9 Investigates: Air duct cleaners

9 Investigates: Air duct cleaners

CHARLOTTE, N.C. — You may have gotten coupons in the mail offering air duct cleaning with prices ranging from $44.95 to $59.

But is there a catch? To find out, Eyewitness News set up a test using a Channel 9 employee and their own house.

First, we brought in Rick Pressley. He has nearly 30 years’ experience designing and building HVAC equipment and was recommended to us by a Mecklenburg County inspector as a reputable expert.

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Pressley pointed out that one of our two furnace systems was new. The other is 10 years old but, in his opinion, not dirty enough to need cleaning.

“It’s very clean,” Pressley said.

Pressley used a special camera mounted on a probe to look four feet into both the return and supply air ducts. He said the ducts had a very light amount of dust, but again, in his opinion, not enough to warrant cleaning.

“As of right now this duct work is clean, does not need cleaning,” he said.

Our Channel 9 homeowner set up appointments for free air duct evaluations using coupons from three companies: Air Care Solutions, City Air Duct Cleaning and Alpine Air.

After Alpine Air inspected the system, their technician told our homeowner he needed a lot.

“How dirty is it up there?” the homeowner asked.

On a scale of one to 10, the technician said our ducts were a 6 or 7. He recommended a cleaning of the older furnace motor and all 12 ducts and said a sanitizer treatment was optional.

The company's $44 coupon covered only one of our systems, leaving a price of $703. And if we opted for two filters, the cost went to $903.

That's when Channel 9’s Don Griffin approached the technician to ask if our homeowner really needed those things.

“You know, in any service, you know things are optional, but these are things that I recommend for this home,” the technician said.

He had no comment when Griffin asked him about Alpine Air's F rating with the BBB.

We got a different opinion from Air Care Solutions. Their technician said the ducts were a little dusty and recommended only basic cleaning, but said their $59 coupon covered only one of our two systems.

His final estimate was $118 to clean the ducts in both systems. And if we wanted the option of two washable filters, the price was $262.

That's when Griffin walked in and asked why he didn't try to sell the homeowner more things, like the first company did.

“Why am I going to sell him something he doesn't need,” the technician said.

The third company, City Air Duct Cleaning, also recommended a full treatment with sanitizer, and two filters optional.

Their $49 coupon also covered just one of our two systems. That made the price $750, again a surprise to our homeowner.

“Based on looking at the ad, I never thought it would be this much,” the homeowner said.

When Griffin tried to talk to the technician, he covered his face and walked out. He then packed up his van to leave.

So, should you have the air ducts cleaned in your home? The EPA said to consider it if you have substantial visible mold growth or an insect infestation, or excessive dust in the ducts. Otherwise, the EPA said, you probably don't need it.

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