Portable Electric Bed Bug Heater Treatment Tips
by Tom Costello, Technical Director
March 11, 2018
It is important for the GreenTech Heat technician to begin heating as soon as possible after arriving on site because portable electric bed bug heaters have a lower BTU output than direct-fired heaters. Start circulating room air through two or more heaters, utilizing a corner to direct the air from one to the other as the technicians begin moving furniture, bedding and mattresses. This “free heating” time can reduce the time needed compared to starting up the heaters after everything is in position.
As the treatment area increases in temperature, it is possible that bed bugs may migrate into cooler hallways. Position one of the heaters in a doorway to begin heating the entryway floor and create a heat barrier that will prevent insects from migrating out of a treatment zone. Fans can also direct heated air across any other areas where the technician is concerned bed bugs may harbor or migrate to. Alternately, a technician can create a barrier with desiccant dusts just prior to starting to heat can limit the insects’ movement out of the treatment areas.
Maximize air circulation
The distribution of electrically-heated energized air is primarily accomplished through circulation. Aggressive air movement is enhanced by means of electric heater placement and fans. All are essential in creating a vortex of energized. The techniques that will achieve a proper distribution of treatment (heated) air, which are associated with heated air coming directly from the electric heater, are:
- Position furniture and bedding to maximize airflow around the room and recirculation through the heaters. Open drawers in cabinets and closet doors. Use aluminum blocks to raise furniture that restricts airflow along the floor such as chests of drawers, armoires and solid-box bed frames.
- Direct energized air low to the floor by pointing electric heaters towards carpeting and coving. Aim heaters towards hard-to-heat infested areas such as headboards.
- Utilize fans to move energized air into stagnant sections of the room.
Limit heat loss
Air conditioners need to be covered to prevent heat loss. Cover the return air duct with reflective insulation or plastic sheeting—wrap the entire wall- or window-mounted unit. Secure the sheeting with duct tape or blue painter’s tape. Be sure to pound the tape with the heel of your palm or it will blow free in the airflow. Cover the bathroom exhaust fan in the same manner.
Address air stratification and air flow
If needed, direct a fan upward to the ceiling, thereby using the force of the energized air to circulate the air at the higher levels in the treatment area (i.e., ceiling) down along the walls to lower levels of the treatment area. Enhance airflow under and around furniture.
Create space between mattress and box spring with milk crates to thoroughly heat harborages in the bed. Drawers can be used but their solid construction restricts air flow.
If technicians must teepee the mattress and box spring, they must either be raised above the floor on aluminum blocks. If the bed frame is not solid and restricting air flow, they may be teepeed on top of the bed frame. Sometimes the heat can cause the mattress to collapse. This may cause permanent damage.
In bed bug treatments, fans can be used to:
1. Mix energized air in stagnant locations inside a given treatment.
2. Create a convection effect.
3. Increase the amount of energized air being drawn back into the heater (“piggy-backing”).
Treatments with electric heaters are closed systems. Unlike direct-fired treatments where heated air is introduced into a structure, electric heaters heat the air already in the treatment area. Any energized air that escapes is heat lost from the job.
Remember that heated air naturally rises. By focusing the energized air directly over the floor and coving, along walls and furniture, the energized air will heat the treatment area from the ground up.
GreenTech Heat technicians must inspect bed frames to determine the best treatment setup. The box spring may rest on a solid wood or particle board box. In addition to elevating the mattress, the box spring may need separation from the box. Partial disassembly of the frame may be required for adequate air flow.
Unlike direct-fired heaters, electric heaters work on the air contained in a room. Room-temperature air enters a portable heater and the energized air exits at a significantly higher temperature. As the heated air is again drawn through a heater it gains more energy/heat. This cycle repeats until the air temperature in the room reaches the temperature at which the thermostat is set.
Minimizing leakage is a large concern since the air gains additional heat each pass through a heater. Any escaping air takes energy and heat with it.
Just like those achieved by direct-fired heaters, heat treatments with portable electric bed bug heaters can achieve a 100% mortality every time.