Business Overview

Who is this business right for?

Heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) technicians are especially qualified for starting an air duct cleaning business, as they already have the technical knowledge that’s necessary to clean air ducts. Anyone who is mechanically inclined, however, can learn what they need to know about HVAC systems.

It also helps to be self-motivated, as business owners often are working by themselves when cleaning air ducts.

Finally, this is a business that can be started while working another job, as cleanings can be scheduled around other obligations. A business owner who has a traditional day job, for example, can perform cleanings during the evenings and on weekends.

What happens during a typical day at an air duct cleaning business?

A business owner of an air duct cleaning business will spend much of their day cleaning air ducts, which is hands-on work that involves running tools and brushes through the ducts of HVAC systems. When not actually cleaning ducts, business owners will spend time driving to and from customer’s locations, scheduling appointments and maintaining tools.

What is the target market?

Air duct cleaning businesses frequently clean individuals’ residential HVAC systems, but their ideal customers are businesses. Cleaning systems in commercial buildings takes longer, so air duct cleaning business owners can charge more. Additionally, businesses that own commercial buildings frequently can afford to pay more than individual residents for air duct cleanings.

How does an air duct cleaning business make money?

An air duct cleaning business makes money by charging customers to clean their HVAC systems’ air ducts. Most businesses charge a set price per cleaning rather than an hourly rate.

What is the growth potential for an air duct cleaning business?

An air duct cleaning business may be a one-person operation that serves a single city or town, or it can be a large company that has many locations. AirDuct Clean, for example, is a regional company with franchises throughout Michigan. Ductz is a national company with franchises in many states.

According to a 2005 EPA report, the air duct cleaning industry’s annual revenue from air duct cleanings was $4 billion, and “building remediation for indoor air quality” brought in another $3.4 billion annually. Since this report was released, these numbers have likely increased.

Getting Started

What are some skills and experiences that will help you build a successful air duct cleaning business?

An air duct cleaning business owner must have an in-depth knowledge of HVAC systems. Those who don’t have experience in this field can take online and classroom courses through the National Air Duct Cleaners Association (NADCA). The NADCA also offers two certifications for air duct cleaners: an air systems cleaning specialist (ACSC) certification and a certified ventilation inspector (CVI) certification.

What are the costs involved in opening an air duct cleaning business?

Starting a residential air duct cleaning business costs about $5,600, and a commercial air duct cleaning business costs about $10,000 to open. Most of these costs go towards equipment that is needed to clean air ducts, which includes a vacuum collection system, agitation and cleaning tools, an air compressor, a wet/dry vacuum with HEPA filtration and duct accessing tools. Business owners also need sanitizer, coil cleaner, personal safety equipment and miscellaneous tools (e.g. a ladder and hand tools), but these cost less than the other equipment.

The above figures don’t include a vehicle, which is also necessary. Business owners either need a trailer to tow their equipment in or a truck that can fit everything. Most business owners, however, keep their startup costs low by using a vehicle or trailer they already have.

What are the steps to start an air duct cleaning business?

Once you're ready to start your air duct cleaning business, follow these steps to ensure that your business is legally compliant and avoid wasting time and money as your business grows:

STEP 1: Plan your Business

A clear plan is essential for success as an entrepreneur. A few important topics to consider are:

  • What are the initial costs?
  • Who is your target market?
  • How long it will take you to break even?
  • What will you name your business?

Choosing the right name is very important. We recommend checking if the business name you choose is available as a web domain and securing it early so no one else can take it.

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STEP 2. Form a legal entity

Establishing a legal business entity such as an LLC prevents you from being personally liable if your security guard company is sued.

STEP 3. Register for taxes

You will need to register for a variety of state and federal taxes before you can open for business.

STEP 4. Open a business bank account

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 5. Set up business accounting

Recording your various expenses and sources of income is critical to understanding the financial performance of your business. Keeping accurate and detailed accounts also greatly simplifies your annual tax filing.

STEP 6. Obtain necessary permits and licenses

Failure to acquire necessary permits and licenses can result in hefty fines, or even cause your business to be shut down.

STEP 7. Get Business Insurance

Insurance is highly recommended for all business owners. If you hire employees, workers compensation insurance may be a legal requirement in your state.

STEP 8. Define your brand.

Your brand is what your company stands for, as well as how your business is perceived by the public. A strong brand will help your business stand out from competitors.

