Over the last few years duct cleaning service has really become more popular, but it is easy to forget that this is not something that anyone should do. The air vents in your home are an integral part of your heating and cooling system, even if they are not the first thing that you associate with your HVAC system. With that in mind, it pays to be discerning when it comes time to hire someone to clean out your ducts. Finding a duct cleaning service is simple these days, but finding one you should trust is a little harder.
You can simply log onto Facebook and probably find ten advertisements from people who offer duct cleaning. At least once a week a flyer will show up in your mailbox and it is highly likely that you will see or hear an advertisement on the radio or elsewhere. Everyone seems to know everything about cleaning ducts, and they have pictures to scare you into cleaning your ducts. The problem is that most people are not HVAC technicians, which means in reality they have no business doing anything inside of your vents.
Air duct cleaning is a very important service, but only if actually performed by a qualified HVAC technician. If you hire an HVAC company to handle your service you can rest assured that it will be done correctly and you will probably get a few pointers and tips along the way about how you could improve the ventilation system in your home. When you hire someone who is just doing this as a side job – you will have a much different experience. The following are a few stories of people who had a much different experience with duct cleaning that should help reiterate why you should only allow a professional into your air ducts.
The Opposite of a Cleaner Home
Kelly had seen the advertisements floating around for a while now advertising duct cleaning service, but she wasn’t sure if her home really needed that or not. After all, she lived in a new construction home and she was only five years old. Still, she couldn’t help noticing that it seemed like everyone was doing it. She hated to be behind on trends and wondered if booking an annual service could help improve the air quality in her home.
The principal seemed to make a lot of sense to Kelly. If there was dust and dandruff hanging around in the ductwork then it would just keep floating out into the air around the home. If there was one thing that Kelly hated, it was cleaning up the dust. It seemed like there was always dirt somewhere with two kids playing softball, and if she could help eliminate a bit of the dust then paying for a duct cleaning service may be worth it. Plus, she was fairly certain her kids were probably one of the main reasons there was so much dust in the home. The more she thought about the more she knew that she had to just take a leap of faith and call someone to clean her ducts.
However, she wasn’t willing to take a big leap of faith and call her normal HVAC company, not when she saw so many ads in her mailbox about cheap deals on first-time duct cleaning. After looking at all of those pictures she was almost excited to have someone clean out her air ducts. Imagine what they might find that she could take pictures of and then show her friends. It would be crazy if the old homeowners had left some crazy stuff in her air ducts. It certainly would liven up her day at the next book club.
Thinking about that prospect lifted up her mood a little bit, and she moved back towards the mailers and picked one up from a random company. On impulse, she called the number and left a quick voicemail. With the little adrenaline that was left, she tossed the rest of the mail in the recycling and then clipped the coupon onto her fridge. She was going to do it and enjoy the clean air that she and her family would be breathing very soon.
The company called Kelly back the next time and the customer service agent seemed very friendly. They took down her information and her address and set up a cleaning time for next week. Kelly was very excited because when she told her friends about the duct cleaning service they all told her that they had been considering doing the same thing and that she needed to let them know how it went. One of her friends mentioned that they had heard you should only let an HVAC company clean your air ducts, but she let that go. After all, if everyone was advertising duct cleaning service that surely couldn’t be true.
At any rate, she was ready when the team arrived at her home on Wednesday morning. They showed up over an hour late which was also annoying to her, but she knew that a lot of service people often worked by windows instead of direct times. She figured that an hour was within the window so she let that go and let the people into her home to clean. Immediately she noticed that they didn’t put the booties on their feet to protect her carpet like most service people did, but she tried not to let it bother her. She reasoned they must keep their feet clean if they just walk into homes like that and are in the business of cleaning homes. Kelly really didn’t like to raise issues so she stayed quiet and watched.
Before too long it was clear that the team was going to be working via multiple vents both inside and outside of her home and the dog was barking upstairs so Kelly went back upstairs and told the team to call her when they were done. She figured it was best to stay out of their way anyhow and she had to go settle down the dog who probably would have barked the entire time she stayed upstairs. She sat down to work on the computer and was so entranced that she barely noticed that a few hours had passed until her phone rang.
