Furnace cleaning and air duct cleaning are sometimes confused. And we often have customers request one when what they really want is the other (or both). Here’s the run-down.​

How Is Duct Cleaning Different from Furnace Cleaning & Maintenance?

What is Furnace Cleaning?

Furnace cleaning involves only the individual components of the furnace itself—like the heat exchanger, the blower motor, the combustion chamber, burners, fan, etc. These are typically cleaned with the combination of high-pressured air and an industrial vacuum. Some of the heavy-lifting furnace parts, like the evaporator coil, often require a more specialized cleaning for an additional cost.

What is Air Duct Cleaning?

Air duct cleaning is the process of removing dust, debris, and contaminants from your air ducts, including the main supply trunk and main return, as well as the branch lines. Laypeople sometimes refer to it as “vent cleaning,” though this term is a little reductive. Air ducts are the vast system of (usually) metal tubes that run from your furnace throughout your home, distributing heated or cooled air; vents are simply the point where the ducts open into the house.

How are the two services similar?

Air duct cleaning and furnace cleaning use similar tools: high-pressured air, powerful suction, and sometimes agitators. They both contribute to energy efficiency and improved air flow (and air quality) by reducing the amount of debris and contaminants hindering the HVAC system. The two services are often performed in tandem, for the most comprehensive system cleaning. Because the air ducts and furnace form part of the same system, it is highly likely that if one is dirty, the other is too.

Which service do I need?


For reasons stated above, it is usually a good idea to have both the furnace and ducts cleaned at the same time. But this is not a hard and fast rule. If your furnace is new (a year or so), and has a properly fitted filter (this is key), it may not need a cleaning yet. However, if your furnace is dirty, it is virtually guaranteed that your air ducts are as well. Since the furnace blows air directly into the supply ducts.

Regarding air duct cleaning, it is generally recommended that this be performed every two years. Ideally you would start with the highest level of service. And then the “maintenance” level service will suffice for the next few cleanings. If you are unsure whether you need either service performed, you can request that the technician conduct a visual assessment. And discuss with you (and show you) his findings.

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