Bed bug heat treatment temperatures and heat sensitivity
by Tom Costello
August 22, 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.
We often hear people say that heat is dangerous; that heat will destroy stuff. People say that heat provides no residual and is subject to failure if not done correctly. People say a whole-house heat treatment is expensive and a lot of preparation is required.
After personally doing thousands of heat treatments, I’d like to say that heat — just like pesticides — can be dangerous: failing to plan is to planing to fail. This blog discusses heat terminology and temperature ranges the GreenTech Heat technology uses to treat for and kill bed bugs and their eggs while avoiding collateral damage to objects and furniture in the treatment area. Heat provides no residues, but a proper application of heat kills all the insects and their eggs. Chemical residues are necessary because pesticides aren’t generally ovicidal. Kill all the insects and the eggs in one treatment and the only way to get bed bugs again is to reintroduce them from outside the treated environment.
Take a moment and calculate the complete cost of a chemical bed bug treatment, not just in dollars but in inconvenience. I guarantee you or your customers will experience multiple rounds of being bitten and fed upon before all the pesticides sprayed around the residence can kill all the unhatched insects. Now, add in the costs of the on-going treatment, the expenses of replacing furniture, and the frustration of watching those you care about be eaten alive for several more months. Why settle for less than the immediate return of a whole-structure or whole-room heat treatment?
Here is a bit of information specific to the hospitality and rental industries: a whole-room heat treatment kills the entire infestation — all insects and eggs — in a single, one-day treatment, with no need to replace furnishing or guest belongings, and only a single day of lost room revenue. You have an immediate action plan for bed bugs that might be the difference between a grumpy guest and a large settlement at the end of an expensive lawsuit. Can pesticides offer this at any price?
Let’s talk about heat
GreenTech Heat uses the following ranges when discussing heat, temperature, and heat sensitivity:
- Low heat is convected air temperatures of 140°F or less in the treatment area. You can still have a successful treatment using low heat, it will simply require a longer heating duration.
- Medium or Average heat uses convected air temperatures between 140°F and 160°F in the treatment area. Most GreenTech Heat bed bug treatments utilize medium heat.
- High heat is ambient air convected between 160°F and 180°F in the treatment area.
- Extreme heat utilizes convected air temperatures greater than 200°F in the treatment area. Hotel mattress sterilization is one of the few examples of a treatment that uses extreme heat. Exposure to extreme heat is violently brutal to anything in the treatment area—exposed skin and surfaces of items can be severely burned with very little exposure!
When treating multiple rooms or a whole house, different areas can be treated with different temperature ranges. For example, a room with fine furniture and fewer signs of infestation could be heated with low heat while a bedroom with a large, active infestation can be treated more aggressively with medium heat and high heat can be ducted directly into the infested mattress and box spring.
Various items found in many treatment areas have differing degrees of heat sensitivity:
- Highly sensitive items can be damaged at 120°F or less. Candles, lipsticks, crayons, chocolates, medications. Make sure these items are removed from any insect heat treatment prior to turning on the heaters.
- Moderately sensitive items can be damaged between 120°F and 140°F. Vinyl wallpaper, mini blinds, audio and video tapes and CDs/DVDs.
- Slightly sensitive items can be damaged between 140°F and 160°F. Computers, infrared remote controls, printers, fax machines, copiers.
- Insensitive items may be damaged above temperatures of 160°F. CRT televisions, refrigerators, microwaves.
- Extremely Insensitive items can withstand temperatures above 220°F. Mattresses and box springs, many area rugs, sheets, blankets, and most cotton clothing.
When treating for bed bugs with a Titan portable propane heater, it is safe to direct the air directly into an extremely insensitive item and then move the treatment air around the treatment area with fans. A mattress will take the extreme heat without any problems, and it will also disrupt the intense air flow and the highly convected energies contained therein.
Heat stress typically happens when an object is heated too quickly. Examples of heat stress damage includes melting, cracking, shrinking, breakage, drying, and chemical alterations. Electronic devices, including flat-screen TVs, computers, and stereo systems have different heat tolerances when operating and completely powered off, and are generally resistant to heat when powered off and unplugged from the wall. Make sure laptops are in the “shut down” mode, and not just sleeping. We’ve seen many computers infested with bed bugs — heat treat electronics to prevent a reinfestation.
It’s best to separate items with extremely different heat conductivity thresholds. For example, remove a metal candlestick off from a finished wooden table before treatment — the metal will heat faster than the table and could produce a blemish in the table’s finish.
When a treatment combines equal parts of training, preparation, and temperature measurement, the potential to damage the contents of the room is minimized and the potential for a 100% kill is maximized. Our customers have conducted hundreds of thousands of successful heat treatments.