Newcomers beware: How air duct callers take advantage of your money 

By: Anson Wong

Published on: November 07 2022

      Photo: Mitchell Luo (Unsplash)  

Air duct cleaning is an important and often overlooked task for homeowners. It involves cleaning the heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) in a residential house. Despite its name, air duct cleaning involves cleaning all of these systems for the best air quality. 

However, in recent years, clients are taken advantage of by being misled or tricked into extra fees, typically withholding these services come at an additional cost or pressuring the customer to agree while they are there. As such, clients can end up paying thousands more than their intended budget. 

How an air duct cleaning service works 

The cleaning process involves attaching a large hose to the trunk line near the HVAC system. This is almost always located in the basement or bottom floor of the building. To attach the vacuum, an eight-inch hole is required to be cut into the trunk line. Multiple holes may be cut depending on the layout of the vents. Additional one-inch holes may also be cut throughout the vents to insert any cleaning tools. All holes should be sealed before leaving.  

Once the hose is attached, a vacuum, typically mounted from a truck, sucks up dirt and debris from the vents. To assist with cleaning, a compressor is used to blow air from the air vents in the house. An air whip uses compressed air to hit and loosen dirt with its whip.  

An air duct cleaning service can be considered a scam if the cost only applies to the air duct. Some advertisements listing these services at under $100 operate this way, while never cleaning the entire duct system. Vacuuming or brushing an air duct alone will not affect the larger buildup of dust in the trunk line. The worker on-site may try to convince you to pay for additional services. They may tempt you to spend more since they are already there, or claim your HVAC unit is compromised and needs replacing. These claims are typically false, especially if they claim the problem is urgent. Mold is a common example used to scam clients. The main goal of this type of assertion is to pressure you into spending thousands on a misguided fear.  

If there is a genuine emergency, ask where the damage is. The worker should be able to show evidence of said damage. Avoid agreeing to any additional services if you are still unsure. Always refer to a third-party evaluation if you are not convinced.  

Warning signs to look out for 

 Photo: Martin Visser (Unsplash)  

The most common method of contact is telemarketing. You may receive a phone call one day asking if you would like to receive air duct cleaning. Most air duct cleaning services in Canada do not rely on telemarketing to get clients. Businesses may use advertisements from media, but unsolicited calls are unusual.  

By Canadian law, telemarketers are required to report who they are and their business. Usually, companies outsource call centres outside the country to make these calls, as it is cheaper and easier to avoid legal liability. If a caller claims to be from another country, then it is likely a sign that there is some scam going on.  

You may also encounter this in the form of an advertisement. It may claim the price to be part of a promotion to encourage readers to buy. It is best to avoid these offers, since most professional competitors have their prices at well over $100. Such a steep price difference likely holds quality issues or cleans very little. 

Most companies will break down where your money is being spent. Parts like the heat exchange, blower motor, air filter, trunk line, supply and return vents, and more will be communicated to you. Read the fine print because the low price you are seeing likely only applies to the air duct portion, and everything else will come at an additional cost. 

If you suspect you have paid for an illegitimate air duct cleaner, checking their equipment is a good way to tell if they mean business. Their vacuum should be mounted on a truck, and anything less is not powerful enough to remove all the dust and debris in your air duct. It is also this reason that portable vacuums will not be sufficient. 

Canada has plenty of legitimate air duct cleaning servicemen, independent research is important, look for google reviews and word of mouth. If a company has been in service for years, there’s a fair chance that it’s a legitimate service. 

If you are interested in protecting your number from telemarketing calls, you can register for Canada’s National Do Not Call List. Joining the list helps keep telemarketing companies liable for exploiting Canadians. 

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