STEP 9. Establish your Web Presence

A business website allows customers to learn more about your company and the products or services you offer. You can also use social media to attract new clients or customers.

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Select your state below for an in-depth guide on completing each of these steps in your home state.

Where can I find a business mentor?

One of the greatest resources an entrepreneur can have is quality mentorship. As you start planning your business, connect with a free business resource near you to get the help you need.

Having a support network in place to turn to during tough times is a major factor of success for new business owners.

What are some insider tips for jump starting an air duct cleaning business?

The air duct cleaning industry can be competitive, especially with larger HVAC companies offering discounted cleanings and inspections. To survive in the industry, business owners must have a solid business plan. There are several resources available for developing a business plan. One is an ebook, Air Duct Vent Cleaning -- Sample Business Plan Template.

Growing Your Business

How to promote & market an air duct cleaning business

Since most air duct cleaning businesses, at least when they’re first starting out, serve a relatively small geographic area, ads in local outlets can be effective marketing tools. Radio stations, newspapers and even local deal books can be good places to purchase ads.

Recommended: Get started with local advertising for your business with a $300 credit from Yelp.

How to keep customers coming back

Air duct cleaning businesses can distinguish themselves by simply being courteous to customers. Showing up on time, wearing booties indoors and cleaning up after a job is finished will set a business apart from many others.

How and when to build a team

Business owners don’t have to hire employees, but some decide to hire one employee fairly early on because having two people to work on cleanings can make jobs go much faster. Business owners that want to grow their company often hire more employees once they’re fully booked every week.

Legal Considerations

State & Local Business Licensing Requirements

Most states require air duct cleaners to have a mechanical contractor license. To obtain such a license, applicants must have either relevant education (typically a bachelor’s degree) or experience in the industry. This will qualify them to take the Mechanical Contractor License Exam, which they must pass. Learn more about licensing requirements in your state by visiting SBA’s reference to state licenses and permits.

Most businesses are required to collect sales tax on the goods or services they provide. To learn more about how sales tax will affect your business, read our article, Sales Tax for Small Businesses.

In addition, certain local licensing or regulatory requirements may apply. For more information about local licenses and permits:

Maintain Personal Asset Protection

Don’t think that just forming an LLC, or any other type of business, will save your personal assets in case of a lawsuit or other matter by itself.

When your personal and business accounts are mixed, your personal assets (your home, car, and other valuables) are at risk in the event your LLC is sued. In business law, this is referred to as piercing your corporate veil.

Two of the simplest steps that will protect your business, and yourself, are to:

Open a business bank account

  • This separates your personal assets from your company's assets, which is necessary for personal asset protection.

  • It also makes accounting and tax filing easier.

Get a business credit card

  • This helps you separate personal and business expenses by putting your business' expenses all in one place.
  • It also builds your company's credit history, which can be useful to raise money and investment later on.
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To learn more about maintaining your LLC's corporate veil, read our guide and protect your personal assets.

Service Agreement

Air duct cleaning businesses should consider requiring clients to sign a service agreement before starting a new project. This agreement should clarify client expectations and minimize risk of legal disputes by setting out payment terms and conditions, service level expectations, and intellectual property ownership. Here is an example service agreement.

Recommended: Rocket Lawyer makes it easy to create a professional service agreement for your air duct cleaning business when you sign up for their premium membership. For $39.95 per month, members receive access to hundreds of legal agreements and on call attorneys to get complimentary legal advice

Earning Potential

How much can you charge customers?

Most air duct cleanings cost between $300 and $500. On average, businesses charge $35 per vent cleaned. Cleaning the HVAC system in a house that has 12 vents, for example, would cost $410 ($35 x 12 vents).

What are the ongoing expenses for an air duct cleaning business?

The ongoing expenses for air duct cleaning businesses are fairly minimal. They include expenses for fuel to get to and from customers’ sites, maintenance for the business’ trailer or truck, and supplies, like sanitizer and coil cleaner.

How much profit can an air duct cleaning business make?

A typical air duct cleaning takes about three hours, so business owners can often complete two cleanings a day. At this rate, a fully booked business could bring in revenue between $3,000 and $5,000 each week. Even after taking out an employee’s wages, advertising costs and ongoing expenses, the business owner could be left with a decent profit.

How can you make your business more profitable?

An air duct cleaning business can increase its revenue by either offering additional HVAC services or partnering with a local business that does. An HVAC company in the area may be willing to pay a commission for any work that’s referred to them.

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