Don’t Let Just Anyone Handle Your Air Duct Cleaning Service: Horror Stories That Will Leave You Shaking
Over the last few years air duct cleaning service has gained a lot of ground as a great way to keep your home clean and the oxygen in your home free of dirt, debris, and pet dander. These are just a few of the many benefits that are associated with regular duct cleaning, but in order to reap these benefits you have to choose a company that is reputable who actually cleans your air ducts. As the service continues to expand, there are now a lot of people who are not HVAC technicians offering duct cleaning services and many of these stories end in disaster.
Your air ducts are a very important part of your home cooling system. Most people don’t realize it, but ductwork is considered a part of your HVAC system. Therefore, you should consider cleaning it and checking out the condition of your ducts at least once every two years. Ducts only last for so long, and leaky ducts could be forcing your AC system to work harder which means you will have to replace your unit faster than you should. With that in mind, it is time to learn the value of choosing the right HVAC company to clean your ducts.
The following are two stories of people who did not choose the right HVAC company for their air duct cleaning service. Reading their stories and what happened helps demonstrate the importance of choosing only a valid HVAC company when it comes to your air ducts. Take a minute to read the stories, and then if you have not yet had someone look at your air ducts, consider contacting a company that has the professional knowledge to do so.
Scam Artists Abound
Matt knew that a lot of neighbors had their air ducts cleaned and it seemed that everyone was talking about how much dirt was hiding in their systems. He had no idea what he would find hiding in his ductwork, but since he never had anyone clean them he suspected it was a lot. He had lived in his home with his family for the past decade, and in that decade they had gone through many pets including a few cats. They also had a huge St. Bernard and he felt that there was probably another dog’s worth of hair hiding in his air vents.
He had just never taken the time to book a service, but he saw an ad in a neighborhood Facebook group that made him think about it a little more. This ad promised that they would clean out the entire ductwork of a home in less than two hours and for a much smaller amount of money than what his friends had paid. Matt was quite intrigued by this idea. He hadn’t really planned to do it right now, but if he could get a great deal and get it done, then why not go ahead and book a service. He figured it would probably take a few weeks before the company would have time to come out to his home anyhow.
To his surprise, the company told him that they had a cancellation and could come out this afternoon if he was available. Matt worked from home so this was no problem for him and he said sure. This might be one of his most productive days yet. Look at how much he was multitasking! He couldn’t wait to tell his wife when she got home that he had worked, managed the house, and cleaned out the air ducts without missing a step. Everything seemed to be going great.
The air duct cleaning service came out a few hours later and asked Matt a few basic questions. He had prepared for their visit by moving furniture away from air vents and making sure they had clear access to the exhaust vents. The team started work outside and then went upstairs to the attic where the AC unit was kept. It was quiet for a bit outside of the noise of the vacuum that was a gentle hum above his head. It was almost soothing while he worked. However, the relaxing feeling of accomplishment would soon fade when the technician came downstairs searching for Matt.
The technician told him that he had found mold all over the inside of the piping upstairs. He showed Matt photos of grimy mold inside his air vents. Matt was appalled. How on Earth had mold grown inside of his pipes? He didn’t even know that there was a leak in the vent. The technician commented that sometimes if there is a backup in the drain pipe a bit of water can sneak into other places and Texas has so much humidity that it is easy for mold to grow.
Matt was very glad that he had booked the duct cleaning service now, but he knew that he had to get rid of that mold. Imagine his family breathing that mold on a daily basis as the air circulated around his home. This was ridiculous. The technician told him not to worry, they could get the mold out but it would be an extra $600 fee for the cleaning chemicals and the proper PPE that the techs used so that no one was hurt in the process. Matt quickly agreed and thanked the technician for acting so quickly. He also asked if he could get one of those photos to show his wife. He turned to walk upstairs but the technician volunteered quickly to send him a photo on his cell phone. He said his equipment was everyone and he wanted to minimize any chance of injury.
