There are many interesting comments from several informed individuals. The question that has not been answered is how do duct systems get dusty and dirty? As a RESNET Home Energy Rater, I perform pressure tests on homes and duct systems, and the one common thread is . . . most air delivery sytems have large amounts of air leakage. The solution is to seal the duct system, and pay particular attention to the return duct system and ductwork near the air handler (the 'blower'). As others have said, a captive (sealed) duct system with proper filter maintenance should be more then adequate for most occupants. For those who have allergy, asthma, or other breathing problems, a filter with a higher MERV rating (number should be listed on the package) or a HEPA filter are good choices. These filters will capture smaller particulates and should improve the indoor air quality. Again, make certain that the entire duct system is sealed, preferably with mastic, second choice UL-181 foil tape - never use cloth duct (also known as duck) tape.

I have a white gritty dust throughout my whole house. Dust and it comes right back. We have central air. In 2013 had all the air conditioning tubing in the attic replaced. Old ones were completely clean. Why?? Thought dust would be in there. Put everything in plastic containers. Furniture everything is always covered with this. Problem is always there year round. Furnace people said it is not coming from furnace. We built house in 1971. Only started with this @ 19 years ago. Thinking when air conditioning went in. We cough all the time and sneeze. I do not have friends come here because I hate how dirty my house looks.
If not properly installed, maintained and operated, these components may become contaminated with particles of dust, pollen or other debris. If moisture is present, the potential for microbiological growth (e.g., mold) is increased and spores from such growth may be released into the home's living space. Some of these contaminants may cause allergic reactions or other symptoms in people if they are exposed to them. If you decide to have your heating and cooling system cleaned, it is important to make sure the service provider agrees to clean all components of the system and is qualified to do so. Failure to clean a component of a contaminated system can result in re-contamination of the entire system, thus negating any potential benefits. Methods of duct cleaning vary, although standards have been established by industry associations concerned with air duct cleaning. Typically, a service provider will use specialized tools to dislodge dirt and other debris in ducts, then vacuum them out with a high-powered vacuum cleaner.
Hi guys if your not convinced yet that duct cleaning is a waste of time. I’m a HVAC business owner install heaters and air conditioners. Simple facts if you have an old system get a new return air fitted with a filter it will catch all the dirt and dust. If you still have as many do black flecks and stuff coming through it is the lining inside your ducting that has perished. So somewhere you have a hole or very old ducting. If you had rats etc its a hole somewhere. To clean, stick your vacuum in the outlet and push the hose as far as it will go this gets 99% of toys and coins fur and alike. Think about it if the object is not heavy it will come out the duct when unit is on. Service the heaters or air con units but not the ducting. I would go further to say that duct cleaning actually damages the ducting in my opinion.
I am a service technician [since '92].....and as to double filtering.....I have never recommended it. would be noticeably helpful if the fiberglass filters are the main ones used [which I also never long as system can deliver appropriate air flow with a pleated cotton filter...and any decent service tech can check the air flow for proper cfm]. Any particles small enough to pass through a pleated cotton filter are going to pass through a second filter as well....unless the second filters are so tight that the system is starving for air flow. Has anybody ever accidentally put two filters in their automatic drip coffee maker? What if cars used two fuel filters or air filters? I have told some homeowners to try using second filters at each register [the black thin filter material cut-to-fit....same type used in many window air conditioners].....but I only suggest this when I know they will still get at least 400 cfm per ton of air flow [350 absolute minimum] some homeowners know others who say it has helped and it gives them a peace of mind knowing they are doing something to help contribute to a solution, so it HAS to help [even though I think it falls in the "one-born-every-minute" category.....similar to duct cleaning].
Dehumidification (air drying) in an air conditioning system is provided by the evaporator. Since the evaporator operates at a temperature below the dew point, moisture in the air condenses on the evaporator coil tubes. This moisture is collected at the bottom of the evaporator in a pan and removed by piping to a central drain or onto the ground outside.
With the split system, the evaporator coil is connected to a remote condenser unit using refrigerant piping between an indoor and outdoor unit instead of ducting air directly from the outdoor unit. Indoor units with directional vents mount onto walls, suspended from ceilings, or fit into the ceiling. Other indoor units mount inside the ceiling cavity, so that short lengths of duct handle air from the indoor unit to vents or diffusers around the rooms.

