If you have a ducted air conditioner, dust and debris can build up over time in the hidden ductwork that runs through your home. Professional air duct cleaners claim you should have these ducts cleaned every few years, but the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) only advises cleaning them under specific circumstances. In this guide, we’ll discuss when you should have your air ducts cleaned and break down the cost of hiring an air duct cleaning service.
The average cost of air duct cleaning for a residential building is between $450 and $1,000.Get Free Estimates
The average cost of duct repair or replacement can range from $450 to $1,000.Get Free Estimates
Annual maintenance can range from $75 to $200.Get Free Estimates
Average Air Duct Cleaning Cost
According to both the EPA and the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA), the average cost of air duct cleaning for a residential building is between $450 and $1,000. The cost largely depends on the size of your system, which may be measured in one of two ways:
- Size of your home: The larger your home, the larger your HVAC system, and the more expensive it will be to clean.
- Vents: Some professionals will base your cost on the number of supply and return vents in your system.
Air Duct Cleaning Cost by Square Footage
Duct cleaning professionals often have a set price per square foot. Some companies offer a basic package for homes up to a certain size and charge additional fees for anything larger. On average, prices range from $0.20–$0.40 per square foot. Beware of potential air duct cleaning scams: If a company quotes you a suspiciously low price, it may tack on extra fees for cleaning air handlers, fans, coils, grilles, registers, drip pans, and other duct system components.
|1,200 sq. ft.||$240–$480|
|1,500 sq. ft.||$300–$600|
|2,000 sq. ft.||$400–$800|
|2,500 sq. ft.||$500–$1,000|
|3,000 sq. ft.||$600–$1,200|
Air Duct Cleaning Cost by Number of Vents
Some professional duct cleaners measure system size by the number of vents. Supply vents tend to cost $25–$50 each to clean, and return vents usually cost $40–$75 each. Be wary if an air duct cleaning company offers you an extremely low per-vent price: The fine print may include a whole-house flat fee that isn’t disclosed until after the cleaners have arrived at your home.
|Number of Vents||Cost|
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Air Duct Cleaning Cost Factors
The above costs cover basic cleaning for HVAC ducts and air vents, but the following complications and contamination may cost more to address:
- Rodents: Rats or other vermin will need to be exterminated before HVAC cleaners can clean the air ducts.
- Mold and mildew: Toxic mold will likely require remediation beyond a simple duct cleaning.
- Dryer vents: Dryer vents, which remove excess heat from your dryer to prevent fires, must be unclogged regularly. Clogged vents may result in extra cleaning costs.
- Accessibility: Any obstacles that substantially increase the time it takes to access or clean the ducts may result in extra costs.
Air Duct Cleaning Cost for Rodents
Rats, mice, and other pests can chew through ductwork and begin living in your cooling system. Since rodent droppings pose a potential health hazard, you should deal with the infestation right away. If air duct cleaners spot signs of a rodent infestation, you’ll need to call an exterminator before they can proceed. Rodent control usually costs $170–$520, but it may be more expensive if the infestation is severe.
Air Duct Cleaning Cost for Mold and Mildew
In terms of both health risks and air duct cleaning prices, there’s a big difference between simple mildew and hazardous mold. Some fungal growth sheds dangerous spores that can cause serious respiratory problems. The process of eradicating this mold and ensuring it doesn’t grow back is called mold remediation. You’ll need to hire a special contractor for this and will likely pay upwards of $2,000–$6,000.
The good news is that only a few types of mold are this toxic; the bad news is that it’s almost impossible to tell by looking. If you spot mold or mildew, you should send a sample to a microbiology lab for testing, which costs $50–$100. If it isn’t toxic, or if it isn’t mold at all, you won’t need remediation.
Note that air duct cleaning doesn’t remove all mold and mildew. Even sanitizing, which costs an extra $75–$150, uses antibacterial rather than antifungal chemicals. Not only will these chemicals not kill mold, they may damage fiberglass ductwork.
Air Duct Cleaning Cost for Dryer Vents
Unlike air duct cleaning, which isn’t a necessary part of routine home maintenance, dryer vent cleaning must take place at least once a year. A clogged dryer vent increases the risk of a house fire and makes your clothes dryer less efficient. Air duct cleaners may include dryer vents as part of a whole-house cleaning, or they may charge $40–$100 extra. If you request only dryer vent cleaning, it will cost around $80–$180.
Air Duct Cleaning Cost by Accessibility
Professionals rarely charge by the hour for residential HVAC cleaning. If something about your system substantially increases the time it takes for the air cleaners to do their work, however, you may be charged extra fees. For example, if there are difficult-to-access ducts or plenums (aka air distribution boxes) in attics or crawl spaces, or if your ductwork has a custom design, air duct cleaning may cost more. In rare cases, the level of contamination may increase the price as well.