It was the duct cleaning service guys letting her know that they were all done and packing up to leave. Kelly went ahead and paid her invoice online using their platform and then went downstairs to see what they found. However, she was disappointed to find that the crew had already left, without showing her any pictures of what her vents looked like inside. A bit put off, she turned to go back upstairs to grab her phone and call them back to request some pictures when she noticed a huge scrape across her wall right over the top of where her heating vent was. Shocked, she stopped to take a closer look and was astounded to find dirt and debris all over the carpet around the vent.
At this point she didn’t care about pictures anymore, it was clear that they had found dirt in her air vents, but why was all the dirt out on her carpet? Now she was moving a little quicker and checking out all of the air vents around her home. The story seemed to be the same in every major air duct. There was dirt and debris around all of the vents discoloring the carpet (which she hoped wasn’t permanent). This had turned into a nightmare, at least when the dirt was hidden it wasn’t ruining anything else.
Kelly grabbed her phone and called the technicians back from the number they had given me but no one answered. She left a lengthy message describing the mess she found and how unhappy she was and then waited half an hour for them to call her back. Her phone remained silent but in the meantime, she did walk around the home and found three more scratches on the wall and one across the floor where the vents were cleaned. At this point, she was very angry, but also unwilling to leave the dirt lying there and went back to get her vacuum and start cleaning up the mess herself. The last thing she wanted to do was let the dog out and have him dig in the dirt and track it throughout the house.
She finished cleaning up the dirt around the vents and went outside to take a look. She was not surprised to see a mound of dirt laying outside in the driveway near the outdoor vent of the AC unit. Of course, they had just left it laying there as well. She was too upset to deal with that at the moment and left it to the wind while she went inside to call her husband and ask him what she should do. He told her to wait for the duct cleaning service to call her back and if they didn’t he would give them a call when he got home.
Once her husband got home he took a look around and found the situation was even worse than she had originally thought. While working in the hideaway closet on the first floor one of the vents had ended up stripping in the ceiling. Now they would have to call a real HVAC company to deal with that so that the air wouldn’t escape before it was properly routed throughout the home. Kelly certainly understood now why duct cleaning service should only be performed by professionals. Clearly, these men did not know what they were doing.
When the HVAC company came out they mentioned that the vent was indeed pulling away from the ceiling now, but they were able to screw it back into the drywall. They told Kelly and her husband that it should be enough, but if it wasn’t they may need to think about replacing that section later in time. The good news is that they hadn’t damaged the unit when they opened the top vent to clean, which was the one highlight of the second HVAC visit, because paying a second professional to clean up the mess of the first certainly didn’t feel great.
There was still one more professional that Kelly had to pay, however, the carpet steam cleaners because she ended up getting the carpets professionally cleaned to get the slight discoloration that was left behind around all the vents out. Plus, she had no idea how much more dirt had gotten trapped in the carpet fibers since the duct cleaning service guys clearly just sucked or brushed dirt out and let it fall wherever it happened to land. She had never been more frustrated in her life by something.
In the end, the duct cleaning probably didn’t end up helping Kelly much at all. She had no idea what was actually left in the vents, but she had a strong feeling that the job probably wasn’t complete. If she ever had someone come clean her home again she was certainly going to make sure that they were from a professional HVAC company.
About a week later she did finally receive a phone call back from the original service, but only after she left a negative review online. They told her that had she called they would have come back to clean up the mess and made it a practice to always vacuum after the service was done. She pointed out that she had called but no one returned her call, and that a vacuum alone was not enough to clean up the mess – she had the carpet cleaning bill to prove it.
In the end, there was nothing more that Kelly could do about the situation because the company effectively ghosted her and she didn’t want to get entangled in a social media or legal battle with them. She decided to cut her losses but learned a very valuable lesson about why you should only work with professional service companies when it comes to housework.
