Air Duct Cleaning Cost – Reasons Why Cost Varies

The cost to clean air ducts can vary greatly. Both from air duct cleaner to air duct cleaner and from home to home. Cost varies for many reasons and is one of the reason why you should get multiple quotes before selecting an air duct cleaning service provider.

You have most likely seen air duct cleaning ads touting a fixed price to clean all the air ducts in a home, or a fixed price per room. There will generally one of two outcomes if you sign up for one of these “specials”: 1)the low advertised price was to get you to call and the actual cost will be significantly higher (read the “fine print”) or; 2) they will only clean part of your air duct system or will do the job quickly and usually poorly. Be skeptical of these air duct cleaners that use this type of advertising.

Factors that affect air duct cleaning costs

Size of the home
Larger homes will generally have more air ducts and more vents so there is more to clean and the job will take longer.

The number of air conditioners
Larger houses and houses in hot climates often have 2 or more conditioners. Multiple air conditioners are more efficient but create more work for an air duct cleaner.

# of vents or registers
An air duct cleaner will clean the registers so the more a home has the more time it will take and the more it will cost. Additionally, each air vent needs to be sealed to put the duct system under negative pressure during the cleaning process. More vents takes longer to seal and unseal.

Age of the HVAC system
An older air conditioner or heater will generally be dirtier.

Design of the duct system
Some homes have return vents in each room which use a different duct system to bring air back to the heating and cooling system. This duct system is referred to as the return system. The duct system that brings cool and hot air to the rooms is referred to as the supply system. Other homes only have one return system.

Homes with a return duct system essentially have twice the length of ductwork to clean. The return side ductwork is often dirtier than the supply side because the air in these ducts has not been filter like the air the the supply duct system.

Complexity of the duct system
Some duct systems are very basic and makes it easy for an air duct cleaner to access the entire duct system. This is dictated by the design and shape of the home as well as how the duct system was designed. A duct system that has many split offs, branches, etc. is much more difficult to clean. This is often the case when an addition has been made to a home.

Age of the duct system
Depending on what air ducts are made of, some can deteriorate over time and have to cleaned more carefully and can take longer to clean.

What air ducts are made of
Newer air ducts are generally made of galvanized sheet metal. These bare metal ducts are much easier to clean than some older ducts made of fiberglass or other materials.

Condition of the ducts
The condition of air ducts is affected by a number or factors including: where you live, whether pets have lived in the home, if there has been any water damage and insect or rodent problems.

When was the last time the system was cleaned
If the air ducts where cleaned recently they will often take less time to clean and thus will cost less.

Is there mold in the air ducts
If there is mold growth in air ducts or an air conditioning system additional procedures are needed which increase the cost. A common up-sell tactic of air duct cleaners is telling you that you have mold and that it will cost more for them to remove it. If an air duct cleaner says you have mold have them show you the mold and explain how they verified that it is in fact mold.

Many air duct cleaners will suggest applying a chemical biocide to your air ducts to kill the mold and seal the ducts. The E.PA. has not yet determined the effectiveness of chemical biocides in killing mold or the long-term health impacts of using chemical biocides in air ducts. Do further research before going the chemical biocide route.

Where you live
Air ducts in dusty regions, like Arizona, and humid regions are often dirtier. Houses wooded areas have a greater chance that insects or rodents have contaminated the air ducts. Homes near flooding, forest or industrial fires or near industrial plants often have air ducts that require additional cleaning.

Style of the home
Homes with vaulted ceilings often have air vents that require an air duct cleaner to use ladders to access air vents which takes longer. If furniture needs to be moved to access air vents it will also take longer.

Air duct cleaning cost summary

As you can see, there are a number of factors that can influence the cost of air duct cleaning. Because of these factors it is foolish to think that anyone can quote a fixed price, whether per home or per room, to clean air ducts. No two homes are the same and no two air duct systems are the same.

If you provide an air duct cleaner some general information about your home some will give you a quote over the phone or online. While these quotes can give you an idea of how much having your air ducts cleaned will cost you should only rely on quotes that are based on an actual physical inspection of your air ducts and heating and cooling system.

As with most things, the adage that “you get what you pay for” applies with air duct cleaning. Do you really think that you will get the same level of service from a $99 special as you would from a $500 service? Assuming both service providers are honest and reputable of course.

Another variable that can impact the cost is the air duct cleaner themselves. Lower priced air duct cleaners may not be properly trained, licensed or insured.

For the average size home with heating and cooling systems and air ducts in average condition, air duct cleaning cost generally ranges from $450 to $1,000. The exact cost depends on the factors discussed above.

Hiring an air duct cleaner

  1. Always get quotes from multiple air duct cleaners
  2. Don’t trust price quotes from a contractor that did not physically inspect your air duct system
  3. Check references before hiring a contractor

See my air duct cleaner guide for additional tips on choosing an air duct cleaner. It provides examples of questions to ask potential air duct cleaners, how to avoid air duct cleaning scams and an air duct cleaning checklist you can download.

Commercial air duct cleaning cost

The factors and discussions above are specifically for residential air duct cleaning. The cost of commercial air duct cleaning is based on many of the same factors plus a few more such as type of HVAC system, the number of floors in the building and what the building is used for (office, industrial, retail, etc.).