Duct Cleaning Explained: Cost, Pros and Cons & FAQs


Ashley Tonkens

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We’ve all been there: you’re just sitting down to a nice dinner with your family and suddenly the phone rings. You pick up — not wanting to miss an emergency call from a loved one — only to be bugged by a telemarketer asking if you want your ducts cleaned. Despite being annoyed by the interruption, did those calls ever make you wonder if you really do need your ducts cleaned?

Plenty of Canadians have heard of duct cleaning but don’t really understand what it is, how it works, what it’s for, or whether they need it. If you find yourself in that boat, this article will tell you everything you need to know.

By the end of this guide, you’ll understand what your ducts are, how they can be cleaned, the pros and cons of the service, whether you need it, how much you can expect to pay for it, and more.

What are ducts?

Ducts are part of a forced air heating or cooling system. These systems typically have a central heating and cooling unit — your furnace and air conditioner — that’s attached to ducts that connect the different rooms of your house to the furnace and air conditioner. The heating, ventilation or air conditioning (HVAC) unit heats or cools the air and then blows it into the ducts to distribute around the house. In other words, if you have a forced air HVAC system, then you have ducts.

What is duct cleaning?

Duct cleaning is a service provided by some HVAC professionals to remove things like dirt, dust, mould, dander, pollen, and other contaminants that can build up in the ductwork. The cleaning usually takes anywhere from 1.5 to 3 hours, depending on the size of your house, how much ductwork you have, and how complex the system is.

The cleaner will use brushes, a special vacuum, and other tools to clean the:

  • Ducts: metal passages that connect to your HVAC system and carry air to all the rooms
  • Motors: attached to the furnace and air conditioner and power the fans
  • Fans: blow the heated or cooled air from the furnace/air conditioner into the ducts
  • Coils: air conditioners and heat pumps have evaporator and condenser coils that absorb and remove heat from your home
  • Registers: slotted metal grates that cover the hole where air comes into a room, and allow you to direct or stop the flow of air
  • Air handlers: contain things like the blower and the heating/cooling elements, and that regulate and circulate the air in your HVAC system
  • Drain pans: catch water from the coils and prevent leaks and water damage around the unit

How much does duct cleaning cost? 

The average cost of duct cleaning ranges from $250 to $525. The final cost will depend on where you live and the company you hire for the service, but also the:

  • Size of your house
  • Length of the ductwork you have
  • Complexity of your ductwork system
  • Number of vents and registers throughout the house
  • How long the cleaning process takes
  • The severity of issues like mould or pests

Prices charged by top rated businesses

CompanyLocationRatingCostVentsAdditional VentsFurnace, A/C CoilSanitizing
Ottawa Duct CleaningOttawa, ON4.9 with 131 reviews$29910$10$50Included with furnace add-on
DAVESDUCTSWhitby, ON5 with 161 reviews$37916$5$69, $59Yes
DORA Air Duct CleaningSteinbach, MB5 with 50 reviews$2252000 sq. ft.$70$40
Tino’s Carpet & Duct CleaningBelleville, ON5 with 90 reviews$1990$10HRV: $149$79

For example, Ottawa Duct Cleaning is rated 4.9 with 131 reviews and charges $299 for a routine cleaning or that includes 10 vents. Additional vents are $10 each. For an extra $50, they will clean the A/C coil and furnace blower and apply a natural disinfectant to kill mold.

Cleaning for vintage homes (pre-1960) costs $549 for 12 vents including the coil and blower cleaning. Additional vents are $20.

Is duct cleaning worth it?

Despite what the dinner-time telemarketers say, it isn’t something that every house needs, and it’s certainly not necessarily something you have to do regularly.

If you have some extra money in the bank and wouldn’t mind cleaner ducts, then, by all means, call in a company to do the dirty work. If you’re like most Canadians and want to save pennies where you can, you’ll be happy to hear that duct cleaning is only really necessary in certain homes and certain situations. 

Here are some examples:

  • Lots of dust: Some homes just seem to be dust magnets, and if you’re constantly battling dust, dirt, pollen, or dander in your house, then your ducts might need cleaning to remove an accumulation of contaminants and debris.
  • Mould: Water damage, leaks, and other problems can lead to mould growing in your ductwork, and cleaning will remove the mould.
  • Your home is new or recently renovated: If your house is brand new, was recently renovated, or has a new addition, cleaning could get rid of the excess dust, dirt, and construction debris that’s probably floating around in the air and settling in the ducts.
  • Pests: Rats, mice, insects, and other rodents or pests have been known to create infestations in ductwork, and once you’ve dealt with the infestation itself, it can get rid of nests, feces, and other things left behind by the creatures in your ductwork.
  • Poor airflow: Dirt and debris can reduce the amount of space air has to flow through your ducts, and this can reduce the efficiency of your HVAC system. If you’ve noticed that air isn’t pumping around the house the way it once did, then cleaning might be in order.