That worked for Matt and he forwarded the photo to his wife and went back to work. A few hours later the technician came back downstairs and said the job was done and told Matt to call him back if they had any new problems pop up. Matt said thank you and sat down in the living room to think about the day. He thought it was going to be a simple day and the air duct cleaning service had definitely made it a lot more complicated. Still he was happy that he had taken care of that mold.
Thinking about it again, he pulled out his phone to take a second look at that picture. There was obviously a lot of mold and grime. The entire thing was just disgusting, he was about to delete the photo so he could stop thinking about it when the background of the photo caught his eye. There was an exposed rafter in the ceiling, and Matt had placed drywall over the attic a few years ago so that it could be used for storage and eventually a play area for the kids.
Suddenly suspicious, he blew up the photo and looked at the positioning of the vent and the AC unit in the corner of the photo. This wasn’t his attic at all! This man showed him a picture of another man’s attic. Matt had a very bad feeling about all of this real quick and ran upstairs to take a look at his AC system. It looked like the system had obviously been tampered with and some of the seals were missing. Now Matt had a bigger problem, he knew for sure that the scammer had probably not actually removed any mold, but he didn’t know what he had done.
Matt ended up paying for an emergency HVAC company to come out to his home to inspect the AC unit and make sure that nothing serious had happened to it. The HVAC company noticed that the kill switch had been turned off and that the seals had been stolen, but that was it. They explained to Matt that they had seen this before, and were not sure why the fake duct cleaning services did it. One theory is that they wanted to cause problems so that the homeowner would call them out of desperation and they would make more money. The other theory is that the people who scam others simply enjoy messing with people, and it adds to the fun to know they may have caused a potential issue for the people they scammed.
The news was infuriating to Matt. He was now out hundreds of dollars and he still didn’t have clear air ducts. The HVAC company mentioned that they also offered a duct cleaning service, but understood he wasn’t ready to jump into anything right now, but it was something that he should consider when he settled down and recovered from this. They also reminded Matt that this is one reason why you should never purchase any home service from a Facebook ad. Scammers are all over the country doing this, and often the ads are clever enough that they can convince even the most skeptical person that they are real
Matt was a busy guy who just happened to notice a price he liked for air duct cleaning service. He was the exact type of person that the duct cleaning scam artists love. He didn’t waste his time looking into the service and jumped at the opportunity to just get it done with. He also didn’t immediately jump up to look at the attic, which was a bonus for the crew. The HVAC company told Matt that most likely they sat up there with the vacuum turned on for hours while they played with their phone and then left.
Angry, Matt attempted to call the number they gave him but it went to voicemail. He then went onto Facebook to send a message only to realize that the profile he had messaged was gone. He would see similar ads on Facebook for the next few months, but they would get deleted and reappear faster than he could take any action.
While there was nothing that Matt could do now, there are a few things that you can learn from his story. If you are thinking about booking an air duct cleaning service, save yourself some heartache and make sure that you only work with a registered company. Avoid any Facebook ad or any other ad that isn’t coming from a professional HVAC company. Also, be careful not to mistake a legitimate HVAC company for an advertisement. Many times the scammers use the logo or graphic from a legitimate company that they are not affiliated with. You can protect yourself by calling the company and inquiring about the advertisement versus a direct message to the poster.
Finally, be wary of prices that sound too good to be true. It is impossible to complete a full air duct cleaning service in just an hour and a price that is under $100 is also not likely. These are signs of a scam artist waiting to make a quick buck off of anyone that can. Stay ahead of them and make sure you don’t fall prey to these tactics.
Keep in mind that not every duct cleaning service is fraudulent. There are many great benefits of air duct cleaning service, and you will experience all of them if you book your service from a reputable HVAC service. Spend some time verifying the company you choose and it will be worth it. Many people are shocked at what is hiding in their air ducts. You may be as well, just don’t make the same mistake that Matt did. Make sure you do your research before you settle on any one service and don’t choose one with an immediate opening. That is practically unheard of in the HVAC world, especially during the summer in Texas.