Scammed Out of Money
Jessie also had a bad experience with duct cleaning, but only because she chose a company that was not insured, bonded, or certified. In fact, the people that came out to her home were probably not even real duct cleaners. Instead, they were scammers who preyed on people who they figured didn’t know any better, and as Jessie soon found out, they were good at what they did. It only took a few hours for her to be down $900 and still have dirty air vents to deal with.
The Texan woman was getting her home ready to sell, and she just had the floors redone throughout her home. She knew that kicked up a lot of dust in the process and it was a safe bet that a lot of the dust and debris had probably ended up in her air ducts. The idea had been in her head for a few weeks, so when she saw a “neighbor” advertising duct cleaning service in one of her neighborhood groups she jumped on it. She figured out what better person to help out than someone in her community, and in the process, she could check cleaning her air ducts off her list. She figured it would be nice in the listing to say that the HVAC ductwork had recently been cleaned.
The technician from the duct company reached out to her quickly and said they had a cancellation and immediate availability. This sounded great to Jessie because she was anxious to get it done anyhow. She wasn’t ready to list the house for probably another month, but she didn’t like the idea of continuing to breathe the dust in the air so she was ready to get the situation taken care of. The deal was sealed when the technician stated that he would give her a deal for just $199 if she would take the cancellation spot tomorrow.
She couldn’t believe her luck, a low rate and it was going to get done fast. Jessie spent the evening getting ready for the air vent cleaner by moving stuff around and making sure that the vents were accessible and easy to reach. She moved furniture out of the way like she had read online and then she arranged to take her dog to her parent’s house for the day so she wouldn’t have to worry about it.
The cleaning guy arrived on time and he got back to work. He was friendly and chatted with her for a bit about the home and her plans to sell it. Everything seemed fine and when he disappeared into the attic to clean the vents Jessie went back to cleaning the kitchen. Breakfast had just ended and she had got the kids on the bus right before he came so she had some straightening up to do still. About 40 minutes after he disappeared upstairs Jessie noticed that the vacuum stopped and before too long he was back downstairs asking to speak with her.
He showed her pictures of disgusting attic vents that were covered in grime, debris, and worst of all, layers of mold. He told her that at some point there must have been a leak in the attic, and it had caused mold to grow in her attic air vents. He had half a dozen photos on his phone and each one looked worse than the last. Jessie was shocked, she couldn’t believe that they had been breathing mold for so long and no one had health issues. It actually made her feel quite sick to her stomach to think about it.
The duct cleaning service technician told her that if she paid an additional $650 he could get it out, but it would take a deep cleaning and a bit more time. Jessie hastily agreed. Now that she had seen how much filth and mold was up there, she had no choice but to pay someone to get it out of her home. The very fact that they were living like that was disgusting. She had to call her husband and move a little money around, but she was able to pay the bill because she couldn’t leave the air vents looking like that now that she knew.
Unfortunately, she paid in cash because that was the method of payment that the technician preferred. She thought it was kind of odd, but he had asked for cash for the first $199 and so it only made sense he would need another cash payment. Since he was a “neighbor” from her group she figured he just didn’t have a way to take credit card payments and you can’t always trust people to have checks these days. So while he was finishing the cleaning she ran down to the bank to take out the additional money.
For about a week Jessie told everyone about how disgusting her attic vents were and encouraged other people to go take a look at theirs. In truth, she hadn’t looked at them at all since she bought the house. It was possible that she had never even seen them, so they could have looked like that when they bought the house. She wanted everyone to know that their house might be hiding some dirty secrets that needed to be investigated. However, seven days after the duct cleaning service was completed she changed her tune- a lot.
She opened her closet and noticed that there was water coming out of the conduit that was in her closet. This was odd, and something that never happened before so she followed the path up from the conduit and realized she would have to go up to the attic to explore. Maybe this was coming from the leak that caused the mold she thought. When she got up to the attic she was in for a surprise, and not the one she wanted. She quickly realized that her air ducts were filthy, which means that they were never cleaned. They also were likely never moldy. She called her husband who came home and commented immediately that the AC unit seals had been removed. This was possibly what had caused the leaks.
