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BOSTON GLOBE ARTICLE

5/20/2012 |

 Warm weather brings air conditioning - and duct cleaning scams

With warm weather soon turning into hot weather, air-conditioning time is approaching. And if you have central air conditioning, you're going to get peppered with ads for duct cleaning and other services you might not need.

The shady companies usually start with the idea that you need a cleaning - whether you do or not - and they claim it can be done for less than $100. That's how they get themselves into your home.

"Homeowners who want to have their ducts cleaned really need to do their homework and research any company before they hire," said Angie Hicks, founder of Angie's List. "Beware the company that offers the $49 or $99 cleanings."

She said that members of Angie's List, an online service that catalogs reviews and ratings of service providers in a variety of categories (including home improvement), report spending $300 to $500 on average for a legitimate cleaning.

Another sign that you are dealing with a less-than-reputable duct cleaner is if they try to persuade you that regular use of their services will improve the air quality in your home and help prevent those inside from getting sick. This is the Environmental Protection Agency"s take: "Duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems."

If you see your ducts are a mess, with signs of mold or infestation, you are a good candidate for a legitimate duct cleaning. Here are some recommendations from Angie's List before hiring a cleaner:

  • Get three written estimates and check the companies' references.
  • Get it in writing that your contractor must commit to following National Air Duct Cleaning Association standards.
  • Get the companies you interview to make a written checklist of what they will do.

There's reason for concern: The folks at Angie's List said they heard from a woman who had a $50 coupon for duct cleaning, and ended up sitting through a two-hour sales pitch on why she needed $2,100 in services based on a phony mold test.

Don't fall for the duct cleaning scam. And, if your ducts really do need cleaning, do it right - and expect to pay more than $99.

Mitch Lipka has been helping consumers out of jams for the past two decades. He lives in Worcester and also writes the Consumer Alert blog on Boston.com. Mitch can be reached at ConsumerNews@aol.com. Follow him on Twitter @mitchlipka.

Here's why you should hire Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc. for the air duct cleaning of your home or business:

GUARANTEE: We provide you with a written proposal for the entire cost of the project before any work begins.

CODE OF ETHICS: Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc. is an outstanding company with employees that pride themselves on high moral and ethical standards. At all times we will treat coworkers and customers with dignity and respect. We will always conduct ourselves in a professional manner and be solution oriented.

Credentials: Duct & Vent Cleaning of America, Inc. is one of the earliest members of the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). We have been a member since February of 1990.

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