*The only way to ensure that a duct cleaning company is actually getting your ducts clean is to have them photograph the ductwork before and after the cleaning process. This helps to identify potential problem areas, and is the only way to ensure the quality of workmanship.
-- Using acid-based cleaners to shine up the top side (clean side) of the Evaporator Coils causing them to corrode and to need replacing, often within one year.
-- Overuse of residual disinfectants and fragrances inside ductwork as an 'up sell' on every job. Disinfectants and deodorizers should only be used inside of ductwork in certain special circumstances, like when fungal growth is evident.
-- Use of under powered duct vacuums, and an insufficient amount of compressed air (i.e. electric compressors), or worse yet...no compressed air at all. This only stirs the dirt up inside the ductwork causing it to be expelled out into the house when the furnace is switched on again.
In the early days of duct cleaning the work was performed exclusively by professional duct cleaners who were subcontracted under the Carpet Cleaners on insurance/restoration jobs. However, in the early 1990's Insurance Adjusters caught on to the fact that, unfortunately, some of the less reputable Carpet Cleaning/Restoration companies were very often doubling the Duct Cleaner's prices when they submitted them to the insurance companies for payment, rather than the standard 20% for overhead and profit (or more plainly, for playing banker).
Some of the more common ways that these non-professional duct cleaners cause detriment to indoor air environments and to air-handling systems are:
Consequently, insurance companies began pressuring the carpet cleaners to do their own duct cleaning and a whole new industry sprouted up. Suddenly, there were all varieties of handyman, plumbers, and carpet cleaners-- cleaning ductwork with sub-standard equipment and methodologies. These guys were mostly regarded as 'fly-by-nighters' and would often cause more harm than help especially in the homes of people afflicted with allergies, asthma, or some other medical condition.
The energy crisis of the 1970's and subsequent improvements in building materials and methods made buildings more air-tight. This increased the need for Indoor Air Quality professionals to maintain a healthy indoor environment. In the beginning, the market for duct cleaners consisted mostly of Commercial Buildings (which were among the first to use air conditioning), Manufacturing facilities, and Homes that had sustained water or fire damage.
Decades have passed now, since the advent of this new industry of non-professional duct cleaners, and new companies are sprouting up every year. With successful companies from other industries taking up duct cleaning and promoting it with the full force of their marketing machine it is more important than ever for people to get educated about what type of work to have done and who they should hire to do it.
-- *Most common of all:saying they clean the ductwork...and not getting the ductwork clean; or claiming to clean the furnace...and not getting the furnace clean.
I have been cleaning ductwork since July of 1992. This article details some of the industry changes I have witnessed in my over 20 years of working as an HVAC Remediation Professional (that's fancy college talk for 'duct cleaner').
A Brief History of Duct Cleaning
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