At first, Jessie was in shock, how did this happen? But then she started to think harder about the pictures she saw and realized that the moldy ducts actually couldn’t have been the ducts in her attic. They didn’t look a thing alike and the directions were wrong. It turned out that she had been scammed, a clever trick that scammers across the US use to trick people who think they need their ducts cleaned. As Jessie could clearly see now, her air ducts really could use a good cleaning, but the $900 she spent wasn’t for any actual work to get done.
Jessie ended up calling a local HVAC company to come to take a look at her HVAC unit and the air ducts in her home because she was worried about what else may have happened. At this point, it was clear that anything might have happened. The HVAC technician who came out told her that there was tampering with her AC unit, but luckily it didn’t look too bad and could be fixed by installing a few new seals. He also explained to Jessie exactly what happened, and warned her that she should only hire a legitimate HVAC company to perform a duct cleaning service next time because this type of scam is widespread.
It turned out that this is a common scam, and it is well thought out. Usually, the service will get admitted into a “neighbors” group to give people false confidence in them. They know that people like working with local businesses, so they pose as one, or someone just starting out to get the sympathy factor. Then they offer a deep discount to get right in the door, which helps them capture the attention of the homeowner and ensures that they don’t have a lot of time to try to look up reviews or information about them.
Once in the door, they head up to the attic where they spend a fair amount of time before coming down and telling the homeowner that there is mold in their air ducts. They always have a wide array of photos, like the photos that Jessie saw, but the photos are not actually from the person’s home. What Jessie saw were photos of a moldy duct in someone else’s attic. There is a good chance that the supposed duct cleaner never saw the mold either. They likely just lifted them off the internet and saved them to their phone.
The scammer counted on Jessie not knowing what her attic or attic vents would look like because most homeowners don’t go up there often. He was right, and when she saw the pictures she had no reason to suspect that they weren’t really pictures of her home. While Jessie immediately was ready to jump on board, scammers can usually break down the prices of why mold removal costs so much if asked. This gives the illusion that it is a real process with multiple steps, which makes the entire thing seem much more believable.
The final step was asking Jessie to pay in cash. If Jessie had paid with a debit or credit card through any type of payment platform, then she could have disputed the transaction with her credit card company. Not only would this allow the fraudster to be found, but it also could have resulted in a chargeback causing them to lose the money. On the other hand, cash has no trail and there is no way to get it back. So scammers often ask to be paid in cash because it is the easiest way to disappear without a trace. Leaving people like Jessie out of luck because there was no way for her to get her money back.
As mentioned earlier, she only paid with cash because she thought she was working with a neighbor, which is a big reason why these scams work. People know not to trust random advertisements that they see on Facebook, but a lot of people don’t realize that groups are not that safe either. Depending on who admins and moderates a group, it is easy for scammers to slip in without much notice. All they have to do is get one person to bite and it will be worth their time. After that, they simply leave the group and disappear without a trace.
That just left one question that Kelly wanted to be answered before the legitimate HVAC company left: why would the scammer take the air conditioning unit seals? They obviously had not done any of the actual work, so why did they bother to take the seals off. This didn’t seem like something that would typically happen during the duct cleaning service anyhow. This was after all what caused the leak that tipped her off. If the scammer hadn’t done that, then Jessie would probably still think that she got a great deal on her air ducts.
The HVAC technician explained that thieves often remove the AC seals or drain the Freon so you call them back a second time to fix the problem. They are looking for a second trip back to maximize their money. Homeowners that don’t go up to look for themselves why something isn’t working, will never know that the seals or Freon were drained. They will simply call the duct cleaning service back desperate because their AC is now not working. The service then can sweep in and look like the heroes the second time, all while collecting more cash that they can run away with once it’s done.
