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.
If there is stuff in the ducts, the fact that it’s laying there and not being blown into the rooms is proof positive that it is hurting no-one. The 5-6 exceptions you cite in this article I’ll buy, but only with the caveat that at least some of those could have been avoided by proper protection (during remodeling for example) – and if asbestos/lead/whatever winds up in your ducts- the remodeling contractor should be the one paying to remove it.
HVAC equipment is estimated to last about 15 to 20 years. Yet over the years, parts go out and need to be repaired. Heat sensors, exchangers, and ducts can become worn out. Air conditioning motors may need repairing from time to time. For repairs to your heating and air conditioning systems, and even general maintenance, let HomeAdvisor help. Enter your zip code and let us connect you with prescreened HVAC repair services near you.