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Hidden Cameras Helpful in Choosing Contractors

SPRINGFIELD -- It's the time of year when you spend more time indoors. So you want to make sure the air you breath while at home is clean.  In a hidden camera investigation, we found you need to be extremely cautious when choosing a duct cleaning company.

It all started after we heard from a half dozen homeowners who claim the local duct cleaning company Indoor Air Solutions used high pressure sales and scare tactics to sell its service. What's worse, they say the work wasn't even done properly.  So, using hidden cameras, we decided to find out for ourselves.

Bob Holloway wanted to help his daughter get the ducts cleaned in her new home. After seeing an ad in a newspaper, he thought he found the right company to do it.

"My granddaughter has asthma so we gotta have it cleaned," said Holloway.

So, thinking he would get a deal, Holloway had Indoor Air Solutions come to the home.

"By the time he was finished, it was $1,427.85 for something I was expecting to pay $100 for," he said.

Holloway says he was told the high cost was to get rid of significant mold growth throughout the duct system.

"For two weeks, I had trouble going to sleep, thinking I had gotten taken."

So he called two other local duct cleaning companies and asked how much they would charge to do the same work.  Their estimates were both about half of what Indoor Air Solutions charged.  Holloway then had another company, EnviroAir, come out to inspect the work.

"This is the one that turns your stomach.  This is the bottom of the furnace," said Holloway, looking at a photo of the debris that he says Indoor Air Solutions left behnd.

Elaine Dunn had a similar experience.

"They're telling us that our furnace is really dirty and full of mildew and they're wanting $1,600 to do this job," said Dunn.

After paying the money, she too became worried and called two companies to do inspections. Again, both EnviroAir and LCS Kleen-Aire said it should have cost about half of what she paid to do the work, and both gave her reports saying the ducts weren't properly cleaned.

"I was so upset about it," said Dunn.

After complaining to Indoor Air Solutions, Holloway got his money back and Dunn got a partial refund.

After talking with four other customers who had similar experiences, we decided to use hidden cameras to find out if the problems were continuing. Our videographer, Robin Yancey, had technicians with Indoor Air Solutions come clean her 80-year-old ducts. While there, Indoor Air Solutions technicians never tried to upsell Yancey or use any scare tactics but it's unclear if the ducts were properly cleaned. In our hidden camera footage, you can see the worker take off the vent cover, put his vacuum hose in the vent and barely get inside the duct.

After the visit from Indoor Air Solutions, we asked LCS and Enviroair to come back to Yancey's home and inspect the ducts.  Looking in a return that Indoor Air Solutions supposedly cleaned, Enviroair found insulation, pieces of drywall and even shards of wood.  And that was all within an arm's reach. Farther down, its snake camera found clouds of dust and dirt.

Then LCS arrived. Having no idea we had already paid Indoor Air solutions to do the work, we asked inspector Steve Childers how long he thinks it's been since Robin's ducts were cleaned.

"All appearances are that it has not been cleaned in the life of the home; many years worth of accumulation. I would hope that it's not been cleaned at this point!" he said.

"It's the farthest away from acceptable as you could possibly get," said operations manager of Indoor Air Solutions Gil Valazquez.

Valazquez came to KY3 to watch our video and was disappointed by what we found.

"The spinning bristles were not even used so it looks like they're sticking the vacuum in and leaving," he said.

Valazquez says steps will be taken to assure it never happens again. He says they'll make follow-up calls to customers, ask technicians to fill out a checklist at every job and they'll buy cameras to allow customers to inspect their ducts both before and after they're cleaned.

"I'm going to do everything in my power to ensure these things don't happen again and we have fail-safe measures to protect customers so they don't get a sub-par job," said Valazquez.

Article source here.

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