So Much Dirt & Nowhere to GO
Beth had always wanted to have her air ducts cleaned, she had a very sensitive nose and knew that there were things hiding deep in her air vents that were no doubt making it harder to breathe. However, her husband always told her that she was too sensitive and just made things up in her head. With that in mind, she would try to quiet her head and just focus on cleaning the areas of the home that she could see. It was no secret that she liked to keep the house clean, which is why they didn’t have pets. Yet, half of the time when she was in the house she felt like her allergies were acting up anyhow.
Beth and her husband Tim had purchased an older home in a historic part of town, so she strongly suspected that whoever had the house before her had pets. In fact, she was sure of it because some of the scraps on the baseboards that they restored clearly indicated someone with claws had lived in the house. Now she was convinced that her pet dander was just mocking her from deep in the ductwork. Every time the fans blew the AC out she knew that the dander was just circulating her home, but she couldn’t get Tim to agree to an air duct cleaning service. He wasn’t sure how legitimate these services were, and he thought she was prone to exaggeration.
However, once they had their first child everything changed. Suddenly Tim was ready to do anything he thought would help protect their child, and the idea of unclean air in their home frightened him enough to finally agree with Beth. After all, they didn’t know what was hiding in those vents. There could have been rat poop, dust, pet dander, and maybe a few dead animals. Those vents went deep into the house and could be hiding anything. It was time to book an air duct cleaning service and take care of the issue once and for all.
Beth was ready to call the first company they saw, but Tim was a bit more cautious and wanted to book an actual HVAC company for the air duct cleaning service. Beth agreed this was the best move because they wanted to make sure that everything was cleaned out thoroughly. They didn’t spend much time researching the company they went with though, because both of them wanted to get the task done quickly. After all, this was their infant they were talking about and they wanted the air perfect for him.
On the day of the actual air duct cleaning service, Beth took their infant son and went to her parents so that he wouldn’t be around any of the dust and Tim took off work to stay home and wait for the HVAC company to show up. They were there exactly when they said they would and were ready to get started. Tim was quite pleased with their work ethic and thought they were very friendly. They told him that this process could take hours so he was welcome to do whatever he liked. He chose to go up to his office and work some while they were working.
Throughout the next few hours, Tim could hear them changing locations around the house and the vacuum firing up as they went to different locations. He got focused on a task and forgot that nothing else was happening. A few hours later he received a phone call that said they were done and could pay the invoice using the text link. He chatted with the cleaner for a few more minutes who said they could let themselves out if he was busy. Tim wanted to get this data sheet done since he had gotten locked into it and thanked them. He asked them to just shut the kitchen door behind them and thanked them again for their time.
Tim sent a quick text message to Beth telling her that she could come home now and then went back to work. If he got this done before dinner he might have some free time to actually play with his son tonight, a prospect that excited him and he knew would relieve Beth who could use some free time after spending most of her days at home with him.
Before he got finished though he heard Beth scream for him to come down the stairs. He wasn’t sure what was happening, but he recognized that tone and he knew it wasn’t going to be good. When he got to the bottom of the stairs he stopped and his mouth fell open. There were dusty footprints across the white carpet in their living room, and as he continued to walk into the room he could see that they continued into the den and back towards the kitchen. While they didn’t show up on the tile floor, he could see the dust bunnies in there as well. Evidently, none of the guys with the air duct cleaning service or wore protective booties.
In addition, there was a pile of dust surrounding the corners of all of the air vents that they had cleaned on the first floor. It was evident that they had pulled quite a bit of dust out of the air vents, because a great deal of it was just sitting there around the vents now. He felt a little sick just looking at it. He was happy it wasn’t hiding in his vents anymore, but now there was just dust everywhere. Tim was almost afraid to look at Beth, he was pretty sure her reaction was not going to be positive.
