Simple Duct Cleaning Service Visits That Turned Into Nightmares

Simple Duct Cleaning Service Visits That Turned Into Nightmares

Are you thinking about a duct cleaning service? If you are paying attention it seems like everyone is having their air ducts cleaned these days. That can leave you feeling like you are missing out on something. Plus, if you look at the ads, they sound great. Who wouldn’t want to remove dust, allergens, mold, and more from their air vents? If you have owned your home for more than ten years, there may very well be some of these things in your vents. The best way to get a good look is by having someone come out to take a look.

While this is all very reasonable, the problem is that there are a lot of scammers out there who are willing to take advantage of people who don’t know any better. Many of these scammers are just waiting for people looking for a duct service, and they use fear tactics and low fees to help attract customers. Once they are at your door, they can convince most homeowners to purchase add-ons that end up making the service cost even more, and in exchange, sometimes don’t even thoroughly clean the air ducts.

That adds injury to insult; you can easily end up paying for a duct cleaning service that doesn’t clean out your air vents. Plenty of people have fallen prey to these scams, which gives honest duct cleaning companies a bad name. The key usually when searching for a valid service is to look for an HVAC company that sends out trained technicians to handle the ductwork in your home. In the same way, you wouldn’t let just anyone handle your furnace or AC. You don’t want to let just anyone clean out your air ducts. With that in mind, the following are a few stories of people who learned the hard way why it pays to be discerning when you hire someone to clean out your air ducts.

Take a minute to read their stories and learn from their mistakes because they may be what save you from falling for a similar scam. The best way to protect yourself from scammers is by arming yourself with information. When you know what to look for, it is harder for scammers to take advantage of you during a duct cleaning service.

Lots of Words – No Action

Allen was at a cookout with his son’s Boy Scout troop when the topic of duct cleaning service came home. Most homes in his neighborhood were century homes, so there were undoubtedly some secrets hidden deep in the homes’ ductwork. A few of the dads had already had their ductwork cleaned, and they had photos of the dust and rodent remains in them. This got Allen thinking about his home. He owned it for about 12 years and did not think much about his air ducts. The idea that there might be mold or rodents hiding in his ducts had never occurred to him, but now the thought was undoubtedly bothering him.

It seemed worth it to have his ducts cleaned, but while he was searching the internet he was getting the idea that this was not a cheap service. He thought it would just be a few hundred dollars, but it took hours and cost a bit more than that. Allen didn’t want to undervalue the expertise of the HVAC company he usually used, but he also didn’t want to spend a lot on this. He just wanted to see what was down there.

What he saw online didn’t sound like what the other dads had done because they talked about it so easily that it seemed like it had been a quick thing. Now Allen regularly kept up with his annual HVAC servicing, and he didn’t want to add this to his annual list of things to do. He gave up for the day but decided to look again when he had more time on the weekend. However, he was pleasantly surprised to see an ad on his Facebook advertising a $99 duct cleaning service from a local neighbor.

Now that was something he could get on board with. Allen didn’t know that it could be this easy. That price was virtually nothing, and according to the ad, the process would only take an hour. That sounded even better to him. He could probably have his wife let them into the house so that he didn’t even have to take a day off work to do it. The advertisement said there was limited time, so Allen quickly messaged the company and scheduled an appointment. It was a snap decision, but he didn’t want to lose his chance to get this great deal.

After sending the company a message, they asked for his phone number, and he quickly received a call from a scheduling agent. They told him again that this was an excellent service and that at the end of the duct cleaning service, he would know that his ducts were clean. The company was billed as thorough and professional and Allen felt good about the appointment. He was told to pay before the cleaning service, but not over the phone. Once the technician arrived at his door, which seemed reasonable to Allen.

He was pleased to learn there had been a cancellation and they could fit him in the next day. Even better, he wouldn’t have to wait to get his duct service done. He could immediately find out what had been hiding there and soon have his own stories and photos to show his friends. It turned out that this should have been a red flag. There were three red flags that Allen missed.

