How to avoid air duct cleaning scam

What to be cautious of before hiring someone

By Lauren Freeman - Anchor , Aaron Wische - Senior Executive Producer

HOUSTON - Ever wonder if those ads for duct cleaning are too good to be true? While there are reliable, qualified duct cleaners out there, there are also scammers who use low prices to get in the door and then scare homeowners into expensive and possibly unnecessary work.

If it's a service you're interested in, be sure to do your homework on the price and time spent on the task.

"A deal to clean your air ducts for $50 or $60 might not be what you expect. Typically a quality air duct cleaning costs about $300 and takes two to four hours to complete," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "So be cautious of significantly lower prices or time commitments."

Dave Adams, an air duct cleaning professional, said some of the very low prices are classic bait-and-switch tactics.

"They get into the house and I can tell you exactly what they're going to tell you: they're going to find mold and the price is going to go from $59 to $800 immediately," he said.

Unscrupulous contractors may even show you evidence they actually brought in themselves. Some come extra-prepared.

"They'll say it's not safe to stay in the home. I've even seen it where they actually carry coupons for hotels so that they tell them to leave the house. Very, very rarely, if ever, does a family need to leave the house if there is a little bit of mold found inside the air ducts," Adams said.

Hicks said to avoid anyone who pressures you into immediate action, and to look for someone certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. A good contractor will be happy to show you the completed work, even what's been removed. That's visual evidence you can trust.

Adams said there's one thing to do if an air duct salesperson gets too pushy.

"If someone tries to scare you, then please ask them to leave," he said.

"What I tell people is: There's enough mold in this world for me to make a living. I don't need to scare anyone and I don't need to lie to anyone," Adams said.

Hicks recommends having your ducts cleaned if you see a lot of mold growth in or around your heating system, if you have a pest infestation or if dust and debris is released through your vents. If you smoke, or have pets or allergies, you may want to have a cleaning every few years, she says.

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