Is Air Conditioning Duct Cleaning Worth It?

Erin J. Hill

Whether or not air conditioning duct cleaning is worth the time and expense is currently up for debate. Many consumers have reported certain health and economic benefits after having the procedure done, while some organizations argue that routine cleaning is not necessary. In the end, each consumer must make up his or her own mind about whether air conditioning duct cleaning is worth the financial expense when compared to the overall benefits.

An air conditioning vent.
An air conditioning vent.

Although studies have not shown that air conditioning duct cleaning improves air quality in the home, many consumers have stated that their allergies and other difficulties improved dramatically after having their systems cleaned. That improved air quality would result from cleaning seems like common sense, being that the air being pumped through the air conditioning system is the same air breathed in by members of the household. If the ducts are full of mold, residue, dust, and other allergens, it could be expected that air quality would suffer. In any event, keeping filters changed and outside components clean is equally, if not more, important.

A central air conditioning unit.
A central air conditioning unit.

There are also reports of improved efficiency within the air system after air conditioning duct cleaning. When the ducts are clear of any debris, the air flows better and the system doesn’t have to use as much energy. This can lower the cost of running the system.

The value of air conditioning duct cleaning seems to vary based on the consumer and the ducts. Those with overly dusty homes, older systems, pests, or in high pollen areas may benefit more from having the work done than those who do not have these issues. The overall cleanliness of the home is also a factor since unkempt rooms often lead to more dust and dirt in the air.

Many air conditioning installation companies offer free or low-cost inspections for home owners who want to know if having the ducts cleaned is a good idea. If it is decided that air conditioning duct cleaning is a viable next step based on how clogged the ductwork is, it is vitally important for homeowners to choose a reputable and licensed company to perform the work. Cleaning that is done improperly can make an allergen problem worse by stirring dust and pollen into the air, and sometimes an inexperienced cleaner can cause damage to the air system itself.

There is also a debate on how often air conditioning duct cleaning should be performed. Many organizations, such as the Environmental Protection Agency, believe that cleaning should be done on an as-needed basis in order to maintain system function and quality. Others say that a cleaning may be in order every three to five years.

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Discussion Comments


I used to get a professional duct system cleaning every year, but now I use higher grade AC filters and only call for an air conditioning duct cleaning every three years or so. I think the filters alone do a great job trapping the allergens and animal fur, so I can't imagine that the ductwork itself is getting especially dirty.


I haven't made my mind up about air conditioning duct cleaning. I assume that dust and other contaminants collect in places other than the filter I replace every month. I'm just not sure if cleaning air conditioning ducts is strictly necessary. I can see where a commercial furnace cleaning would be important because of all the flammable material that might collect in the ductwork, but duct system cleaning is a different proposition.

I can see where a homeowner might want to schedule a professional air conditioning vent cleaning every few years, but I'm not convinced it needs to be done annually. It might be healthier just to let the contaminants collect in the ducts rather than stir them up with an AC duct cleaning.

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