$99 Air Duct Cleaning Near Me Scams!

ByMarc Silberberg


Certainly, we are all aware of the crazy inflation that is causing havoc in our nation. Prices for simple groceries and other necessities are increasing by over thirty percent. We went through an egg crisis a few months ago when somehow hens stopped laying eggs. Gas prices continue to increase and home essentials such as washers, dryers, refrigerators, and other home supplies are not only expensive but hard to come by. In order to get hired help these days companies must increase the salaries and sometimes shorten work hours. So, how would it be possible for an air duct cleaning company to honor their unrealistic come-on prices?

For example, a homeowner may be tempted by advertisements of $49 or $99 for total air duct cleaning. Two scenarios can be played out. One, is the company comes in and checks the air ducts and explains to the innocent homeowner that they have more extensive issues, and the price can rise easily to $500. This first scenario would not be so terrible since you should be expected to pay such a price to get your air ducts cleaned properly.

The second scenario can be divided into two scams. The first scam will be that the customer okays the increase in the cost of the duct cleaning but later finds out the ducts were not cleaned properly or worse yet damage was done. The second type of scam is that the company actually blows out the ducts into the air of the house making the air quality worse than before. Both these scenarios will oblige the homeowner to call back the scammer.

Air duct cleaning is a complicated process since there are different meanings to it. Are you looking to clean the air ducts of your clothes dryers or of your HVAC system? There are so many systems today, some older and some newer and each one needs to have a serviceman who is knowledgeable in that particular system.

Air conditioner ducts are situated in different places in the home, and some are easier to get to than others. When a homeowner decides to put in a central air system into their home when they are already living in it will require ducts to be placed in strategic places which will take away room in closets, attics, and basements. On the other hand, if someone is building a new construction their air conditioning vents will be in the plans. Hopefully their builder will have them placed in easy to access areas when they need cleaning.

Debris and dust are bound to build up in any house, new or old. When you call in a reputable company, they will have not only experienced servicemen but also the right equipment, however, a company out to scam you will not. A reputable company will give you an estimate when they see the work that has to be done and figure out how long it will take to clean your ducts the right way. No one is a prophet and will be able to tell you on the phone how much the duct cleaning service will cost.

Air conditioning ducts, especially the older ones, are very sensitive to damage. With one wrong push your duct can be punctured and unless you check them before payment you will not know that they have been patched up with duct tape. (In case you didn’t know what duct tape was originally used for, this is its initial purpose. Now duct tape is used for many different uses ranging from artistic to medical but that is another story for another time.)

A reputable duct cleaning company will have up to date equipment that is on par with the recommendations of the EPA and NADCA. The first is a government agency and the second is an agency that will only accept reputable companies as members.

Recommendations by the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency)

The EPA has very specific recommendations and definitions as to what duct cleaning involves. There are many companies out there today that claim to improve the indoor air quality of your home. They give a general range of price from $450 to $1000 depending on how accessible the vents are to the serviceman, the size of the venting system to be cleaned and how much contamination is inside the vents.

When your system is checked out the serviceman may notice that besides the usual dust, debris, and pollen there is moisture in your ducts as well. When moisture is present chances are good that mold spores will be present as well. In such a case it is incumbent on the cleaner to make sure to clean every single part of the system and if he doesn’t, the whole system can be contaminated once more with the mold spores.

Another additional service that will be offered is the application of chemical disinfectants to kill the mold contaminants inside the ducts. They might offer sealants that cover the inside of the vents to prevent mold from reoccurring. This should only be done after the ducts are thoroughly cleaned.

What is NADCA?

NADCA stands for the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. NADCA is a worldwide organization of companies in the HVAC cleaning industry with 1,300 members from over thirty countries worldwide. When you think of it that is not a lot of HVAC cleaning companies that are members. This means that the choice of finding a member in your community will not be overwhelming.

