Better bed bug heat treatments through probing
by Tom Costello, Technical Director
July 9, 2018
This blog continues our series of technical highlights that are covered in greater depth and detail in our Master Heat Technician Certification training program. We believe training is the differentiating factor between success and failure. That is why we include the Master Heat Technician Certification training program as standard equipment in all bed bug heat treatment packages $1,999 and up, and every package we sell includes our flash video training.
Bed bug heat jobs require convected air temperatures between 140°F and 180°F to heat the contents of a room to lethal temperatures. Treatments typically direct the energized air along the floors and coving and around room contents. Expected harborages include
• inside corners of exterior walls
• inside drawers
• box springs and mattresses
• between baseboards and carpeting, especially in corners
• padded/stuffed pieces of furniture
• probe close to the floor on outside walls
• in the closet and under clothes
• under the vanity
• under carpet and carpet padding
• if there are fire sprinklers, a probe should be placed in the magnetic fire sprinkler cover
• within the wall void of inner and outer walls
• under cushions of couches and/or chairs
• in a crawlspace, sub-area or attic
The GreenTech Heat technician should probe the expected harborages and the hardest-to-heat areas of the treatment area.
Checking for Temperature Probe Accuracy
The wires should be run from the probe locations to the recording device(s) in a way that does not overlap and tangle them. Overlapping wires can tangle and be very difficult to sort out when they are removed at the end of a bed bug heat treatment. It is important to watch for things that might damage the wires. Sharp edges and doors that close and can pinch them can cause breakage of the wires and faulty temperature measurements. A little care and consideration of how the wires are laid out will do a lot to increase the service life and keep them reliable for use.
Where possible, take temperature readings before start-up of the heater and get a good fix on ambient temperatures of the interior walls before the start of the treatment. It helps to determine how rapidly the temperatures are rising during the treatment. Predicting problem areas and completion times at start up can be very helpful in determining erroneous wire readings if temperatures are getting too high too fast. It also helps to determine how difficult the area is going to be to heat. If the initial ambient temperatures are very low, it is going to take a longer time to achieve lethal temperatures. Consider using more heat at the beginning. It is a good idea to have a fix on interior wall temperatures early in the operation. If the temperature is high to begin with, the technician can be a little more gentle with sensitive items and not use quite as much heat.
One very important aspect of your treatment is confirming the accuracy of the readings. There are a couple of ways to confirm that indeed a kill has been achieved before turning off the heaters, packing up, and leaving the job site.
One method is to go inside the treatment area (other than attics or sub-areas), and pull the wire out, hold it in your hand for a few minutes to cool the wire down, reinsert it and take another reading. Another way is to take a short 12” wire in on your thermometer, pull the probe wire out, insert this wire, and then wait and take readings. Make sure that you hold this wire in your hand when you enter the treatment area to keep it from picking up any heat from the surrounding air and insert it into the probe location as fast as possible. This will give an accurate reading at that probe location.
Once temperatures are achieved throughout the job site and you are comfortable that even the most difficult to heat—the coldest locations—have come up to lethal temperature, the heaters can be shut down. When treating with a Titan 800 or Titan 450, close the propane tank valve first. Let the propane purge through the hose and heater and burn itself out. It is a good idea to leave the fans running on the heater for a few minutes to cool the heater off so it is not too hot to handle.
When treating an occupied structure with an open system protocol with Titan portable bed bug heaters, it is a good idea to leave the heater fans running as you start breaking down the job site. You can use this cool air running through the duct to cool down the job site. Because of the convected energies created by the GreenTech Heat heaters, we do not recommend residents re-enter the property until temperatures have cooled to 85°F.
As you start to break down a job site, the last thing on your list should be turning off the fans. Remove the temperature probes, heaters, and any any other equipment. The additional time the fans create convected air is additional free treatment time.
Following treatments of unoccupied structures or when heat-treating for structural pests like termites or powder post beetles: leave the structure as thermally-closed as possible following the treatment. This will prolong the treatment times without any additional effort on your part, providing one more assurance of a 100% kill.
It is effective to allow the heat in the attic or sub-areas to remain after shut down once you are sure that lethal temperatures have been achieved.