Don’t Hire a Duct Cleaning Contractor Until They’ve Answered These Questions

There are good reasons to get your air ducts cleaned. That’s not my opinion – those are the words of Mike Holmes, home renovation expert and hardcore skeptic of the wild claims some contractors make.

According to Mike, duct cleaning is a good idea when:

  1. You can see or smell mold inside the ducts.
  2. You think there are vermin (mice, insects, squirrels or what have you) living in the ducts.
  3. You’ve just moved into a newly-built home or just did a major renovation, since all kinds of dirt and debris can get into the ducts.

But even when you do have a perfectly good reason to get your ducts cleaned, you shouldn’t turn off your skepticism entirely. Because the task of choosing a decent duct cleaning contractor is harder than you’d think.

Reality is, there are a lot of really lousy duct cleaning companies roaming around here in Ontario. The situation has improved since the government cracked down on door-to-door salespeople and established do-not-call lists a few years ago, but it’s still not great.

As explained in a blog by a Brampton HVAC company, it isn’t that hard to get into duct cleaning business. Now that duct cleaning equipment is sold cheaply online, just about anyone can put on a pair of overalls and call themselves as a duct cleaner.

But it takes a lot more than a vacuum and a uniform to do the job right.

Thinking of hiring someone? Don’t sign the contract until they’ve answered these questions:

1. What Does a ‘Duct Cleaning’ Include?

According to the National Duct Cleaners Association or NADCA, a proper and thorough duct cleaning should include the entire HVAC system, not just the ductwork. Each component works together to circulate and filter your air, so if one part is left uncleaned, the rest will remain contaminated as well.

Make sure the contractor will clean:

  • Air duct system
  • Air conditioner coils
  • Air registers and grills
  • Air plenum
  • Furnace blower motor and assembly
  • Furnace heat exchanger
  • Air filter
  • Air cleaner

That’s the complete list. If something’s missing (or worse, the contractor isn’t familiar with one of those things) then you’re not getting the full duct treatment.

2. Can I Visit Your Office?

For legal purposes, you’ll want to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate, serious HVAC company and not a solo contractor offering duct cleaning on the side. If something goes wrong (and things can go wrong, as well discuss later) you’ll be on better ground dealing with a company.

First, check the Canadian business directory to find out if the company’s legit. Next, look up the company’s address on Google Maps. If you can’t locate it (or the location seems fishy), ask the contractor if you can swing by the office yourself.

A company operating out of a PO box instead of a real office/shop is always a read flag.

3. What Equipment Do You Use?

The typical duct cleaning job will remove about five or six pounds of dust from your air ducts. That’s going to require a much bigger system than a Shop-Vac.

Most HVAC companies that do the job right use a specialized duct cleaning truck that is equipped with heavy-duty vacuum hoses. According to NADCA, portable vacuums are also acceptable if they are designed for duct cleaning specifically. Under no circumstances is a Shop-Vac acceptable.

4. Is Your Business Insured?

It’s important you deal with a contractor that has good insurance coverage. Why?

  • A vent cover could slip off during the cleaning and send dust and debris barrelling into your living space.
  • The heavy-duty vacuum hoses could slam against the walls and baseboards, resulting in drywall damage.
  • The ductwork could be damaged, allowing dust and debris into your crawlspace and creating air leaks.
  • Your air conditioner or furnace could be accidentally damaged.

Those are just a few of the (rare) ways a duct cleaning can go wrong. But if your contractor has proper insurance and is committed to help you clean up, you’ll be fine.

5. How Will You Protect My Home?

It’s not enough for the contractor to simply lay down a few carpets to keep their boots off your floors. A proper HVAC company should take extra precautions to keep your house safe and prevent the above calamities.

At minimum, the contractor should put up padding to protect your walls and baseboards (assuming they use a heavy-duty vacuum, which they should!).

The Bottom Line

Duct cleaning has its uses. It’s a great way to clear out your ventilation system following a major renovation and important if your ducts have been contaminated. Just make sure you’re getting the job done by a professional, or you could end up worse off than you started.