If the system is sealed air-tight and a really good filtering system is in place then you should NEVER have to clean your ductwork. Most dust people see in their homes (on beds furniture etc....) is broken down insulation that is being blown into the home from the attic (venturi effect) where the duct bucket (box etc...) is not sealed at the sheetrock ceiling. On the return side, ANY leaks in the ductwork will pull hot attic air and dust into the system, clogging up everything.
Prices for central-air HVAC systems will vary. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670 but can run as high as $5,000 or even $12,000 depending on the capacity you need and other factors. Installing central air conditioning requires an entire system that works together to draw hot air out of your home. The system includes an outdoor unit, which houses the condenser and compressor, and the evaporator coils. If you don’t have an existing duct system, ductwork will need to be installed, which will affect labor and material costs. Leaking or damaged ducts will also need to be replaced.
Many homes have a forced-air HVAC system. Both the heating and the central air conditioning units share a ductwork system where they either push in or pull out warm or cooled air. There are also heating and cooling systems that don’t require ductwork — such as ductless mini-splits — but work on the same principles of heat exchange. The national average to hire an HVAC specialist is $2,920-$3,670, with costs varying depending on the work you need done and the equipment you are installing.
An alternative to packaged systems is the use of separate indoor and outdoor coils in split systems. Split systems are preferred and widely used worldwide except in North America. In North America, split systems are most often seen in residential applications, but they are gaining popularity in small commercial buildings. The split systems are a great choice for small buildings where ductwork is not feasible or where the space conditioning efficiency is of prime concern . The benefits of ductless air conditioning systems include easy installation, no ductwork, greater zonal control, flexibility of control and quiet operation . In space conditioning, the duct losses can account for 30% of energy consumption . The use of minisplit can result in energy savings in space conditioning as there are no losses associated with ducting.
You've probably noticed many appliances boasting an Energy Star Certification. What this means is that manufacturer voluntarily built the product to help reduce greenhouse gases and meet non-regulatory guidelines offered by the Environmental Protection Agency. To earn an Energy Star rating, a product or system must be tested by a third party that has been recognized by the EPA for meeting their testing qualifications.
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.
The AC contactor (relay) and start/run capacitor(s) (see illustration below) fail most often and are inexpensive. So it's a safe bet to buy and install those parts right away, especially if your air conditioning service unit is older than five years. The condenser fan motor can also fail, but it runs about $150 — hold off buying that unless you're sure that's the culprit.