The dirt on bad duct cleaning

Tim Vandentoorn took these photos of his air ducts after getting them cleaned. (April 2014)

GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — With furnaces having worked overtime this winter, many homeowners may be considering getting their air ducts cleaned. Target 8 discovered when it’s time to get them cleaned and when you’re wasting your money.

Tim Vandentoorn of Rockford wanted to get his air ducts cleaned before he started up his new $5,000 furnace. He said he noticed the registers to the ducts were still off after the cleaners were done, so he got closer to put them back on.

“When I went to put them back on, I looked down there and I saw cob webs and I was like,’ Wait a minute. We just had these cleaned,'” said Vandentoorn.

He lowered his cellphone down the registers and took photos that showed dust, cobwebs and debris.

Target 8 investigates whether a man's air ducts were cleaned properly. (April 2014)“It’s terrible! It’s beyond my comprehension how a company could do this and walk away and feel satisfied. It’s just- It’s not acceptable,” said Vandentoorn.

Target 8 took his pictures to Grand Rapids Community College HVAC professor Don Steeby, who said it didn’t look like the ducts had been cleaned properly.

“There’s still dust laden on the bottom of the duct that should’ve been removed,” said Steeby.

Steeby says it’s critical to do the research before hiring a cleaner. He suggests going with a company used and recommended by someone you know.

Vandentoorn went with L&N Carpet Cleaning in Grand Rapids because it was the company that had the earliest appointment available.

When Target 8 walked up to the company located on Oak Park Drive SE, someone shut the blinds. The door was locked and whoever had shut the blinds did not come to the door.

A phone call was answered by someone named ‘Lauri,” who said she was working from home and that everyone leaves the office at 3:30 p.m. Lauri would not reveal her last name or title, refused an on-camera interview and said the owner did not want to be interviewed either.

She said L&N did everything it could to satisfy Vandentoorn, saying he canceled his check and L&N did the job again for free.

Lauri told the BBB Vandentoorn requested workers not use brushes. Vandentoorn denies that, saying the workers took it upon themselves not to use brushes because his wife mentioned allergies.

Steeby says without brushes, you’re not getting the job done.

Lauri also sent Target 8 documents from the Better Business Bureau, which gave the company an ‘F’ rating for not resolving two of nine complaints over the last three years.

A 2009 Angie’s List poll showed 13% of its members have their ducts cleaned routinely.

The Environmental Protection Agency says though some have reported duct cleaning reduced allergy symptoms, there is no scientific evidence that regular duct cleaning improves air quality.

The EPA recommends duct cleaning only if they are visibly contaminated with mold and pests or clogged with substantial dust. It does not recommend regular cleaning.

Some states require air duct cleaners to have special licenses. Michigan was one of the first to require such a license. In order for workers to cut into ducts or apply any sanitizers, they have to have a special license.

Target 8 discovered L&N doesn’t have that license and didn’t need it for Vandentoorn’s job.

But in 2011, one customer filed a complaint with the State Attorney General’s Office because of the lack of license. The customer said the company illegally applied a sanitizer and then charged the customer, who found out by looking at the receipt. L&N responded to the state, saying it tried to contact that customer several times with no response.

Angie’s List recommends a cleaner who offers before and after pictures and that is certified through the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. Reputable companies generally use a truck-mounted power vacuum, not portable vacuums. If a cleaner says they found mold, ask them to prove it.

And it’s not cheap. A good job averages between $450 and $1,000 and should take three to four hours.

On Friday, the L&N Carpet Cleaning responded to 24 Hour News 8’s story. You can read the response here: L&N Letterhead Response



The EPA on air duct cleaning

Angie’s List on air duct cleaning

National Air Duct Cleaners Association