Air Duct Cleaning Scams [Dateline NBC]

Chris Hansen and Dateline NBC just aired a hidden-camera report on fraud in the world of air duct cleaning.  The fraudsters who perpetrate these scams dupe owners — some of them vulnerable or aged — out of clean ducts and into a bill that’s ten-fold higher than advertised.

Unfortunately, these schemes make business difficult for the good-faith companies.  So it’s important to know that not all air duct cleaning is a scam.  At the same time, air duct cleaning may or may not be necessary.

According to the EPA, you should consider air duct cleaning if (1) there is substantial visible mold growth inside hard-surface ducts, (2) ducts are infested with vermin, or (3) ducts are clogged with dust/debris or particles are released into the home through air registers.

In addition, watch out for hucksters with sweeping “health benefit” claims because, the EPA advises, a light amount of household dust hasn’t necessarily been shown to be a risk to human health.

If you’re looking for a reliable air duct cleaner, perhaps a good place to start is with a referral or a search via the National Air Duct Cleaners Association.  After that, you’ll want to ask for licenses, look into the contractor’s background, and search for BBB complaints.  A little common sense and scrutiny will help, too.

[+] More info on air duct cleaning from the EPA.

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  • Trish Stevens

    I am almost 70, a widow. I got a coupon for $79.99 from Zen Air, air duct cleaners, I had never felt the need for cleaning my ducts, but I am selling my house, and thought for that price I would do it. I felt right from the start that I was being scammed, but never having done it before, or knew what I should pay, it was a job on my list I wanted over and done with. They said I had mold, I did not believe them, it looked like they had reach in and dropped something just inside at arms length. They then said it would have to be sanitized, I should have told them to go. I said go ahead. I then asked them why they were not wearing masks, they said, well they should, but it was brown mold which was not so serious. They were so fast. I had not been feeling well for quite a while, so did not watch what they did. They were supposed to clean the dryer vent, but I have my doubts that they did. I could have either a free dryer vent cleaning or one free carpet cleaned. I chose the dryer vent, but asked how much to get a carpet cleaned. They said, oh as I had to pay so much they would do it free. I don’t know how or what they used. The carpet looked awful, they did not ask for hot or clean water, I wonder if they even used dirty water, and no shampoo. It took ages to dry, I had to wait to go to bed that night. I had to clean stains off the carpet myself when they had gone. I could not wait to shampoo the carpet. I just hope that you can get this out there so that other people can be aware of this company.

    I telephoned the company later, and complained, I think I did say that I felt I had been scammed. They looked into it, and called me back a few day later and refunded about $123, they said that was the price of the return call to check on the mold in 6 months.

  • Eprngby

    i work at a family owned duct cleaning service called bennett furnace cleaning in peoria,illinois and loved this edition of dateline we have fought these companies for years and years that steal money from unsuspecting companies. a real duct cleaner will have a large vacuum truck lots of equipment,cameras for you too see the progress and should walk you through the entire process along with showing you the debris they retrieve from the duct work also it should never ever run over $400 a house per furnace ever. we charge about half of that and been in business for over 55 years. a good duct cleaner will have solid references and never mind a customer following them and watching them work while they explain there process and do your home a great service. a bad one will give you heaaches after headaches along with wasting hard earned peoples money and time. Great story as always and keep up the good work dateline!!

  • Air Duct Cleaning Kendall

    Great info! Thanks for publishing. We will be returning not long from now.

  • Anonymous

    The air duct cleaning in Cleveland did for
    our family house
    last week was
    Thank you  .

  • Itzach Stern

    of scammers they would do anything just for the money sake. $49.95 is bait and
    I was so amazed in the intellectual capabilities of such person to scam a
    service.NADCA Charlotte Air Duct Cleaning

  • Lenny Jacobs

    Too bad that these cleaning scammers would do something like this and in the process destroys the whole cleaning service industry. As consumers, we should learn to be wise and meticulous about who to ask professional help with and it doesn’t hurt to ask any registered cleaning service business from accredited local agencies in your area. It’s not wrong to ask the cleaners as well about how they’d go about with the cleaning since you’re paying them for giving you good service.
    For those who are starting a cleaning service business, we should also think about providing proper services to our customers because when we give an honest and satisfying work, they stay with you for years. And you can’t definitely deny the power of “word of mouth”. Thanks for sharing.

  • Healthyhomeaz

    I have a plant based carpet and air duct cleaning company in the Phoenix area and get calls from customers stating that they have been told there is mold in their ducts. In the 12 years that I have been in the business, only 1 building, a commerical one had mold within the duct work. Quite a pity that one’s long term reputation isn’t more valuable than turning a quick profit, in any field.

  • K Nak

    I had Sears duct cleaning come out to do an air duct job. They had an advertised amount and completely followed the scam technique of the upsell. When I declined all the extras the –probably just out of high school– “tech”/salesperson went on to basically say that their service as ordered would be basically useless. They went into one duct and started cleaning it out and after a short while said they were done. The service was supposed to cover something like 6 duct openings. I asked him to show me what ducts he did as it was such a short time. He proceeded to show me which ducts he “cleaned”. The ones he showed me included this one vent that just opens up to our basement. It’s not even a duct. So I showed him that it wasn’t and he got perturbed. So he asked what other one I wanted him to clean and what do I find them doing? They just took off the grill and was cleaning with a standard vacuum cleaner. I was pretty po’d and contacted the National Air Duct Cleaning Association off their website since Sears has, on their website, noted that they do the service as per the association standards. The Association said they can’t do anything about it and I asked them if they were concerned that Sears notes that on the Sears website and the association wrote back, “We sure are.”. It’s misleading by Sears. I wrote to Sears corporate and they forwarded it to the local Sears that did the work and the manager called me and said they’d come back and do the job right if I “stopped the email campaign”. I didn’t bother. If I knew about the Air Duct Cleaning Association, I would have looked into one of the members but you don’t really think about something like this happening unless you have some terrible experience. I know now.

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