The Achilles heel of bed bugs is heat. Once you expose bed bugs to 120oF or hotter both the bugs and eggs die very rapidly (less than a minute). This is why the best way to treat clothes that may be infested with bed bugs is to place them in a dryer on high for a full cycle (even a low cycle is usually enough with most dryers). There have been many companies that have taken this concept and created heating equipment that can generate enough heat to bring entire houses up to 120 degree or hotter. This is an excellent method to treat for bed bugs as it is one of the few treatments that can eliminate manageable infestations in one treatment and also reduces the amount of pesticides introduced to a home. The issue is that many homeowners that are looking for ways to treat their bed bug infestation read about heat and think they can open their windows on a hot day and treat their home for bed bugs. It unfortunately is never that easy.
There is actually a lot of protocol and technique to heat treating a house. In addition to needing equipment that will bring the entire house up to 120 degrees all at once, you want to heat the house up slowly and circulate the heat in a very methodical fashion. Bringing the temperature up slowly and proper circulation reduces the amount of cool spots for the bugs to hide in. In addition to this, furniture and clutter needs to be moved, turned and tossed during treatment to further address any cold spots that may exist. That is why a dryer is ideal for heat treating clothes because it is constantly tossing the clothes around which assures equal distribution of the heat. Obviously there isn’t a “tumble cycle” for your home and the only way to properly distribute the heat is to turn items by hand. The issue is that you should be turning those items during heat treatment which exposes the technician to high temperatures which can have adverse health effects if not done properly and carefully. This is why we recommend that heat treatment be performed by trained professionals.
I also receive questions from the occasional homeowner about renting heaters and heat treating their houses themselves. Not only is this a risk from a heat exposure perspective, many heaters need trained professionals to use them properly and reduce exposure to any exhaust that the heaters may create. Many rental heaters use propane as a fuel source which can also pose potential health risks. More reasons why heat treatment should be left to professionals.
When it comes to professionals performing heat treatments, just like any other service in any other service industry, there are good companies and not so good companies. One question you can ask a service provider you are evaluating to treat your home is what is the critical temperature for bed bugs, how do you evaluate when a room is at that temperature and how long do you hold it for? As mentioned before something around 120 degrees is the temperature you want to them to answer with. In addition they should be using temperature monitors during a job and recording temperatures at different location throughout the job. They should be holding critical temperature during a bed bug treatment for a minimum of two hours and ideally for 3-4 hours. You can ask the service provider you choose for heating records at the conclusion of the job. This way you can see if they held the right temperature for the right time in different spots in the home.
- Heat is a great way to treat for bed bugs but there is a lot of protocol and technique to doing it right
- There are several different aspect to heat treatment that can pose significant health risks if not done properly – this makes heat treatment NOT a suitable DIY method
- Always ask a service provider treating your home how they are going to do it and for temperature records upon completion of the service – you want to see them hold 120 degrees or hotter for 2-4 hours