The first, as you probably guessed, was the price. The price was way too low for an entire home cleaning. If he had read the fine print, he would have seen that this only covered vacuuming the vent registers in the home. Once they arrived at his home they would suddenly tell him this and encourage him to add on services.

The second red flag was that they asked for his phone number and then called him. He should have contacted them by the company name listed in the ad. Had he Googled the company name, he would have discovered that it wasn’t their ad and didn’t even offer duct cleaning service. The scammer was using their name because it made them sound more authoritative. Finally, the third signal was the fact that they had a sudden cancellation, which is a classic trick. In reality, they wanted to make sure that he would book with them before he realized that it was too good to be true. Getting him in the next day was a great way to protect themselves.

Unfortunately, Allen missed all of these tricks, so he went to bed happy with the cleaning service coming the next day. His wife was going to let them into the house, and the company had already said they would send him pictures of whatever they found in his air ducts. It seemed like a win-win situation. Allen was even a bit excited to see what was in there. It’s not that he wanted bad news, but he wouldn’t mind getting a cool story out of the whole thing.

The next day came, and the crew showed up bright and early. Allen’s wife let them in, and immediately they went to a vent register to inspect the ducts. They quickly told his wife that the ducts looked much worse than they thought and it was probably a good idea if they expanded the contract. She was confused as she had been told by Allen that they were cleaning out all the ductwork. She didn’t know why they would only clean the vent registers. She could have done that on her own with the vacuum.

They explained that if she wanted the branch lines deep inside the home to be cleaned and the lines leading to the furnace or the return lines, she would have to opt to add those to her package. At this point, she was quite confused and not sure what to do, so the company offered to get some quick pictures to show her what was hiding in there so she could make a more educated decision. Now this seemed reasonable to her, so she told them to proceed. She heard them bumbling around in the ducts but had to leave the area to care for the baby, so she didn’t see what was happening. When she came back they showed her a few photos that showed massive amounts of dirt, some old bottles, and even some signs that mold was growing.

Now she was quite concerned. They had a newborn in the house, and she did not like the idea of all that dirt circulating the air they were breathing in the home. Even more concerning was that mold. They told her that if they could see some mold with the dirt in there, then there was bound to be a lot more mold as they cleaned. It was likely there was extensive growth, and it would need to be removed and sanitized. She quickly agreed; there was no way that she was going to have mold living in her home.

She asked them for a second and quickly forwarded the shocking photos to her husband, showing him what the crew had found, and they hadn’t even begun working yet. He was also a bit taken aback but more concerned with how much they would charge. Allen extensively questioned why it cost more than $99, and she told him it was because that was only a basic clean, and now they needed a lot more done.

Allen was no longer excited about the duct cleaning service. Now it had turned into a headache, but he at least felt good that they found out before it affected anyone seriously in the home. He was in awe at what could have been hiding under there all of these years. His mistake now was he didn’t take time to look further into what they were saying. He told his wife to pay their $500 cleaning fee and $100 sanitizing fee. She happily agreed and told the crew that they could get to work. She had to feed the baby again, so she didn’t stick around to watch what was happening.

Throughout the next hour, Allen’s wife heard the sound of vacuums being turned on and off and of air vents being moved. She assumed they were cleaning things and went about taking care of her newborn. She stayed out of their way as much as she could because she didn’t want the baby by any of the dust. Therefore, she didn’t know what was happening until they hollered that they were leaving. She was in the middle of a feed, so hollered back thanks and let them go. Her husband had already sent the team the additional funds on Venmo.

When she walked downstairs she was in for a shock. The vents were not properly put back on near the vents, and there seemed to be dust everywhere around the vents. In fact, for a company that said that they were going to clean the vent registers, there seemed to be more dust showing than ever before. It also smells heavily of Lysol, which she would later discover was because they had sprayed Lysol down the vents to “sanitize them.” The crew also left an empty Lysol bottle behind near a register in the dining room and one outside near the outdoor unit.

