Everything You Need To Know About Heat Treatments For Bed Bugs

These days portable electric fan heaters, especially 3 phase industrial fan heaters, are increasingly being used by the pest control industry. The use of heat is seen as a much safer, more effective way to deal with things like bed bug infestations than toxic chemicals. Not only is it more reliable but you can be back in your house quickly and you don’t need to worry about the possibility of exposure to seriously unpleasant chemicals for you, your family or your pets.

Here we’ve put together a quick guide to using industrial heating equipment as part of a pest control system.

Electric fan heaters can be used as a chemical-free method of pest control for the treatment bed bugs by raising the temperature of an affected room is an effective method of extermination.

The widespread and irresponsible use of chemical pesticides for pest control has taken it’s toll on the environment and personal health of those exposed to any misuse.

In exactly the same way as the overuse of antibiotics has lead bacteria to develop resistances to traditional treatments, insects have become resistant to many pesticides, and in the public health sphere, none more so than bed bugs.

Notwithstanding resistance issues, it was clear that heat treatment of bed bugs in bedroom furniture and mattresses had to be better than just using toxic insecticides. Surely not using poisons in the area you sleep has to be safer than using them?

How does the fan heater treatment work?

Insects, just like us, are made up of proteins. Even enzymes are proteins and the nature of that protein and its DNA determines its place and function in the body.

When a cell is heated up to around 45°C or more, that DNA starts to break down and so the cell ceases to function as it should.

In laboratory studies, you will see all sorts of claims for percentage kill rates of various species of insect for various times and temperatures. But to deliver full control, you need a target temperature of 50°C for two-hours or 52°C for one-hour. This needs to be on the insect and not just in the room or environment being treated.

The problem with cold spots

Cold spots are the core of all issues relating to heat treatment efficacy. So, how should cold spots be dealt with?

As with all trades there are those operators that either seek to maximise profit by cutting corners, don’t really understand what they’re doing and/or poor training. With the pest control sector you tend find the less scrupulous heat treatment suppliers will simply measure general air temperature. This is totally misleading.In order for the treatment to be effective it’s the bug itself that needs to reach temperature and just because the room ambient has hit 50⁰C it doesn’t mean you’ll have wiped out the infestation of insects and their eggs, which will typically be hiding undercover in insulated areas.

The energy required to heat something up is a formula. It’s a function of:

the object’s mass X heat capacity of the material you’re heating X the change in temperature required.

This is very important when it comes to the debate as to whether to try to heat up an entire building or room, or just the contents of that room where bed bugs are typically concentrated. There is a vast difference in energy requirements, type of equipment (and price) between the two techniques.

Any supplier claiming to be an expert in using electric fan heaters for pest control should be able to provide you with a thermolog graph or report. This should show the temperatures of the sensors and their exact location, enabling the identification of cold spots.

Why are heat treatments expensive?

If someone is charging very little to heat up an entire room, you need to beware!

It’s probably a con, and simply won’t work. You may end up stuck with multiple treatments despite thinking you had booked the best approach.

“Whole-room and building treatments are expensive processes and need to be done by specialists with the required skill set, training and equipment to do the job properly.” Said David Hammond, Inventor of heat treatment technologies

Another leading industry expert adds:

“To supply this sort of energy, you need big, powerful fan heaters that cannot be simply plugged into off the mains. If you are thinking of booking heat treatment, the equipment being used is something to ask about as it needs to be fit for purpose.”

Even for smaller heat treatments, it’s recommended using at least 3-phase 415v 18kW electric fan heaters.

It certainly isn’t recommended that general fan heaters that plug into a wall socket with a maximum power output of just 3kw are used. You could leave your hair dryer on and apply similar amounts of energy to your room! However, some suppliers do use these type of heaters as pert a pod system that can be effective in treating small beds, items of furniture or personal effects, but not whole rooms, they just don’t have the power.

In addition to generic fan heaters, any form of direct burn propane gas heaters or even steam are also best avoided.”

Why not gas or steam?

A key part of the way bed bugs are killed in an adequately carried out heat treatment is by being dried out.

When you burn gas, you put water into the environment, so it’s just not going to work. And it’s the same with steam, which by it’s very nature clearly isn’t going to dry anything out.

Plus, as well as helping the bed bugs and eggs survive, when you combine water and heat the damage risk to property and belongings massively increases. Think wall paper, electronics and some items of clothing or food stuffs.

As a manufacturer of portable electric heating we don’t specialise in heat treatment and neither are we experts in pest control. This article is meant for general information nothing more , and if you are considering heat treatment for bed bugs then please speak to an expert first. A quick Google search will bring up a number of well known and reliable companies such as Rentokil who should be able to answer any queries you might have.