Deal.
The short answer is yes, duct cleaning, done right by a reputable company will help with the smell. It is likely though the smell is coming from another source, ie the crawl space. It could also be that another rodent is dead in the duct work. A visual inspection would be in order to check for any breach in the duct system. A duct pressure test would be able to tell you how much air is leaking from the system over all. A hole large enough for an animal to enter would loses a great deal of air, over 300 CFM. It would be worth looking into having this test done and it should cost around $200. Cleaning the air handler and evaporator coil will greatly improve the performance of the air conditioner. Dirt and dust on the evaporator acts as insulation and reduces the amount of cooling done be the coil. Any quality duct cleaning should include cleaning the air handler and coil, and the tech should allow you to watch him perform the work as it is done.
I'd have to disagree with all of your statements. Not only are they derived from no experience in the field, you are missing keys facts. Ducts even if air tight will get dirty. If they are not getting dirty, it means they are not working. Your returns side of the duct work is always under negative pressure when the system is operational.Therefore it is always drawing air in. Seeing how dust is made up mostly from dead skin humans shed daily. Around 1.6 Pounds of skin a year per human. Living in your home anything that is air born will be drawn back towards the cold air returns. That is what they are designed for, to draw stale air back to the system to be filtered and sent back through the house.Homes with carpet will actually have cleaner duct work than home with all tile or hardwood. This is because carpets hold onto dust particles and you vacuum them up. Whereas on hardwood or tile, dust can run freely back to the returns. Even if a duct system was sealed 100%, which is next to impossible to achieve 100% would still need to be cleaned. The cleaning may only have to be every 7-10 years for example. Most homes require every 5-7 years. And that's if it was done properly the first time. If you constantly hire people that have no or minimal knowledge of duct cleaning, You home would require cleaning more often. Every 2 years. That's a trade secret, The longer they recommend before the next cleaning, the odds are they did it right. That's not to say there aren't people that lie, because there are. Just have your duct cleaner take pictures before and after cleaning. Not just an outside view. Get in there, picture entire joist liners, Whole main runs and even long round pipes. Also it helps to have a company that guarantees their work. If it's not done right, they will come back and do it until it is. Most companies that do this make sure it is right the first time. Your not getting paid to do the job twice.
If the system is sealed air-tight and a really good filtering system is in place then you should NEVER have to clean your ductwork. Most dust people see in their homes (on beds furniture etc....) is broken down insulation that is being blown into the home from the attic (venturi effect) where the duct bucket (box etc...) is not sealed at the sheetrock ceiling. On the return side, ANY leaks in the ductwork will pull hot attic air and dust into the system, clogging up everything.
There are many interesting comments from several informed individuals. The question that has not been answered is how do duct systems get dusty and dirty? As a RESNET Home Energy Rater, I perform pressure tests on homes and duct systems, and the one common thread is . . . most air delivery sytems have large amounts of air leakage. The solution is to seal the duct system, and pay particular attention to the return duct system and ductwork near the air handler (the 'blower'). As others have said, a captive (sealed) duct system with proper filter maintenance should be more then adequate for most occupants. For those who have allergy, asthma, or other breathing problems, a filter with a higher MERV rating (number should be listed on the package) or a HEPA filter are good choices. These filters will capture smaller particulates and should improve the indoor air quality. Again, make certain that the entire duct system is sealed, preferably with mastic, second choice UL-181 foil tape - never use cloth duct (also known as duck) tape.

A house breathes just like you an I.For example every time your clothes dryer comes on it automatically creates a negative pressure inside the home.So if air goes out of the living area it has to be replaced.....now look above the ceiling fan ....you see the cover...underneath that is a hole straight to your attic....Now the stuff on your ceiling fan you call dust...call it insulation,rat fecies or anything else that is in your attic that could be pulled in your due to a negative pressure.
Outdoor Fan Motor -- The outdoor fan, also called the condenser fan, is exposed to external conditions. As such it is most prone to dust and debris and the extreme weather. In desert climates, the outdoor fan motor is subject to heat not only from normal operation but from the outside temperature as well. As it starts to fail, the fan may work fine in the cooler morning hours but stop by afternoon. This can shut down the entire system for hours. When they stop running completely, your air conditioner will no longer work. Running a faulty fan will lead to compressor failure, which is a very costly repair.
I own an HVAC company. Dirt in your ducts stays there and hurts no one. It is like dirt on the ground outside. This industry was infiltrated by a bunch of money grubbing low lifes years ago. As a credible company, we do not clean air ducts. Some who were credible probably signed on not knowing what else to do or to try to make a buck another way. These companies, because they also do HVAC work not only rip off private homeowners, they are ripping off legitimate HVAC company's customers and the integrity of what can and should as a rule be a great service industry. Some probably have gotten into this to simply offer what competitors who were ripping off their customers were offering. Anyone cleaning ducts is in my opinion raising a big red flag that they cannot and should not be trusted. Political pressure from NADCA, advertising dollars, manufacturers and marketers of duct cleaning equipment, and intense competition for the customers is the only reason the government and adverstising companies have not run them out of business and that this cancer perpetuates itself.
If no one in your household suffers from allergies or unexplained symptoms or illnesses and if, after a visual inspection of the inside of the ducts, you see no indication that your air ducts are contaminated with large deposits of dust or mold (no musty odor or visible mold growth), having your air ducts cleaned is probably unnecessary. It is normal for the return registers to get dusty as dust-laden air is pulled through the grate. This does not indicate that your air ducts are contaminated with heavy deposits of dust or debris; the registers can be easily vacuumed or removed and cleaned.
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