She was shocked and couldn’t believe they had paid all this for Lysol and what looked like a very hasty service. She quickly called the company they said they were from to complain, and that is when she found out officially that they had been scammed. As mentioned earlier, when she called the company they told her they did not offer duct cleaning service. They had not sent anyone to her home and were unsure what had happened to her. However, they had a pretty good idea, as hers was not the first phone call they received.

The company also advised that she get her AC unit and ductwork checked, as sometimes these scammers caused damage since they didn’t know what they were doing. Now she was feeling a bit panicked and told them that she would have to call her husband to deal with it. She had no idea what to do and was quite angry that she had ended up in this position. Allen had told her that all she had to do was let them in, and since then, she had been all over the place. This was not what she had in mind at all. She called Allen and told him that he had to come home right now, which he did once he understood that they had been scammed.

Allen inspected the vent registers and was happy to find that they had not been damaged, but a few of the screws were lost, which he had to replace. With that task done, he went to the attic to check on the AC unit. It looked fine, but he did notice some light leaking. They had bumped the condensate pan out of the way and didn’t bother to replace it. He was lucky that he had noticed that, or it would have caused water damage, and then he really would have had mold growing.

While in the attic, he decided to look at the return to see the mold that was shown in the pictures. At this point, Allen figured they hadn’t done much about it outside of spraying Lysol, but he wanted to see it so that he could adequately treat it. Before leaving work, he had talked to a buddy who mentioned that a technician needs to be licensed to deal with mold, so it was unlikely anything was done. Allen thought that he would now have to find a second expert to actually do the job he paid the scammers to do. In hindsight, he had known that fact as well, but he was so alarmed about the mold and his wife’s panic about the mold that he hadn’t been thinking clearly.

While attempting to take the vent down to look inside, it suddenly occurred to him that the attic had wood paneling. In the photos that supposedly showed the inside of the vent, the walls were drywalled around the vent opening. He paused briefly and checked his phone to look at the photos again. Sure enough, the pictures were of an attic with drywall. Instant relief washed over him as he realized that these pictures were not of his home. His air vents were probably not that bad and certainly not mold-filled.

However, that relief quickly turned to rage when he realized that this group of scammers was using photos to lie and scare people like his wife into buying extra services they didn’t need. In addition, the services were not even real. At this point, he was so angry he could hardly see straight, but there was no one he could complain to. Now he knew why people always said not to pay anyone via Venmo that you didn’t know. Suddenly this great deal had cost him about five times more, and nothing had changed.

Now he had more work than before because he would have to clean the dust and dirt they left all over the vents where they pretended to work. Allen knew his wife couldn’t be fussing with that while taking care of the baby, and they weren’t going to just let the dirt sit there. He probably would need to consider renting a rug cleaner or at least buying some carpet spot remover. What a headache he had to deal with now.

Allen fell victim to a duct cleaning service scam because he didn’t know what to look for, but you can rest assured it wasn’t going to happen to him or anyone he knew again. While he didn’t get the story he wanted, he did get an incredible saga that he told to anyone that would listen. He didn’t want anyone to get tricked into paying for a duct cleaning service that they didn’t need again. He also started reporting every single post that he saw online for similar services. Now that he was paying attention, he noticed that the company names would change, but the pictures stayed the same while they tried to scam more people.

Allen decided ultimately that he would wait until his next AC service was due and then talk to his normal HVAC company to see if they thought that his ducts needed to be cleaned. If they did he would pay the expected amount to have a professional take care of the duct cleaning service, but if they didn’t, he would just let the entire go. At the very least, he knew he could at least trust his normal HVAC company.