He was right. Beth was ready to explode, but tensely asked for the phone number of the HVAC company. Without a word, he handed it over to her. She called but got a messaging service that said they were closed unless this was an emergency. She snapped into the phone that they had left their bloody mess all over her house and then hung up the phone. Beth asked TIm how on earth she let them leave the house looking like this, and he admitted that he had been upstairs working. They were working the entire time and he could hear the vacuum running so he didn’t bother them. He had no idea that they hadn’t cleaned up anything.
Beth slowly asked if this was how the upstairs looked as well – including the baby’s room. Tim had no idea but he headed upstairs wearily to take a look. He had a bad feeling that there was probably dust everywhere and it was going to be a very long night. While he was upstairs he grabbed the Dyson and started vacuuming all of the dirt near the vents. He then went downstairs and did the same, but it was clear that the dust had discolored the gray carpets. He could hardly look at Beth, who was hiding in the kitchen attempting to pretend none of this was happening.
The next morning Beth called and booked a carpet cleaning service to try and restore their white carpet while Tim spent the morning arguing with the company about a refund. He didn’t want just a refund for the poor customer service, but he also wanted them to pay for the carpet cleaning that was now required. He couldn’t understand how in this day and age people would come into a home and not wear protective booties on their feet when they were working with a massive amount of dust.
The HVAC company stated that they usually did clean up after themselves and apologized that the technicians had left the dirt behind after the air duct cleaning service. They stated that they would have happily come back out to the home to clean up, but the mess was already cleaned up so there was nothing they could do about it. Tim was really angry at this point, what did they expect that he would do? Leave the dirt everywhere until the morning and then call them to come to clean up the mess. Clearly, they should have cleaned up the mess in the first place.
However, now there was nothing that Beth or Tim could say so they had to live with the fact that their air ducts were clean following the air duct cleaning service, but they had to do most of the hard work themselves. They knew they would never recommend that service to anyone else, and if they ever decided to have their air ducts cleaned down the road they would choose someone else to do it.
Interestingly enough, after the disaster Beth went online to leave a bad review and found that the company had dozens of bad reviews written by people who said the same thing. The technicians left the dirt behind and didn’t even bother to cover their feet. Apparently, they were not the only people who had this problem. The only thing Beth wished is that she had thought to go read the reviews before the service happened because maybe she could have stopped it.
No Smoke, But No Air
Amanda was very excited to buy her first home. As a young professional who had just taken on a director job at the university she worked with, she was easily the first of her friends to put down roots and own a real house. This was quite impressive, and she couldn’t wait to show it off to her friends. Unfortunately, she had to do something about the weird odors in the home first.
When she had walked through the open house she hadn’t noticed any odors in the house, but now that she owned it and was standing in it she could definitely smell something like stale cigarettes. She knew the home was older and the person who owned it before her had passed away from lung cancer. It was a pretty solid guess that they had smoked in the home and now the smoke was probably lining her air ducts.
Luckily, she knew there was a fix for this. She would just hire an air duct cleaning service and have them take care of the problem. Amanda felt like a real adult. Here she was in her new home taking care of the first real problem she had like a pro. She went online, found a company, and booked their service. In less than a week they would be out and then her home would be refreshed. After she got this done she was going to host a little party so that she could show off her new home to all of her friends. It was going to be wonderful.
The air duct cleaning service showed up and asked Amanda what she knew about the condition of the home and the air vents. She was honest and said she didn’t know a whole lot, but that they clearly had an odor attached to them and she was hopeful that this would help get it out. They agreed and said that they would be happy to clean out all of the vents in the home. She told them to knock it out and went upstairs to read some in her bedroom while they were working.
It took the crew about three hours to do the entire home, and when they were done she could already tell the difference. They showed her pictures of what it looked like inside of her air ducts and she was surprised to see that they had even found a few bottles. The good news was that there was no mold or rodent poop, which she was afraid they might find since the house was older. She paid the crew and they left.