NADCA, a not-for-profit organization, was established in 1989 to be the only acceptable worldwide standard for air duct cleaning. Its initiatives give detailed instructions of how to clean and restore HVAC systems. When hiring an air duct cleaning company make sure that they are a member of NADCA. This means that they know how to clean and maintain your air ducts correctly and efficiently. A scam company may claim to be a member when asked and will use the NADCA logo illicitly. Fortunately, NADCA has a source where you can look up the company you are considering before hiring them. Either look in NADCA’s Find a Professional Directory or you can confirm their membership at info@nadca.com.

How to Tell if You Have Mold Growth in Your HVAC system?

Only an expert can tell if what you suspect as mold is the real thing. If you do hire a vent cleaning company and they inform you that your system has mold, you should ask them to show you the actual mold. Some air ducts that have insulation that get moldy and wet may not be cleaned and must be replaced. In such a case allowing the serviceman to remove mold will not solve the problem because regrowth will appear in these contaminated ducts. Replacement is the only way to solve the problem.

Another way to assure that you do have mold is to send a sample of the possible mold to a lab for evaluation. If you can find the proper lab then you can send them a sample of the presumed mold by taking a piece of scotch tape and sticking it into the suspected area. The price for such a test is about $50 and it might be that what you thought was mold is not.

Example of an Air Duct Cleaning Scam

Scene of the Crime: Humble Texas

Year: 2022

Name of Person Scammed: Amber Rentera

Scene 1:

Amber Rentra was in the process of selling her home and wanted to update it. After seeing a neighborhood Facebook ad of a duct cleaning company, she called it and was able to get someone to come as quickly as the next day for $199. The technician showed up the next day but after about forty- five minutes into the job the technician came down with the typical scam phrase, “You’ve got mold.”. This scammer went so far as to show her pictures on his phone of the mold and increased the price to $760. Innocent Amber gave the go ahead because who wants mold especially when your home is on the market? She imagined what would happen when she settled on a good home selling price and the inspection company showed up. Even though she put down brand new floors her home would not pass inspection due to the mold in her ducts and her sale would be voided.

“Go ahead”, she said. “Do whatever you have to do”. Amber paid the fraudster in cash since she believed he was part of her private neighborhood chat. Scammers will join private chats so that people will trust them.

Scene 2:

One week later Amber notices dripping water coming out of the vent in her closet. She decides to go check out her attic and to her dismay she is able to see that not only were her ducts never cleaned but the seals of the AC unit were eliminated. Now she understood exactly how dirty air ducts looked. In fact, she realized too late that those pictures she was shown by the technician were not of her system.

Scene 3:

Amber asked a friend who knew about HVAC units to come over and he acknowledged that not only was the cleanup not performed but the worker had monkeyed with the HVAC unit itself. Amber found out that this is exactly what these scammers will do so you will have to call them back again and they will charge you again for fixing the issue.

Scene 4:

Amber tries to get in touch with the person who set up her initial appointment to get her money back but unfortunately to no avail since this company had just switched its name and is now scamming other neighborhood chats with the same pictures.

Final Words

No homeowner is expected to understand all aspects of how their HVAC system functions. Many homeowners believe in having their ducts cleaned regularly due to allergies, dust, or bugs that have escaped into the house. Air duct cleaning systems are complicated to figure out depending on the age of the house and the type of units.

The Better Business Bureau gives some guidelines to save the homeowners from scammers.

1) No reputable company can offer a flat rate without coming into your home, sizing it up and seeing what problems, if any, are in your duct system.

2) If the job is done too quickly it means your ducts were not cleaned properly if at all. A normal job can take at least five hours.

3) The price quoted in the ad is not the end price. The technician will tell you about other problems such as mold and increase the price substantially. Not only that but they will damage a part of the system so that you have to call them back to fix it and pay additional expenses.

Flyers and coupons for duct cleaning the entire house without the technician ever entering are warning signs. Make sure the company you use is a legitimate member of NADCA by checking out the NADCA links listed earlier in this article. To prevent others from getting scammed, notify the Better Business Bureau if you have an unfortunate experience with one of these fraudulent air duct cleaning services.

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