Bed bugs are a serious pest problem that can be very difficult to eliminate. These small, flat, parasitic insects feed on the blood of humans and other warm-blooded animals. An infestation of bed bugs can cause significant discomfort, health issues, and financial costs. As bed bugs have become more resistant to chemical pesticides over the years, alternative treatment methods like heat have become popular options.
Bed bug heaters, also known as bed bug heat treatments, use high temperatures to kill all stages of bed bugs – adults, nymphs, and eggs. By heating infested rooms or entire homes to temperatures of 120°F to 140°F and sustaining these temperatures for several hours, heaters can effectively kill bed bugs and eggs on contact. Heat treatments penetrate furniture, carpets, walls, and other household items to eliminate hiding and breeding spots.
How do bed bug heaters work?
There are a few different types of bed bug heating systems:
- Portable heaters – These are wheeled machines that are brought into infested rooms one at a time. They blow extremely hot air to raise ambient temperatures to lethal levels.
- Heated tents – Large vinyl tents are put up around infested furniture. Heaters blow hot air into the sealed tents.
- Whole-room heaters – These systems use ductwork and blowers to evenly distribute hot air throughout the entire room.
- Whole-house heaters – The most powerful systems use furnaces to heat treat an entire house at once.
With all methods, temperatures are precisely monitored with sensors throughout the treatment area to ensure there are no cold spots where bed bugs could survive. Fans continuously circulate the hot air to maintain steady lethal temperatures. Treatments usually last 6 to 8 hours or longer.
Are there any risks with bed bug heaters?
Heat treatments are considered very safe and effective when properly applied, but there are some risks to consider:
- Fire hazard – Excessively high temperatures can pose fire risks, which is why technicians carefully monitor temperatures.
- Damage to items – Certain items like wax, plastics, synthetics, etc. may melt or become damaged by temperatures over 140°F.
- Discomfort – The treatment process can be uncomfortable for people and pets remaining inside the home.
- Health risks – Overheating poses health risks for the elderly, children, pets and anyone unable to regulate their body temperature.
Reputable companies take many precautions to ensure safety. All flammable and temperature-sensitive items are removed. Technicians monitor temperatures and make adjustments to avoid damage. Residents are advised to stay out of the home during treatment if possible.
What temperature kills bed bugs?
Studies have found that exposing bed bugs to temperatures of at least 120°F for 90 minutes or longer can kill all stages of the pests. Temperatures between 115°F and 122°F can kill many bed bugs, but eggs may survive. Time and temperature work synergistically – the higher the temperature, the less time needed to kill bed bugs and eggs:
|Temperature||Time Needed for 100% Kill|
|140°F||Less than 30 minutes|
Simply exposing bed bugs to lethal temperatures is often not enough – the heat must be evenly distributed throughout the treatment area without any cold spots. Professional heaters have generators, fans, ducts, and thermostats to maintain hot temperatures in all areas.
How effective are bed bug heat treatments?
Both research studies and real world experience demonstrate that whole-house heat treatments effectively eradicate all life stages of bed bugs:
- High temperatures penetrate furniture, carpeting, walls, and belongings to kill bed bugs wherever they hide.
- Heat kills bed bugs instantly on contact, versus slow-acting pesticides.
- Heat also kills bed bug eggs, eliminating future infestations.
- In lab studies exposing bed bugs to at least 120°F for 90+ minutes resulted in 100% mortality.
- Field studies found structures treated with heat had significantly fewer bed bug reports a year later compared to other methods.
- Heat treatment success rates are often over 95% after one application when done properly.
Some key advantages of heat vs. pesticide treatments include:
|Heat Treatments||Pesticide Treatments|
|Kill bed bugs||Extremely effective||Bed bugs have developed resistance|
|Kill eggs||Yes||Often doesn’t kill eggs|
|Residual protection||None||Can provide weeks to months of residual activity|
|Spread of infestation||Stops spread immediately||Bugs can spread before dying|
What are the downsides of bed bug heaters?
While heat is highly effective when done properly, there are some potential disadvantages:
- Cost – Heating an entire home is equipment-intensive and labor-intensive, making it more expensive than conventional chemical treatments.
- Disruption – Residents often need to vacate the home for 6-12+ hours, along with proper preparation and cleanup.
- No residual effect – Heat kills bugs present at the time but does not prevent new bugs from entering the home.
- Missing cold spots – Any areas not properly heated can be missed, allowing bed bugs to survive.
- Thermal tolerance – There are some indications bed bugs may be developing higher heat tolerance.
While expensive as a standalone treatment, heat is very effective when combined with pesticide residual sprays in a comprehensive treatment plan.
Cost of heat treatments
The cost of heat treatment depends on the size of the infested structure and the extent of the infestation:
- Portable heater rental – $200 to $500 per heater per day
- Whole room treatment – $1,000 to $3,000 per room on average
- Whole house treatment – $3,000 to $8,000+ for a 2,000 sq. ft. home
Getting price quotes from at least 3 experienced heat treatment providers is advisable.
Tips for effective heat treatment
To get the best results from heat treatment:
- Hire an experienced professional heat treatment company, not general pest control.
- Get multiple treatment bids to compare experience, equipment, and pricing.
- Have a thorough inspection done to identify all infested rooms.
- Properly prepare the home by decluttering and removing items that could get damaged.
- Vacate the home during treatment if possible.
- Seal up any major air gaps and cracks that could disrupt heat circulation.
- Follow all preparation and post-treatment protocols provided.
- Combine heat with follow-up pesticide treatments for longer residual effects.
With proper application by an experienced company, heat treatment provides the most effective and lasting elimination of bed bugs possible.
What to look for in a bed bug heater company
It’s important to carefully select which heat treatment company to use. Reputable and experienced providers will exhibit the following qualities:
- Specialize specifically in heat treatments, not general pest control.
- Have trained, certified PMPs and technicians.
- Use state-of-the-art heating equipment and monitoring sensors.
- Provide detailed heating plans, prep instructions, and post treatment guidelines.
- Have established safety protocols for heat treatments.
- Are licensed, insured, and respected in the industry.
- Offer warranties and service guarantees.
- Have many online reviews and high customer satisfaction.
Avoid companies that seem to only dabble in heat treatment or make unrealistic claims. Get price estimates from at least 3 qualified providers before deciding.
Heat treatment is a proven, highly effective method for eradicating bed bug infestations in entire rooms or homes when applied properly. The extremely high temperatures kill all stages of bed bugs on contact. Professional heating equipment raises temperatures high enough, and keeps them there long enough, to kill bugs and eggs hidden throughout the treatment area.
While heat treatment requires proper preparation, has some risks, and is more expensive than chemical pesticides, it provides unmatched effectiveness against widespread infestations. When combined with follow-up residual sprays in a comprehensive treatment plan, bed bug heating systems provide the best chance for knocking out hard-to-control infestations and keeping them eliminated long-term.