Duct Cleaning and Indoor Air Quality Experts
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Attorney General Sues Air Duct Cleaning Pros

Three months after the Better Business Bureau warned the public about a deceptive air duct cleaning company based in the Chicago suburbs, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan has filed a lawsuit charging that the company fraudulently charged homeowners for mitigation of mold and mildew that did not exist in their homes.
Lisa Madigan
Illinois Attorney General

Madigan filed the lawsuit Jan. 27 against Moshe Kesem of Schaumberg, Ill., and his two companies, Warranty USA Inc. and Air Duct Cleaning Pros. The suit says that Kesum showed consumers fake pictures of extensive mold or mildew damage to their homes to convince them to buy additional services that they did not request or approve.

The BBB has taken more than 60 complaints about Air Duct Cleaning Pros in the last three years, including several in the St. Louis area. In many of the cases, the company advertised that it would clean ducts for $79 or $89. Once the company did the work, they billed customers for hundreds or even thousands of dollars.

Air Duct Cleaning Pros has an “F” grade with the BBB, the lowest grade possible.

“The company targeted vulnerable seniors and deceived homeowners into purchasing services they didn’t need,” said Madigan. “Consumers should know illegitimate contractors are always scamming people out of their hard-earned money. So homeowners need to investigate contractors before signing contracts and beginning projects.”

Michelle Corey, BBB president and CEO, said that reports on file with the BBB in Chicago paint a portrait of a company that uses advertised specials to obtain access to consumers’ homes, and then uses high-pressure sales tactics to get them to pay for additional work.

“This appears to be a classic bait-and-switch that tempts consumers with low-cost offers and then hits them with a variety of add-ons,” Corey said. “To say that this raises ethical concerns is certainly an understatement.”

In November, the St. Louis BBB issued a press release warning that Air Duct Cleaning Pros was actively soliciting business in the St. Louis area. Consumers said that they called the company about the advertised offer, then were shown photos purporting to show extensive mold or mildew in their ducts. The cost of the work was often 10 or more times the advertised price.

An 86-year-old widow from Glen Carbon, Ill., told the BBB that a company employee coerced her to pay $500 in October, after she responded to an advertising flyer for a $79 duct-cleaning special. She said that when she stopped payment on her check, a company official became so threatening that “I was afraid to sleep for two nights.”

Five homeowners in one neighborhood answered the ad. At least two of them said they were shown the same pictures of dirty ducts by employees of Air Duct Cleaning Pros.

Madigan said Kesem regularly tacked fraudulent charges onto bills to address fictional problems. He targeted seniors for services they didn’t need and often charged them for word he didn’t do. One consumer said she paid $2,494 to get Kesem and his workers to leave her home.

Madigan’s lawsuit alleges violations of the Illinois Consumer Fraud and Deceptive Business Practices Act and the Home Repair and Remodeling Act. She asked Cook County Circuit Court to bar Kesem from working in the home repair trade in Illinois. The suit also seeks to cancel pending contracts and obtain restitution for consumers victimized by the company.

Air duct cleaning scams are rampant in many areas. On Sunday, Jan. 30, the NBC program Dateline aired a piece produced with the BBB and consumers in the Huntsville, Ala., area. The piece is online at http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/3032600/#/41303740.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency urges consumers to be wary of any company that makes sweeping promises that air duct cleaning will improve residents’ health. The EPA suggests cleaning in cases where there is visible mold growth, vermin infestation or the ducts are clogged with excessive amounts of dust and debris. The agency says that homeowners need to fully understand the pros and cons of using chemical treatments.

The BBB offers the following tips for consumers looking to hire a duct-cleaning firm:

  • Deal only with reputable companies, preferably businesses in your area with a good track record. Ask for references from homeowners in your neighborhood. Always contact the BBB for a Reliability Report by going to www.bbb.org or calling 314-645-3300.
  • Beware of advertising that offers what seem to be extremely low prices for air duct cleaning. Often, these ads are used by businesses expecting to sell additional services once they get inside your home.
  • If a company discovers a potential problem in your furnace or ducts, do not be pressured into paying for additional services until you have contacted a heating and air conditioning professional for a second opinion. While the second company may charge you for a service call to check out the problem, the call may save you money if not service is needed.
  • Try to have a friend or family member with you during a scheduled appointment with a salesman or service technician. If that is not possible and you feel threatened or intimidated during the visit, ask the person or persons to leave your home immediately. If they refuse or hesitate, call your local police.

The BBB advises consumers to check out a company’s Reliability Report before doing business. Reports are available at www.bbb.org or by calling 314-645-3300 during business hours.

Original story link: http://www.enewsbuilder.net/stlouisbbbnews/e_article002004630.cfm?x=bk5gCKW,bbgBbmhc,w

What was Left Behind After a $39.99 Duct Cleaning

Dirt and debris left behing

Dirt left behind after cheap duct cleaning, this is on top of the air conditioning coils. Air passes right through this and into the ducts of the home. This is AFTER the filters!