Jessie was grateful that she at least didn’t get tricked a second time, but she did learn two valuable lessons throughout the ordeal. The first was that she should only book a duct cleaning service from a legitimate, licensed, certified, and bonded HVAC company. This is the only way to make sure that the service you get is real. The second thing she learned was that if someone is in your home and finds an issue, you should go look. Had she insisted to see the mold for herself she would have caught the scam and been able to do something before she was out so much more additional money.
Following the duct cleaning service, Jessie called the company back multiple times. She has texted the person who was so quick in contacting her the first time and left bad reviews warning other people in the group about them. At this point, she is aware that she will never get her money back, and is aware that the person is still out there doing this to others. While the company changed its name, she seems to be posting the same pictures in various neighborhood groups in other communities near where she lives. She used to post warnings, but the profiles change so frequently that she has given up for now.
Both Kelly and Jessie got in trouble with duct cleaning service because they did not do their due diligence before hiring a company. Having your air ducts cleaned annually is a great way to reduce dust and dirt in your home. Had they chosen an HVAC company to take care of their air ducts they would have likely had a much different experience. However, both experienced the worst side of the business by choosing companies out of the blue.
The internet is a great tool that makes it easy to find a duct cleaning service without ending up in the same position as Jessie and Kelly but it also makes it easy to end up in their spots if you aren’t paying attention. It cannot be understated just how important it is to make sure that you chose an HVAC company to clean out your home air ducts.
While Jessie got away without too much additional damage outside of the AC seals that needed to be replaced, Kelly did not have the same experience. One of her air vents was knocked out of place and had to be fastened back into place. Even the HVAC company was unsure if that was going to be enough or if the entire piece was going to end up needing to be replaced down the road. Kelly will just have to wait and see what happens, but it is likely that she will have a reminder of the terrible experience down the road again.
Both paid way more than they should have as well, just in different ways. Jessie ended up paying an extremely high amount of cash for a service that wasn’t even completed while Kelly ended up paying for two extra services (HVAC company and carpet cleaner) to clean up the mess that was left behind by the first crew. You don’t want to find yourself in this same position. Working with an HVAC company that offers veritable duct cleaning service is the best way to protect yourself.
Protect Yourself and Get Clean Ducts
If you are thinking about booking a duct cleaning service but don’t want to end up in the same situation as Kelly and Jessie, there are a few things to know. For example, if you are working with a professional service they should tell you that they are unable to quote you a price for duct cleaning until they see your home. This is because reputable companies will base their cleaning rate on the size of the home since it will alter how much labor is required to clean out the air ducts. On the other hand, fraudulent companies will offer all clients the same flat rate as a way to get their attention.
Another indicator is how long the job will take. Just like the rate, a reputable company shouldn’t be able to give you a timeframe until they either see your home or learn more about it. They may ask you how many floors, how many rooms, and if you know the square footage of your home. A mid-sized home usually will require at least five hours to thoroughly clean. Just because you cannot see them doesn’t mean they aren’t there. If you could peel back the drywall around your home you would see air vents running under most rooms and throughout a large portion of the home. It takes a while to actually clean all of that. If the technician says that your air ducts can be cleaned in an hour or two this is a very good indication that it is either a shoddy service or a scam.
Finally, the last indicator is when something happens like what happened to Jessie: the price changes after the cleaning starts. A professional duct cleaning service should be prepared to find everything and anything. That includes mold. Therefore, the quoted estimate should remain largely the same barring extremely odd circumstances. If the price changes drastically in the middle of the cleaning service due to some crazy variable, there is a good chance that you are working with a fraudster. While you don’t want to confront anyone in your home, once you are aware it may be a scam, the best thing to do is politely decline the offer and ask the scammer to leave while you think about it.
If you want to reap the benefits of a duct cleaning service but are afraid or confused about who to call, take the safe route and call the trusted HVAC professionals at One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating of Dallas. Our team is fully trained and we are a fully licensed and bonded company. We are happy to schedule a consultation or a service today.
See our previous blog on this topic here.
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