Duct Cleaning Can Give You a Competitive Edge

Residential or commercial, duct cleaning can be a lucrative service for your company.

Duct cleaning can be done any time of the year. It’s often overlooked as a service that many HVAC Pros under-use. One reason some HVAC Pros shy away from duct cleaning is that there are many companies to compete with. However, most companies offering duct cleaning aren't full-service, licensed mechanical contractors.

A full-service HVAC contractor can create a competitive advantage by stressing total system knowledge, and by combining the duct cleaning visit with a general system inspection and tune-up. For instance, if your company has annual maintenance agreements with customers, you can offer them a duct inspection and cleaning every couple of years.

Professional duct cleaning services use specialized blowers, vacuums, and brushes to clean out the supply, intake and return ducts throughout the home. Duct cleaning should also involve thoroughly cleaning the HVAC system’s air handler, registers, grilles, fans, motors, housings and coils.

There’s no research at present proving that routine duct cleaning improves the air quality or reduces dust in the home. There is, however, evidence that dirty heating and cooling coils, motors and air handling units can make a homeowner’s HVAC unit less efficient.

Promoting healthy air quality when it really matters

Due to growing concerns about healthy living and indoor air quality, it’s easy to convince homeowners to at least have their ducts inspected—unless they are really dirty, there’s no need to clean them. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) takes a similar stance on the issue, recommending cleaning only if the ducts and HVAC unit are contaminated. According to the EPA, duct cleaning has never been shown to actually prevent health problems.

Studies don’t conclusively demonstrate that particle (e.g., dust) levels in homes increase because of dirty air ducts. This is because much of the dirt in air ducts adheres to duct surfaces and does not necessarily enter the living space. It is important to keep in mind that dirty air ducts are only one of many possible sources of particles that are present in homes.

Pollutants that enter the home both from outdoors and indoor activities such as cooking, cleaning, smoking, or just moving around can cause greater exposure to contaminants than dirty air ducts. Moreover, there is no evidence that a light amount of household dust or other particulate matter in air ducts poses any risk to your health.

5 key reasons for homeowners to get their ducts cleaned

If homeowners have experienced one of the following situations, it’s a good idea to get their ducts cleaned.

Renovation: If the home has been remodeled, especially if there was asbestos abatement, lead paint removal, or significant dust, ductwork may need to be cleaned. Ducts should be sealed off during home renovations, but if they weren’t, dangerous dust and debris may become lodged inside the ductwork.

Animals: If there’s evidence of animal infestation or nesting in ducts or HVAC system, have the animals removed then clean the ductwork and HVAC unit.

Mold: If there is visible mold growth inside the ductwork, the ducts and HVAC system should be cleaned.

Contaminants: If noticeable debris, pet hair, odors, or other contaminants are being released into the room through the ducts after the registers have been cleaned and vacuumed, the ducts may need to be cleaned.

Illness: If someone in the homeowner’s family is suffering from an unexplained allergy-related illness, and they’ve taken every possible step to decontaminate their home, you could recommend they consider having the ducts cleaned.

What you need to consider getting started

Whether duct cleaning is worth the investment depends, in part, on where you live. Some industry sources estimate profit margins as high as 60 percent, but the actual number varies from city to city. A thorough residential cleaning will cost $700 to $1,000, while a commercial job could run into the thousands.

If you're interested in offering this service you should consider getting someone on the crew certified by the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). NADCA offers two options: the Air Systems Cleaning Specialist (ASCS) certification and the Certified Ventilation Inspector (CVI) certification. The process consists of online or classroom training, an exam and an $895 annual fee.

Offering your duct cleaning to commercial services

While maintenance is the main market for duct cleaning, it's not the only one. You can also offer duct cleaning to building and remodeling contractors any time of the year. With today's emphasis on indoor air quality, a cleaning is a good idea at the end of a remodel or while commissioning the HVAC system, as a way to remove insulation fibers, drywall dust and other pollutants from the air stream.

Builders and remodelers most receptive to this service will be those who want to be known for protecting their customers' health. You can position yourself as a company that helps them build that reputation.

Cleaning can become a lucrative part of your total service package. Make sure your team’s duct maintenance skills are up to snuff, with this short online training, “Checking and Sealing Ductwork.”

Make sure you have all the best products to recommend, when talking to your customers about duct maintenance and indoor air quality.

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