Preventing against air leakage is great, but the only way to keep dust and debris out of a duct system would be to completely seal off the return-air side of the system, which would render the system useless. Cold-air returns will always pull dust and other particles into the system. A high-MERV rated filter is definitely a good idea, but it does nothing to keep the return side of the system clean. Definitely agree though to use foil tape to seal seams, etc. Duct tape dries out over time and as it does can actually add more particles to the air.
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 A/C System Cleaning and restoration industry has become a very lucrative bait and switch industry that many Carpet cleaning companies, Maid services, as well as plumbing or handyman service companies are adding on to there services. These add-ons are not fully certified, trained or even have any experience in the HVAC industry. These companies are the reason prices and quality of work are all over the place. If you are looking to make a smart decision for your home a professional Duct Cleaning service will protect you for 5-7 years. This info comes from NADCA (National Air Duct Cleaning Association) which is the closest thing to a license we have for duct cleaning. They have a great site that explains this process and pricing much more in depth and factual than what has been written here. This organization is working very hard to get these bad companies exposed and out of this industry. So in saying that do your research! Green Duct Decontamination is a certified company with certified technicians that take this work very seriously. We can not have these low rated unprofessional companies paste a bad name for an entire industry. Stay away from anything under 250$ for a full duct clean this is not feasible, go look at NADCA.com and you will understand why and what these companies are doing to rob you of your dollar.
Some research suggests that cleaning heating and cooling system components (e.g., cooling coils, fans and heat exchangers) may improve the efficiency of your system, resulting in a longer operating life, as well as some energy and maintenance cost savings. However, little evidence exists that cleaning only the ducts will improve the efficiency of the system.
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