A Failed Safety Service

Alice had asthma that only seemed to be getting worse as each year passed. She knew that the changing Texas weather was not helping, but she also suspected that the indoor air quality in her home was not the best. She had once had an HVAC company come out to assess the air quality, and they had told her there were a few things she could do, such as using better air filters and cleaning her air ducts to make the air in her home easier to breathe.

While Alice understood these things, she was also limited on spare cash since she lived alone on a fixed income. While she did make it a point to buy the HEPA allergy filters, she avoided the other suggestions because she simply didn’t have the money and didn’t know how much it would help. However, now that her asthma was not under control, she was open to exploring other options and worried about what might be in her air ducts. Lately, she had seen a lot of commercials about duct cleaning services and wondered if that could be the reason that she wasn’t breathing as well in her home.

After all, she had never had her air ducts cleaned, so maybe there was mold or layers of dirt and allergens lying in her ductwork. If that was the case, then it didn’t matter how much she used her inhaler. She was going to keep getting triggered. The more she thought about it, the more it made sense, and she became determined to find someone to clean her air ducts to see if that would help her get to the bottom of the situation.

However, when she called her HVAC company she didn’t like the price of a duct cleaning service. Like Allen, she had seen so many ads in fliers that came in the mail and her email that she thought she could do better. She started looking for deals in search of the best price for the duct cleaning service. While she understood that you get what you paid for sometimes, she also thought that if she could find a great deal she could come out on top. Judging by the pictures, all these companies could find dirt and remove it. What Alice didn’t realize is that most of these companies used the same stock photos and that none of the photos showed the actual process. What she was and what she would end up getting was much different.

Alice went online and found a Groupon for a company that offered duct cleaning service and was satisfied that she had found a great deal. So she called the company to schedule a service. They set one up for the end of the week on a Friday, but the night before, they called and asked if they could reschedule. They had something unexpected come up in their schedule and would not be able to make it out. Alice was slightly annoyed, but she agreed to Monday because Saturday visits cost more, and she didn’t want to pay anything extra.

Monday morning, she canceled her plans to go shopping with her sister and stayed home waiting for the air duct cleaning service. They called again two hours past the time of her appointment to say that their truck had broken down and they would have to reschedule again. Now she was getting annoyed, but she had already paid for Groupon and didn’t want to deal with attempting to get a refund. They said they could fit her in on Wednesday, and she said okay, even though it meant she would again have to rearrange her schedule.

Finally, Wednesday rolled around, and a technician showed up at her house. The very first thing she noticed was how much he wreaked smoke. The stench was so bad it immediately filled up her hallway and her living room. She was attempting to improve the air quality in her home, and instead, she was already reaching for her inhaler. From the start, she wasn’t happy, but she was going to try to make it through the visit so that she could get the air duct cleaning service completed and move on.

The first thing the technician asked her was what vent she would like cleaned, which confused her a bit as she thought she was paying for a full duct cleaning service. It turned out that the Groupon was just for one duct; if she wanted the rest of the home cleaned she would have to pay more. She had paid $79 for the Groupon and now owed another $200 to get through the rest of the events. This made her quite angry, but she supposed it was her fault for not reading the fine print on the Groupon.

At this point, Alice wasn’t sure what to do, but the more she thought about it, the more she realized that she had booked this service to clean the air in her home, so it was best to get it over with. She didn’t want to have to deal with another service or have a partially cleaned air duct system. Wouldn’t the dirt then blow back into the clean pathway? No, it seemed better to get it all done at once. Plus, the quicker she said yes the quicker she would get this guy and his horrible stench out of her home.

It took about two hours, and it seemed like the guy had moved all over her home cleaning this and that with his vacuum, so Alice was confident that the job was getting done. Seeing him at work made her feel better about going up to her room to watch some television. She had to get away from all of that noise and the odor. It was time for a break. Then she smelt something that smelled like Lysol wafting through her vents, but the tech told her it was sanitizer. She wasn’t quite sure what this would do but said okay. She had paid for this as well as part of the package. The guy packed up and told her he was done and hastily left before Alice could inspect what was done.

