Norfolk County

Consumer group: Don’t hire duct cleaning companies

DEDHAM, Mass. — Companies that promote air duct cleaning as a remedy for sore throats, allergies, colds, coughs and other maladies are misleading customers with deceptive advertising, according to a consumer advocacy group.

Boston Consumers’ Checkbook is warning homeowners they likely don’t need to pay a company to clean an HVAC system.

“Can ducts get dirty? They do. But air-quality experts consistently agree that ductwork cleanings provide no measurable benefit, even if residents suffer from allergies or asthma,” Boston Consumers’ Checkbook said in a November report.

There is no evidence of any health benefits from cleaning a home’s air ducts, according to the EPA. “Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems. Neither do studies conclusively demonstrate that [dust] levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts,” the agency says on its website.

Kevin Brasler, Executive Editor with Boston Consumers’ Checkbook, said he’s been warning for years that cleaning air ducts is a big waste of money.

“We call duct cleaning a solution in search of a problem,” Brasler said. “You’ll still get dust build-up in your duct work but know that for the most part, it stays inert. Having a company come in and vacuum it all out and agitate it and try to remove it, can create more problems than it solves.”

Brasler cited a Canadian study that showed, in some cases, dust levels inside a home actually went up for a short time following a cleaning.

“That’s because probably they came in and agitated all this dust and spread it out throughout the home,” Brasler said.

The EPA said there are circumstances when you should have your air ducts cleaning, like substantial mold growth and an infestation of insects or rodents, but watch out for claims that cleaning your system will help improve energy efficiency. The EPA said “little evidence exists” that cleaning only the ducts will help your system run better.

“They can’t really show you that cleaning your system or even cleaning the ducts has a big effect on energy use,” Brasler said.

In place of a cleaning, Brasler said one of the most important things you can do for your HVAC system is replace your filter regularly. He recommends changing out the filter four or five times a year.

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