Other Air Duct Cleaning Costs
Here are some other costs you may encounter when having your air ducts cleaned:
- Visual air duct inspection: $80–$180
- Video inspection: $200–$500
- Duct repair/replacement: $130–$550
- Furnace cleaning: $60–$150
- Air conditioner repairs: $100–$1,300
- Annual air conditioner maintenance: $75–$200
When to Clean Your Air Ducts
Professional HVAC system cleaners sometimes make exaggerated claims about the health benefits of their services. According to the EPA, “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts.” Simply put, if particles are stuck to the walls of the air ducts, they’re unlikely to come out of the vent or affect your health.
Pollutants are more likely to come from other sources. If reducing allergens and other contaminants is your goal, you should invest in an air purifier with a high efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter or have one installed in your ductwork. Keep up with your regular HVAC maintenance, too. If your air conditioner isn’t cooling properly, the culprit is more likely a clogged filter than a dirty duct.
That said, the EPA does recommend duct cleaning “as needed,” notably in the cases of visible mold growth on duct surfaces, rodent or insect infestation, or visible dust particles discharging from vents. Additionally, you can slightly improve the system performance of your air conditioning by having the heating and cooling components cleaned. These include the evaporator coil, blower, and heat exchanger. If you’re going to hire a professional air duct cleaning service, make sure they address these components.
DIY vs. Professional Air Duct Cleaning
Motivated homeowners can do some light air duct cleaning themselves. You’ll need the following items:
- Shop vacuum
- Extension hose
- Power drill
- Nylon bristle brush
- Dryer vent cleaning brush with extendable handle
Once you’ve secured the equipment, take the following steps to complete DIY air duct cleaning:
- Remove and clean the grilles.
- Inspect the ducts for buildup.
- Attach the vent cleaning brush to the power drill and use it to break up any debris.
- Vacuum up debris with the shop vac.
Note: If you need to rent or buy the drill or shop vac, you can do this for about $50–$100.
Unfortunately, this method will only clean about 10 feet into each vent. Commercial duct cleaning equipment, such as negative air pressure machines and duct whips, are rarely available to rent, and they’re expensive to purchase. The advantage of hiring a professional is that they’ll be able to do a faster, more thorough job, usually taking just a few hours.
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Pros and Cons of Air Duct Cleaning Services
As you decide whether to have your air ducts professionally cleaned or do it yourself, here are some of the benefits and drawbacks:
✔ More thorough cleaning than you could do yourself
✔ Quick and minimally disruptive
✔ Will slightly improve your home’s energy efficiency and indoor air quality
✘ Unproven health benefits
How To Save on Air Duct Cleaning
One of the easiest ways to save money on air duct cleaning is to decrease the amount of dust and debris getting into your ductwork in the first place. Keeping up with necessary HVAC maintenance is key, along with the following steps:
- Change your air filter: Consult with the filter’s manufacturer on whether you should do this every 30, 60, or 90 days. If the filter appears clogged when you remove it, change it more often.
- Vacuum regularly: For maximum benefit, use the highest-rated filter bag that your vacuum can work with.
- Keep moisture out: Repair leaks or water damage as soon as possible, and make sure ducts remain sealed and insulated.
- Schedule annual HVAC maintenance: This should include careful inspection of the system and cleaning of the drain pan and heating/cooling coils.
How To Hire a Professional Air Duct Cleaner
In addition to consulting the company’s Better Business Bureau (BBB) page and customer reviews, here are some factors to consider when comparing HVAC duct cleaners:
- If the company charges a whole-house price, make sure you know which areas they’ll service. The EPA provides a post-cleaning consumer checklist to help you determine what parts of the system should be cleaned.
- If the company charges per vent, ask whether there is an additional whole-house fee.
- Avoid companies that try to upsell you on chemical treatments and sanitizers, which don’t have many proven benefits and may cause problems with fiberglass ducts.
- Look for cleaners who have experience and comply with the NADCA’s cleaning standards.
- Make sure to get written estimates from at least three different companies and avoid hiring a company that charges far less than local competitors.
- If your state requires air duct cleaners to be licensed (Arizona, Arkansas, California, Florida, Georgia, Michigan, Texas, and possibly others), make sure the company’s license is current.
When considering air duct cleaning, note the difference between the vague benefits of cleaning the ducts themselves and the proven benefits of cleaning and maintaining the working components of an HVAC system. If you’re going to shell out the money for professional cleaning, ensure the contractors will clean the functional parts of the system. HVAC systems are expensive, and maintenance will keep your air conditioner running smoothly far better than duct cleaning. You should also remember to clean your dryer vent at least once a year.
FAQs About Air Duct Cleaning
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