Air duct cleaning service providers may tell you that they need to apply a chemical biocide to the inside of your ducts to kill bacteria (germs) and fungi (mold), and prevent future biological growth. Some duct cleaning service providers may propose to introduce ozone to kill biological contaminants. Ozone is a highly reactive gas that is regulated in the outside air as a lung irritant. However, there remains considerable controversy over the necessity and wisdom of introducing chemical biocides or ozone into the duct work.

An important component of natural ventilation is air change rate or air changes per hour: the hourly rate of ventilation divided by the volume of the space. For example, six air changes per hour means an amount of new air, equal to the volume of the space, is added every ten minutes. For human comfort, a minimum of four air changes per hour is typical, though warehouses might have only two. Too high of an air change rate may be uncomfortable, akin to a wind tunnel which have thousands of changes per hour. The highest air change rates are for crowded spaces, bars, night clubs, commercial kitchens at around 30 to 50 air changes per hour.[17]
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Air conditioning and refrigeration are provided through the removal of heat. Heat can be removed through radiation, convection, or conduction. Refrigeration conduction media such as water, air, ice, and chemicals are referred to as refrigerants. A refrigerant is employed either in a heat pump system in which a compressor is used to drive thermodynamic refrigeration cycle, or in a free cooling system which uses pumps to circulate a cool refrigerant (typically water or a glycol mix).
Capacitors -- Capacitors help your HVAC motor start from a standstill. Over time they can weaken. As they weaken, they cause the motor to run hotter. This can shorten the life expectancy of your motor. Once a capacitor fails, the whole motor will stop working. You usually won't notice that a capacitor has weakened until your motor stops turning on.
I agree, if you replace (or wash depending on type) your air filters regularly AND vaccum, then you probably don't need the ducts or air coils cleaned. However, if you purchase a pre-owned home, and the previous owners did not regularly change the air filter or vaccum the home, then duct cleaning is worth the expense especially if you are sensitive to allergens. Especially if the previous owners had pets.
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Free cooling systems can have very high efficiencies, and are sometimes combined with seasonal thermal energy storage so that the cold of winter can be used for summer air conditioning. Common storage mediums are deep aquifers or a natural underground rock mass accessed via a cluster of small-diameter, heat-exchanger-equipped boreholes. Some systems with small storages are hybrids, using free cooling early in the cooling season, and later employing a heat pump to chill the circulation coming from the storage. The heat pump is added-in because the storage acts as a heat sink when the system is in cooling (as opposed to charging) mode, causing the temperature to gradually increase during the cooling season.
There is a lot of good, general information in the article. As with anything, the homeowner should do their due diligence in getting enough information to make an educated decision. Should duct-work be cleaned? YES! Does it need to be cleaned annually or even every second or third year? Not necessarily. It all depends on a bunch of variables. You're right that a well designed and balanced system will deliver the right amount of air flow, but sometimes conditions outside the home/business, make it a necessity to get the ducts cleaned. As for mold? NO filter is going to address a mold issue. If you have mold, you have a moisture issue that needs to be addressed. Also, in my 38 years of experience in the HVAC and sheet metal industries, washable filters are one of the reasons ducts need to be cleaned. They are no where near efficient in cleaning/filtering the air to the level that they should.
If the condenser coils are clogged, the compressor can overheat and shut down. You'll experience intermittent periods of minimal cooling, followed by no cooling. Even if you're “sure” the condenser coils are clean, clean them again. Turn off the power. Flip the air conditioning service and furnace circuit breakers in your main electrical panel to the “Off” position. Next, turn off the power switch right at the furnace or air handler. Then yank the disconnect block (Photo 1) and clean the condenser coils (Photo 2). If the air conditioning service still doesn't work properly after you've cleaned the condenser coils, installed a new filter and opened all the supply vents, proceed with the following repairs. Your AC won't work fully unless you do this.