When called to this customers home the complaint was excessive dirt blowing from her vents.   One week earlier she had a $39.99 duct cleaning performed that ended up costing her $200. When she called them to complain about the cleaning she was told that it was “normal” to have dirt blowing out after a cleaning. And that if she wanted all of the dirt gone it would be $800 to “thoroughly” clean her system.  She did more research and eventually was referred to RCS .

 After a quick inspection the picture above is what we found, they pushed all of the dirt from inside the duct system into the top of the furnace, the air conditioning coil compartment. That other company even claimed to use a “negative air system” to capture all the debris. Does this look captured to you? Is this their “visibly clean” standard?

If this debris where left alone in the summer months it would become wet with moisture from the air conditioning coils, and potentially become a source for mold and fungus growth. rcsstl.com cleaned her entire duct system including wet cleaning of her air conditioning coil.

Consumers do your research! Cheap prices also mean cheap work. Hire a specialist to clean your expensive furnace and duct system. Do not  believe for a minute that for $39 a two man crew with a specialized duct cleaning truck will come to your home for 3 – 4 hours and provide you with a through cleaning.

RCS ONLY service is air systems cleaning, we have the knowledge , training and equipment to be experts in duct cleaning.

Pictures and Content Copyright RCS 2012

 

Clean or Replace my Ducts?

 

       

Date Published: Aug 13 2012

by Angie Hicks

Dear Angie: We have had a problem with dust in our 2-year old house. We had someone come and inspect our air ducts to see if they needed to be cleaned. His inspection revealed that we had a lot of dust in our coils and air ducts. He said the most likely reason for the amount of dust is that the builder ran the air conditioning unit without air filters in place.

He recommended that we clean the coil, remove and clean the blower and replace at least 25 air ducts. He recommended replacing the air ducts rather than cleaning them because the air ducts were made of plastic and they were difficult to clean properly. The estimated cost is more than $10,000 and could be more if more air ducts need to be replaced. Is it common to replace your air ducts because they are too dirty to clean properly? – Name and city withheld by request

Dear Anonymous:

 There are a number of factors that will determine whether or not you can clean or need to repair your air ducts. The first is the type of ductwork you have. In most cases, most types of ductwork can be easily cleaned, especially in a newer home.

Metal ductwork with no interior lining can almost assuredly be cleaned. If the ducting is constructed of fiber board, though, it cannot be cleaned as easily. If the contamination is severe, it likely needs to be replaced.

However, you say your ducts are made of plastic, which I’m inclined to believe means you have flexible ductwork. Flex ductwork is typically made of a wire coil covered by a thin, flexible plastic wall and wrapped in insulation and foil backing. If the flex ducts only have dust or debris, they should be able to be easily cleaned by a qualified professional with the right tools. However, if the flex ducts have mold growth – depending on the level of contamination – they could need to be replaced.

Before you have the ductwork cleaned – or replaced, if that’s necessary – it’s important you find the source of the dust. Every duct system has some residual dust, regardless of how well it is cleaned, but because your home was only recently constructed, it shouldn’t need a duct cleaning so soon.

However, there are exceptions to that. If the builder ran the heating and cooling system during the construction phase, that could certainly be at the root of the issue. It’s also possible the entire HVAC system needs to be better sealed. Air leakages can draw additional dirt and dust into the system. Having a blower door test done will help you determine exactly where any leaks could be occurring.

It all really comes back to how well the system was installed. Some reputable air duct cleaners have told me they’ve seen new houses where the systems and ducts are so poorly done that they require re-engineering and a major renovation, but few recommend a total replacement. Unfortunately, some companies use scare tactics, like saying there is mold present, to oversell unnecessary duct cleaning or replacement.

My advice is to do your research and find at least two more companies who have a solid reputation and specialize in air duct systems. Many companies offer multiple services, including carpet and chimney cleaning, but you really need someone who focuses solely on air duct systems and is in good standing with the National Air Duct Cleaners Association. Look for credible online reviews and testimonials from clients to get a feel for how these companies resolve issues like yours and ask for detailed estimates so you can compare apples to apples.

For more information, read Is air duct cleaning worth it?

Angie’s List collects about 65,000 consumer reviews each month covering more than 550 home and health services. Angie Hicks compiles the best advice from the most highly rated service pros on Angie’s List to answer your questions. Ask Angie your question at askangie@angieslist.com

 

RCS Restores HVAC System in Church After Fire

Air handling units “dug” into basement floor.

RCS vacuum truck
RCS Air Duct Cleaning www.rcsstl.com  powerful vacuum truck used to extract debris from duct systems. RCS was called to the SS Peter & Paul Catholic Church in Waterloo Illinois after a small fire. Its important to clean, deodorize and restore HVAC systems after fires and smoke damage to eliminate particulate and odors.