AUSTIN, Texas — Jan. 23, 2013 — Better Business Bureau is warning about an Austin-based air duct cleaning company that seems to be leaving a trail of dirt across the state. BBB has received complaints from consumers in the greater Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Fort Worth areas.
The company has gone by the names Austin City Air Ducts, ANS Air Ducts, AC Air Ducts and AOS Air Ducts. One consumer complaint alleged the company solicited as ELT Enterprises, as well. All the company names used the same contact information. BBB attempted to contact the company about the multiple name changes, but did not receive a response.
The company apparently advertised to consumers by offering coupons in Val Pak or on group buying websites like Living Social.
Consumers allege that they called the company for the air duct cleaning service offered on the coupon, but the service was performed poorly and/or the company added expensive services. Consumer complaints allege the extra services were not performed, performed poorly or caused additional damage to the consumers’ heating and air conditioning systems.
Jessica Larson said the men who cleaned her air ducts noticed mold growth and offered an additional service to clean it. The service entailed spraying a mold remover and deodorizer through her air ducts to kill the mold spores. In total, she said she paid the company $900 to clean her air ducts, remove the mold and clean her furnace.
She said the company told her the mold would be gone within 48 hours of the treatment.
“And the next day and the day after that, I noticed that it was white around the opening of the ducts, but there was still a great deal of mold,” she said.
She added that she tried to contact the company about the remaining mold, but never received a call back.
“I called them four different times; they only answered once and the receptionist said a manager would call me,” she said.
Eventually, she said she called another company to address the mold. Representatives from that company told her that mold cannot be addressed with a simple spray.
“There’s no FDA approved spray to remediate the mold,” she said, adding later, “They said it’s just not effective. They said it’s basically a scam.”
According to guidelines from the Environmental Protection Agency, mold on porous surfaces must be removed with a special type of vacuum or the surface must be discarded and replaced. This should occur only after the source of the mold — usually a leak or condensation — has been addressed.
The EPA recommends against hiring any company that makes sweeping claims about the health benefits of duct cleaning. According to the agency, studies have not conclusively shown that levels of allergens and other particles increase inside the home due to dirty air ducts, and claims that routine air duct cleaning will improve your health are unsubstantiated.
The EPA suggests consumers hire a contractor to clean their air ducts in the following circumstances:
- There is substantial visible mold growth inside hard surface (e.g., sheet metal) ducts or on other components of your heating and cooling system.
- Ducts are infested with vermin, e.g. (rodents or insects); or
- Ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris and/or particles are actually released into the home from your supply registers.
For those considering an air duct cleaning service, BBB offers the following tips:
- Make sure you need it. Read the EPA’s guide, “Should you have the air ducts in your home cleaned?” for complete details on when air duct cleaning is recommended, what air duct cleaning entails and information about indoor air quality.
- Do your research. Visit bbb.org to view a company’s BBB Business Review, which includes information about the company’s complaint history, licensing and more. The National Air Duct Cleaners Association also provides a checklist to help residential consumers ensure the service is completed properly. Ask any company you consider for references.
- Consider a licensed company. In the state of Texas, air duct cleaning companies are only allowed to operate without a license if they don’t make any cuts, perform any biomedical testing or biomedical remediation. Consider an air conditioning company that is fully licensed by the state to perform all work.
- Compare prices and service packages. Get at least three estimates for any service you would like provided. All bids should be in writing and should provide a full description of the services to be provided and the materials to be used. Make sure the contract includes any verbal promises the contractor made and details on any guarantees.