The first thing Alice noticed was that the vents and the registers looked dirty. It was as if he didn’t even care to deal with the dust and debris dislodged from inside the vents. It didn’t appear to be inside her vents anymore because she could see it was all out. With a sigh, she went to get her Shop Vac and went around her home cleaning up mess after mess near the vents. She had 25 vents in her home, and only seven of them were not covered in dirt. Of course, this was also slightly alarming to her because she wondered if he had even bothered to clean these. There was no way to know now, and she wasn’t about to go sticking her arm or vacuum down the dark vents.

Alice strongly felt at this point that he had taken advantage of her being an older retired female because she didn’t know what to expect and said yes to whatever he told her. She wished she had asked one of her sons to come over during the cleaning to make sure that things were done right, but it was too late for that. The sun was getting high in the sky, so she went to turn her AC back on (it had been off during the cleaning) and was shocked to find that it was not turning on. Now she had a new problem to deal with.

After trying several times to turn her AC on, Alice had to resort to calling her normal HVAC company to come to take a look. She tried to call the company who just completed the duct cleaning service several times, but conveniently no one was available to take her call. Now she was super frustrated. What could they have done to ruin her system? All she wanted was cleaner air, and now she was dealing with a nightmare.

When the HVAC company came out they immediately noticed two things were wrong. First of all, the air filter in the AC was utterly filthy. It was fully clogged, which was likely causing significant issues. Alice was confused by this, given that she had replaced the filters, and she would have thought that the technician would have looked over the entire unit when he was cleaning out the air vents. How had he missed this? Now it was her turn to be confused, but she didn’t have much time to try to figure it out because the HVAC tech noticed a few other things.

While poking around he mentioned that her dryer vent also looked clogged, which he said he only checked because he had seen other people have similar issues following an air duct cleaning service by a company off Groupon. He explained to her that they often try to create issues so that they have to call them back again to fix their own mistakes. A clog in the AC or the dryer vent would have been enough that she would need more service. Alice had called them instead of the company, but it easily could have gone the other way. The idea that someone had come into her home and put in a dirty filter made her quite angry, but there was no way that she could prove it. What she did do was fix the situation for now which at least made her feel slightly better.

Her HVAC technician also pointed out that they had knocked the kill switch out of place, which was also likely on purpose since this could cause leaking. The leaking would lead to water damage and be another reason to call them back. Ultimately, they hope that they are the first HVAC company a person uses, and therefore they get repeat business for other issues that don’t pop up right away but do cause problems down the road. Now Alice was flabbergasted. If they had answered the phone she probably would have called them back instead of her regular HVAC company, and imagine where she would have been: paying for repairs that were intentionally caused.

While she would still have to pay her HVAC company for helping her with the small things he found, it was much less than if these problems had worsened. She thanked her stars that the first company did not pick up the phone and that her usual technician was aware of these schemes. Alice was angry at this point because she shouldn’t have to be an expert in air duct cleaning service to avoid getting scammed. That was what had happened to her.

While some air ducts in her home were cleaner, she counted about a third that did not look like they had been touched, and she had to clean up all of their mess. Then to top it off, she had to deal with cleaning up their sabotage, and she was exhausted. This entire endeavor had taken much more time than she thought it should, and she was angry that the company had taken advantage of her. She strongly felt that if her son had been in the house with her, the duct cleaning service would have gone in a different direction.

Alice didn’t know if she could sue, but she left a message with a lawyer and the owner of the company to let them know what happened and that she wasn’t happy. She would have to wait and see what her options were.

If you are thinking about a duct cleaning service but are scared about which company to choose, don’t be. Choose a company with decades of combined experience that will care for you. One Hour Air Conditioning & Heating of Dallas is here for you.

See our most recent blog on this topic here.

Check out our reviews here.

Photo By Bill Oxford at iStock