Is duct cleaning worth it? For me I have to say YES!
I have heard all the horror stories, and the scams about duct cleaning, and I too was resistant to any of these sales tactics I would receive on the phone. I would get those 1-800 calls telling me, that I had live bacteria running all over my ductwork, and if I didn't get it cleaned I would get sick.
Huge "unproven" claims are made about the health benefits of duct cleaning, and I basically never really thought about my ducts. I would pull off the floor vent and vacuum what I saw and that was it.
That was until we renovated an investment house in a small town. It is a semi detached 4 bedroom house that was built in 1972. The furnace was the original, and after having it checked over, we felt it was best to replace it with a high efficiency furnace. Besides, they were giving out "tax credits" if you do upgrades to improve efficiency in your heating bills, so that was good enough incentive for us.
We then had the array of door to door sales people, who saw our work trucks, and the delivery trucks of supplies. Everyone from "want to be roofers" to this "duct cleaning" One guy actually had a plain white van, and when he opened the back, he actually had a "shop vac" and a very long hose, and was charging to clean air vent ducts this way. I laughed!
I dismissed this idea, until the day we had a energy audit test, where they place a frame in the front door and a huge fan, and reverse the air pressure in the house. The idea of this, is that you will find the areas that air is getting in. It is a very effective test, and as we were identifying the cold spots on the second floor, the smoke detector was screaming down in the basement. The old furnace draws air from within the house, and with the reverse in air flow, it actually started on fire, because dirt and debris and tons of old pet hair got drawn back from the ducts and landed on the pilot light, and quickly ignited.
After getting the fire out on our GAS furnace (that was scary) I looked at the burnt pile of debris, and thought, you know, there maybe something to this duct cleaning after all.
We replaced the furnace, but the brand new furnace was attached to the present 38 year old duct work. I got some recommendations, and finally I decided to get the ducts cleaned by a professional company that also does "disaster cleanup" as their main business. Cleaning ducts was part of there business.
Of course the morning they showed up in their HUGE truck with a picture of a very colorful house on fire and the words "disaster cleanup" written on the side, and the sound of the huge compressor was enough to have the neighbors running over to see if they may have missed out on some kind of disaster overnight!
They cut a hole in the duct close to the furnace (they put a plate on this afterwards and it now becomes a cleanout spot) and stuck in a long probe with a TV camera on one end, and they showed me the heating ducts. Totally caked with stuff but the bend part in the ductwork was completely clogged. No wonder my furnace was not blowing my hair back when it was on!. They attached a large diameter hose to this hole they cut, and used compressed air from each vent, kind of a pushing pulling action. This loosened loads of dirt. From looking at it, it looks like the original builders didn't bother to cover the ducts while working back in 1972!. Plus there was loads of old animal hair, and when the furnace came on, the heat just seemed to have an "odd" smell to it. I don't even want to know what else could have been in there.
The operators of this equipment have seen many strange things in the ducts, including dead mice. But once they were finished, I instantly noticed the airflow through the vents was much better, and the cold air returns were actually working.
Is duct cleaning worth it? It all depends on what has been going on in your house. If you have been doing lots of construction and renovations, then yes, and if you have a new house, probably more so, as construction crews are not that careful. I am not sure about all the other health benefits they promote with this. But my house and furnace are running better, the air smells better, my nose is not stuffed up, and he took away two containers full of "debris"
I guess after 38 years, and a few owners, who knows what gets down those vents. Is duct cleaning worth it, for a better running heating system.. YES I believe my house feels a lot better for it. My neighbors, may not feel the same way as they woke them up with the noise, but my new tenants that are moving in next week, are happy that they get to start with a clean fresh slate.