Should air duct cleaning cost more for a two-story house?

I want to hire a reputable air duct cleaning company. What should I expect to pay for air duct cleaning in a two-story house with about 20 vents and two air conditioner/furnaces? – Barbara C.

Dear Barbara: We’ve seen a lot of reports from Angie’s List members in which they were quoted prices anywhere from $49 to more than $1,000 for the cost of air duct cleaning.

With such a wide array of pricing, how is a homeowner to know what to pay? Well, I recommend you start by avoiding the super-low duct cleaning “deals” altogether.

If you hire an indoor air professional for duct work cleaning, expect to pay between $350 and $500, depending on the size of your home, the number of ducts it contains and how difficult or easy it is for the company to access them. According to recent Angie’s List member reports, homeowners are paying an average of $423 for air duct cleaning.

In your case, that number will likely be closer to $500 than $350, but check with a few companies in your area to see what they charge.

What’s most important is to find a company with a good reputation in your community. Unfortunately, air duct cleaning is an industry where we see some companies try “bait-and-switch” tactics. These scammers advertise an unbelievably low rate, and then as soon as they get in the door, they immediately start trying to tack on more charges or use scare tactics, such as saying they found mold in your ducts.

When you hire someone to fix your stove or clean your carpets, it’s pretty easy to tell right away if they did the job the way they were supposed to. It’s not as easy to know whether they cleaned your ducts properly.

A shady company or an air duct cleaner with little experience could overcharge you, might not have the proper equipment to do the job, or could even do costly damage to your duct work and furnace with inferior equipment.

So, my advice is to do plenty of research on a company before you allow them to clean your ducts. Read reviews, talk to friends and neighbors, and question the person who will do the cleaning. Ask about his or her process.

A good company should provide a checklist of exactly what they will do. Most reputable cleaners are well-versed on the tactics of less-scrupulous competitors and will point out red flags.

A thorough air duct cleaning should take a few hours. If a company tries to get in and out in less than an hour, they likely did an inferior job.

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