Hidden camera investigation: Are those air duct cleaning ads too good to be true?

An exclusive On Your Side hidden camera investigation reveals what you can actually spend when responding to low price ads displayed by scores of air duct cleaning companies.

Springtime is primetime for companies that promise to clean your home's air ducts and vents and mailboxes are filled with ads promising low prices.

Hidden camera investigation

But our hidden cameras reveal those costs can increase dramatically if you fail to closely read ads or question vent cleaning deals that seem too good to be true.

Complaints we found registered with the Better Business Bureau often reflect confusion over pricing.

One consumer described a deal that “quoted me $235 but ended up paying $352."

Another complained: “a whole house special was just to wipe off the vents."

Our investigation found consumers need to closely read ads that might appear to be as low as $39 but fail to notice that additional services will cost much more.

In the hidden camera video, you can see how technicians describe how prices can increase—often dramatically—compared with ads that might have initially prompted consumers to call.

How much SHOULD it cost?

According to the National Air Duct Cleaners Association, the average price to clean home air ducts is approximately $400 and can be much higher depending on the size of the home.

The process should take about three hours to properly clean vents, supply and return ducts, main ducts and the furnace blower fan.

The Association says it members must comply with strict ethical and quality standards and warns consumers against scams that include so-called “blow and go” companies that fail to clean the entire system.

What can you do?

Pat Fraser is an association member who has operated a local vent cleaning company for 20 years with no complaints with the Better Business Bureau.

Fraser advises consumers that a thorough, professional vent cleaning company will charge approximately $400 for an average home and the price can be higher depending on the size of the home.

Fraser also says it should take about 3 hours to properly clean.

“Unfortunately, it’s an easy business to cheat in—if you want to cheat.”

“Unfortunately,” says Fraser, “it’s an easy business to cheat in—if you want to cheat.”

And while we found there are reputable companies that choose not to pay for membership in the association, consumers should closely question all vent cleaning companies on their procedures, techniques, equipment used and most importantly—price.

We also found that claims regarding health benefits can be overstated and according to a report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, “air duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems.”