Having ducts in your house doesn’t automatically mean they need cleaning. For example, cleaning won’t provide much benefit for your house if you don’t have excessive dust in the ductwork, your house is pest-free, there are no pets in the home, you haven’t done any recent renovations or construction, and air flows freely through the ducts.

How to keep my ducts clean?

Moreover, there are also steps you can take to keep your ducts clean without hiring a duct cleaner. Here are some tips:

  • Address water damage, leaks, and other problems that could cause mould
  • Deal with vermin and pest problems immediately
  • Change your furnace and air conditioner filters regularly in winter and summer
  • Vacuum regularly with a good quality vacuum, preferrably one with a HEPA filter
  • Keep your windows closed and your home sealed when there’s lots of dust, dirt, pollen, or allergens in the air outside

Duct cleaning pros and cons

Pros

Improve indoor air quality

The purpose is to get rid of dust, dirt, and other contaminants from the ducts, and this means the air you breathe will be cleaner afterward. As a result, it can mean better indoor air quality, fewer allergens floating around, and getting rid of odours from the house.  

Improved HVAC efficiency and longevity

Dirty ducts can mean less airflow, and that means your HVAC system has to work harder to blow air through the house. Cleaning dirty ducts can reduce the burden on your furnace and air conditioner, and this improves efficiency, saves energy, saves money, and increases the life expectancy of your heating and cooling systems.

Cons

You’ll still have dust in your house

Duct cleaning isn’t perfect, and it doesn’t mean clean ducts forever. Cleaning will get rid of dust from the ducts for now, but it won’t get rid of all the dust from your house, and it won’t take long for dust to end up back in the ductwork. After all, dust is made up of many different things, including skin cells, so it’s impossible to eliminate it completely.

Won’t fix the root problem

Common causes of dirty ducts are related problems like mould in the ductwork or an infestation of rodents or insects. Duct cleaning will get rid of things like mold and nests temporarily, but you’ll also need to address the root cause, such as the water source that’s causing the mold or the hole that pests are using to enter the house. Otherwise, the mould will grow back or the pests will move back into the ducts.

What makes a good duct cleaning company?

Protecting your belongings

One that respects your home will make an effort to keep your house clean during the process, and that includes covering your carpets and furniture to keep dust and dirt away.

Before and after inspections

Another thing you might want to look for in a company is inspections. A pre-cleaning inspection using cameras and special equipment will help the company locate problem areas or spots that need more attention. A post-cleaning inspection will guarantee they did a good job. And once the cleaning is done, the cleaners should replace any access doors, insulation, or anything else that was displaced for the cleaning. 

Handling of hazardous materials

When it comes to hazardous materials, a good company will also inspect your system for things like asbestos and mould and notify you immediately if they find any. For asbestos, they’ll take precautions to make sure they don’t disturb the material, because that could make them and your family sick. If they find mould, they should have special UV lights or equipment to kill the mould and other bacteria or at least be able to point you in the direction of a reputable mould removal company.

Conclusion

It can improve airflow, increase the efficiency of your HVAC system, and improve indoor air quality in your home. A professional duct cleaner will use special tools and equipment to inspect the ductwork, clean the ducts and related components, and make sure that dust, debris, obstructions, and contaminants are removed from the ducts.

FAQs

Does every home have ducts?

No. Forced air HVAC systems use ducts to distribute heated or cooled air around the house. But there are also ductless systems that don’t require ducts, so not every house has ductwork. Many apartments, condos, and older homes don’t have ducts.

How often should I get my ducts cleaned?

Most companies will recommend regular cleaning every 3 to 5 years. However, unless you have recurring issues with excessive dust, rodents, insect infestations, or mould, or if you have somebody in your home with severe health or respiratory problems, then you probably don’t need to sign up for regular services.

How do I choose a company?

For starters, ask friends, family, or neighbours for recommendations. If you’ve narrowed down the search, look for a company that has a good and long reputation in the community. Don’t be afraid to ask for quotes, but don’t use price as the only factor, because a company that charges less might cut corners here and there. You want a company that will provide the basic service, but also go the extra mile.

Do duct cleaners in Canada have to be licensed?

No, but duct cleaners can choose to be members of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). Members go through training programs, a certification process, and have to abide by the association’s code of ethics. Also, a trustworthy company will have their own liability insurance to protect themselves and you in case anything gets damaged during the cleaning.

What to read next

References

Over to you

We’re interested to know – have you had your ducts cleaned recently? How much were you quoted? Did the cleaners find anything interesting hiding in your ductwork? Let us know about your experience in the comments below.

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