All of you have dentists, you have doctors, you have preachers, you have mechanics. You don’t have to know everything about everything but you have to have people in your life that you can trust. Don’t just open up the phone book and pick a mechanical (HVAC) contractor. Call your friends and family and ask for referrals. There are no black and white (scam or not a scam) answers here.
Duct cleaning is a band aid, like washing you hands is. Under your description, why wash your hands more than once? If it gets cleaned once, it shouldn't get dirty again. Well that is, unless they touch something dirty. Keeping your hands completely clean is virtually impossible. Same as keeping dust out of your home. You clean your ducts and over a 3-5 year span they get dirty again. Also, duct cleaners are not licensed but should be certified by NADCA(National Air Duct Cleaning Association).
All modern air conditioning systems, even small window package units, are equipped with internal air filters. These are generally of a lightweight gauze-like material, and must be replaced or washed as conditions warrant. For example, a building in a high dust environment, or a home with furry pets, will need to have the filters changed more often than buildings without these dirt loads. Failure to replace these filters as needed will contribute to a lower heat exchange rate, resulting in wasted energy, shortened equipment life, and higher energy bills; low air flow can result in iced-over evaporator coils, which can completely stop air flow. Additionally, very dirty or plugged filters can cause overheating during a heating cycle, and can result in damage to the system or even fire.
It seems all the average costs for a complete heating and cooling system replacement I've found on websites are usually at least 1/4 less, mostly half lower, then quotes I've gotten from companies. The worst quote I got was from One Hour Heating & Air Conditioning (the company with the Mike Rowe commercials), for over $15,000! I finally settled on a Carrier dealer, for $10,700 & I'll get $950 of that back in energy co rebates eventually. The company I went with's basic system would have been around $8800 (the only one that sorta matched up with web avg cost). They did all the correct planning as far as I could see, not like One Hour, who just showed me a price guide for the same size units already in place. And they do all the rebate paperwork and submit it to the energy co, One Hour never even mentioned possible rebates! Plus Carrier gets above avg reviews. I would have greatly liked a price under 9 grand, but this company got me 0% APR financing, so at least nothing out of pocket. My advice is stay away from national chains, and shop around with local area companies. Of course, One Hour says local companies will fold before you need warranty service lol. For their cost, there should be a technician living in his work van outside my house hahaha. 

I always get a laugh at anyone claiming to be in the business for any length of time that doesnt understand the importance of cleaning out a ventilation system. Not only for better indoor air quality but for maintaining your heating equipment. I guess it makes more sense to some people that the furnace will just run better with a ton of dust and debris and maybe this wont be a big cause of sytem breakdown and malfunction. I mean really? Maybe this guy got a bad company and or cleaning and is a little jaded but to advise cleaning your grills , which does nothing, and replacing a filter....come on guy.
You can adjust for seasons: During the summer, you can have the air conditioner stay off during the cooler morning hours and start cooling the house as everyone gets up and starts moving around. During the winter, you can have your heater stay off while you are away at work and turn on about a half hour or so before you get home so that you are coming home to a nice, warm house.

Having the most energy-efficient system ever built won't matter much if it's not maintained. Lack of maintenance is the number one killer of HVAC systems. Before each cooling season, it's recommended that your system get a professional tune-up. However, there are things you can do in the meantime to make sure your system runs efficiently throughout the year.
Be careful with HVAC change-outs.  Change-outs are only about 15-20% of the HVAC installation industry. Decrease HVAC installation cost by investing in new ductwork now if needed. Your ducts wear out too, and make sure that your ducts are in fantastic shape if you do this. Many contractors push this because it’s easy and cheap for them, with good pay-off. Do your research and replace them if you need to in order to avoid doing it later, as well as avoid potential health hazards from using old, broken ductwork.
My mom just received service from this company. She paid $609 to have her frion replaced. After two uses the AC stops working. A young rep comes out to the house again and notifies her that her entire AC unit and furnace need to be replace for just shy of ten grand, though when her frion was refilled she was told that her system should last another five years. When they came back to tell her how her entire system needed to be replaced, they were generous enough to offer her a $300 credit on the nearly $10,000 estimate of replacing the entire system that was working fine until they touched it. My best assumption would be that there is a mishap with the system is due to their negligence. Id suggest using another company other than these scam artists.

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