Be careful of dishonest HVAC contractors. There’s no magical formula to see if an HVAC contractor is scamming you, unfortunately, but remember that they typically do this in one of two ways: first, they are charging grossly low prices (far below everyone else), or second, they aren’t including what everyone else is. In the first situation, they will charge you change fees, other hidden fees, or they stole the equipment and are passing themselves off as legitimate contractors (very common in California these days). In the second situation, they are charging you a very fair price, but aren’t including what the other contractors are (i.e. charging $10,500 for the installation which is fair, but not including the ductwork which is a scam unless there is some other, complex stuff going on there).
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.
Unfortunately, manufacturers and contractors don’t publish this information…it’s a secret. Why? Who knows…but we have access to a full contractor pricing database of 1,000’s of different units in our online HVAC installation cost calculator, so let’s choose one for our example calculation. We’ll go with Carrier equipment, since our readers always bother us about them (despite us telling them that they are overpriced):
My 48 yr old house (mine for the last 4 yrs) has considerable dust in the return plenum (fiber duct). I’m remodeling and recently re-sealed the return plenum AND the site-fabbed transition built when the new unit was installed, 2013. The return was leaky no doubt drawing musty, dusty air from the crawl space due to the Red-Neck fab & seal job! Pitiful craftsmanship! It took me 7 hours to fix the new transition piece. Anyway, the dust in the house is the same “color” as whats in the return duct and I’m getting way too much & too often in the house. I’ve also cleaned my coils, which were not that dirty.
Whether or not central air adds value to your home depends on your location. You probably won't recoup the entire cost for the installation, as it is an expensive project that isn't as flashy as something like a new deck. But this invisible upgrade can help you sell your home if you live in a hot climate. And many buyers are willing to pay a bit more for a working AC.
There are multiple reasons to replace your HVAC system. If you have built additions onto your house, you may find your old system no longer meets the requirements for the new dimensions. Perhaps a new technological breakthrough has provided features that will improve your comfort and air quality. Most often, however, you need to replace your system because it no longer works properly.
I guess, I will start with saying that air duct cleaning is almost never needed. It is not a scam, but it is certainly something that uneducated homeowners get suckered into. In regards to air flow, a well balanced HVAC system should be able to deliver more than enough air flow. If you are not getting good air flow, it's because your system may be out of balance. Additionally, regular cleaning/changing of the air filters will solve about 95% of your problem. Though you would be surprised how many people either a. don't have a filter or b. don't know about it and leave it there for 10+years. a washable one should be cleaned every 6 months(spring and fall) and a disposable one should be replaced every 3-4 months.
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).
What you might not know is that the brand you choose is one of the most important factors in determining a fair HVAC installation cost. So, before delving in-depth, let’s take a quick look at the average prices of a new air conditioner and matching coil by brand…keep in mind, these are the average prices (by brand) that contractors pay for your AC equipment, and it is meant to give you a rough guideline until you are closer to buying:
Brands like American Standard, Trane and Lennox cost the most. Goodman is the cheapest. The rest populate the middle of the spectrum. Here’s something to know: The quality among brands isn’t as great as price differences. The difference in prices reflect that some customers want “bargain” equipment to save cost and others want “premium” equipment they believe will run longer with less trouble. Therefore, each manufacturer has priced to meet consumer perception.
Many central air conditioning systems use the furnace blower to distribute cool air through the home. If you do not have a central heating system installed, it is cost-effective to install a heating and air conditioning system at the same time. If you already have central heat, you can use the existing fans and duct system for the central air system.
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.
American design standards are legislated in the Uniform Mechanical Code or International Mechanical Code. In certain states, counties, or cities, either of these codes may be adopted and amended via various legislative processes. These codes are updated and published by the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) or the International Code Council (ICC) respectively, on a 3-year code development cycle. Typically, local building permit departments are charged with enforcement of these standards on private and certain public properties.
It’s 11 years plus in the industry I have only had to sanitize two systems both were slab systems that were in concrete and could be cleaned with a different method than normal duct cleaning. We were able to use water to rinse out the disinfectant. Would you use a chemical on anything else you use to eat or drink with and not rinse it off? The ducts in your home should be thought of as your homes heart and lungs and breathe the same air that you do. And just like us we wouldn’t use bad chemicals in our lungs and heart.
"Our Pro was the most courteous and informative gentleman that we have had the pleasure to work with, was great. He let us know immediately what the problem was and what the cost to fix it would be. Also, he let us know how to maintain and extend the life of our washer. He was very personable and made us very comfortable with the process. We would have him back in a heartbeat if anything ever goes wrong again. It was the best experience we have ever had with a appliance repair service."