After they were gone Amanda noticed that they had not been that great at cleaning the vents where they cleaned. She had to go grab her mini shop vac and clean up the dirt that had dropped around the vents, but she figured it was better outside of the vents than hiding inside of them. She made a mental note to go ahead and wash her floors tomorrow to make sure that she got rid of any remaining evidence.
As she walked downstairs something immediately struck her as odd, but she didn’t know what it was at first. It almost looked like the kitchen ceiling was sagging a bit. She thought that must have been in her head and that she was being ridiculous and let it go. After all, why would her ceiling suddenly be sagging, it’s not as if any water had been used in the process.
The next morning she woke up extremely hot. It was like the air conditioning was not cooling the upstairs at all. This was very odd to her and she walked downstairs to see if the thermostat was set correctly. This was a new house and she just had the air duct cleaning service out so it was possible that something had gotten knocked by accident. She quickly discovered that the thermostat was correct, but it was very cool downstairs.
She didn’t know why it would be extra cold downstairs when it was so hot upstairs, but she suspected that something was going on. She called an HVAC company to come out for repair and to look closer at the problem. The company, unfortunately, did not have any openings and it wasn’t considered an emergency because she still had some cool air. Therefore, she had to wait a week before someone could get out of her home. This was a major inconvenience for her, since she had to sleep downstairs for the week and she had not fully moved in her furniture yet. She didn’t even have a sofa so she ended up sleeping on the floor.
Finally, the HVAC company was able to come and they immediately noticed that the airflow coming out of the vents upstairs was not even with the airflow downstairs. Something had happened that caused the air vents to stop distributing air evenly. At first, they suspected that maybe the air duct cleaning service knocked a vent gate changing the direction of the air, but after checking all of the directional panels they found that this could not be the case.
For some reason, Amanda thought of the sagging ceiling in the kitchen and mentioned it to the HVAC company. She told them that it was the only thing she noticed differently afterward, but it had bugged her for a second. The HVAC technician thought about it and then went to get a flashlight and a camera. He took a look deep into the vent that crossed through that area and found that it was completely broken in half. When the air duct cleaning service was cleaning they must have knocked it pretty hard with the brush, and the vents were rusting from age and just fell apart. Since the kitchen had a soft tiled ceiling the pressure had pushed the tile down some which created the sag.
Amanda could not believe it. The reason the air was not getting upstairs was because the vent was broken that was supposed to carry it up there. An entire air vent was broken and she could guess that this was not going to be a very cheap repair. After all, it was buried under the flooring. She didn’t even know how you got in there to replace something like that. The HVAC company spoke to her for a while and suggested that she might want to check the condition of the rest of her air vents, because if this one was rusty there was a good chance that others were too, and now might be the time to think about replacing them.
Amanda didn’t know what to do at this point, this was certainly a situation she never expected to find herself in. She called the air duct cleaning service but got voicemail. She left them a long voicemail and then told the HVAC company that discovered the problem that for now she wanted to fix just one vent but would think about what she should do about the rest of the house. Finally, the air duct cleaning service called her back but they stated that she could not prove that they had broken the vent and that they could see many of the vents were old when they cleaned them out. This was always a risk of the service and they refused to pay for anything.
She thought about filing a claim on her house insurance, but she just bought the home and didn’t want her premium to go up so she ended up paying out of pocket for the repair and took the air duct cleaning service to small claims court. She is still waiting for her day in court and hoping that she can get her money back. If she does, then she might be able to replace more rusting ductwork. However, the company wasn’t insured or bonded, so it is unlikely that she will end up with much of a settlement.
Both Matt and Amanda had terrible outcomes because they did not properly investigate the air duct cleaning service they hired until it was too late. Had they taken a minute to look at reviews or the credentials of the companies they chose to work with they might have thought twice and chosen a real HVAC company for the service. The number one way to protect yourself when you book a duct cleaning service is by choosing an HVAC company with licensed technicians on board to complete the service.
If you are looking for an experienced technician to help with your duct cleaning, contact One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating of Dallas to schedule an appointment.
See our previous blog on this topic here.
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