Air duct cleaning is the process in which your HVAC system is cleaned from the main trunk line to the branches, and your air handler as well.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines air duct cleaning as the “cleaning of various heating and cooling system components of forced air systems, including the supply and return air ducts and registers, grilles and diffusers, heat exchangers heating and cooling coils, condensate drain pans (drip pans), fan motor and fan housing, and the air handling unit housing.”

An air duct cleaning cost can differ wildly from company to company, but on average it should cost you anywhere from $400 to $1,000. The price is dependent on the size of your home, and the number of systems, vents, and returns.

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A reputable company may charge you an air duct cleaning cost in one of several different ways, but no matter how they break down their costs, you need to make sure you choose a company that doesn’t charge by the hour.

Price breakdowns include:

  • Separate cost per system, vent, and return
  • Cost per number of systems only
  • Cost per square foot of the home
  • Set price for the first system and x-number of vents and returns and separate cost per additional vent and return
  • Additional cost for add-on services


If you’ve ever received a flyer in the mail quoting a ‘Whole Home Special’ air duct cleaning cost for $99, you’ve encountered a scam. This is specifically called a ‘bait and switch’ scam. Companies advertising such a low price are not considered reputable and should be avoided. The name of the scam comes from the fact that they ‘bait’ you into hiring them by telling you it will only cost $99. When they come out they ‘switch’ the price by telling you the $99 air duct cleaning cost only applies to the first x-number of vents and returns. At this point, they know you have more than that. There will be a new, astronomically high price to clean all your vents and returns. These companies most likely use sub-standard equipment and will try to sell you unnecessary add-ons.

You should also be wary of companies who say they can clean your home in 1-2 hours. A thorough cleaning should take 4-8 hours depending on the size of your home and the number of vents and returns.

How to Choose a Qualified HVAC System Cleaning Company

When looking for a trustworthy duct cleaning company, look for a team that upholds and supports NADCA's high standards and can help diagnose and resolve air duct related issues currently impacting your system.

As The National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA) was formed in 1989 as a non-profit association of companies engaged in the cleaning of HVAC systems. Its mission was to promote source removal as the only acceptable method of cleaning and to establish industry standards for the association.

Here is what NADCA says about hiring a reputable air duct cleaning contractor:

  • Make sure the company is a member in good standing of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA).
  • See if the company has been in business long enough to have adequate experience.
  • Inquire whether the company is in good standing with your local Better Business Bureau.
  • Get proof that the company is properly licensed and adequately insured.
  • Verify that the company is certified by NADCA to perform HVAC system cleaning.
  • Make sure that the company is going to clean and visually inspect all of the air ducts and related system components.
  • Avoid advertisements for "$99 whole house specials" and other sales gimmicks.
  • Ask if the company has the right equipment to effectively perform cleaning and if the company has done work in homes similar to yours. Get references from neighbors if possible


Some air duct cleaning companies advertise a sanitizer or disinfectant to fog into your ductwork for an additional charge, but these chemicals should be avoided as they pose harm to your health and are not proven to work in the first place.

When scheduling your air duct cleaning, consider scheduling your annual dryer vent cleaning for the same time. Dryer vent cleanings are typically between $130 and $200, and there may be a discount on the dryer vent when you pair it with the air duct cleaning.

If your ductwork is old enough, there could be asbestos lurking in it. This may need to be serviced by a separate company and can be costly.


If you’re intimidated by the air duct cleaning cost, it may comfort you to know the recommended frequency is only once every 5 to 7 years. This varies due to a number of factors in your home. The more you have, the closer together your air duct cleanings should be.

Factors include:

  • Number of shedding pets
  • Occupants who smoke
  • Prevalence of allergies and asthma among the occupants
  • If the HVAC system has been damaged by a fire or flood
  • Rodent and animal infestation


If you’re ready to schedule your air duct cleaning, find a company that closely follows the strict parameters set forth by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). NADCA is an organization that provides guidelines and processes for cleaning air ducts. Use a company that is trained in the NADCA way, and save yourself the headache of a poor cleaning job.

More info? For more information about air duct cleaning scams, check out our other post: AVOID AIR DUCT CLEANING SCAMS ADVICE FROM THE BBB

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