Bed Bug heat treatment: Cost, Success Rate, DIY, Preparation & More

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Here is a crazy fact;

97% of pest control professionals in America admit that they have treated bed bug cases in the past year. That is, almost every pest expert in the US. This goes to show that there is a bed bug epidemic sweeping across the US.

Numbers from the National Pest Management Association shows that bed bugs are the number one pests in America. The worst part is, they are incredibly hard to treat.

In fact, 68% of pest professionals agree that these bugs are the hardest to control. Why? Two reasons:

  1. They are very good at hiding
  2. They have become resistant to pesticides

That is the bad news. The good news is that there is a super-effective treatment method that can help eliminate bed bugs in record time. It is called bed bug heat treatment.

Bed Bug Heat Treatment: Overview

About a decade ago, pesticides were the most effective treatment for bed bugs. Not anymore. Not only are these chemicals harmful to the environment and humans, but they are also less effective since bed bugs have developed resistance for them.

That is why bed bug heat treatment was developed to provide a more efficient and effective way to treat these pests. Unlike chemicals, heat treatment has a higher success rate and is environmentally-friendly. But how exactly does it work?

How bed bug heat treatment works 

The reason why bed bugs are so hard to kill is that they know all the places that pesticides can’t reach. But they have one weakness; they are vulnerable to heat. This means that if the room temperature is raised high enough, they will be destroyed.

Here is how this works

Just like humans, the body of a bed bug is made of proteins which include enzymes. When the temperature is raised to say 50°C for more than 90 minutes, the DNA begins to break down, thereby crippling the cell function. When the cells stop functioning, the bed bug dies.

The cross-section of temperature (50°C) and time (90 minutes) is known as the thermal death point. For maximum effectiveness, we recommend that you raise the temperature to at least 50°C for more than 2 hours.

Bed Bug Heat Treatment Cost

The first question that comes to people’s minds when they first approach the idea of bed bug heat treatment is how much it costs.

The truth is, it’s pretty expensive compared to other methods.

You see, heat treatment is very complicated and needs sophisticated equipment. For this reason, the process is mostly carried out by professionals and not homeowners.

Later in this guide, you will learn how to do bed bug heat treatment on your own, but we highly recommend that you get professional help, especially if the infestation is widespread.

So, how much does bed bug heat treatment cost?

There is not a standard figure. To get a rough idea of how much you might have to spend, there are a few factors to consider.

These include:

1. Home size

Most pest control experts will charge you based on how big your home is. This boils down to the number of rooms you have or the size of the infestation in a square foot. In this case, the more rooms that are infested by bed bugs, the more you will have to pay. The total cost for your entire home will likely fall somewhere between $250 and $5000.

You can cut the cost by clearing the room yourself before treatment. This includes moving furniture and any other thing that might be susceptible to extreme heat. There is a special section later in this guide on how to prepare for bed bug heat treatment. So make sure to read up to the end.

Different heat treatment service companies charge differently, so it’s best to get accurate figures from the service you plan to work with. For example, some charge a flat rate of say $100 per room while others will charge about $200 for the first room and $75 for the rest of the rooms.

2. Type of Equipment Used 

Equipment used for bed bug heat treatment is expensive and the people who buy them are usually trying to make a profit. So, the cost of treatment may be informed by how expensive and effective the equipment is.

3. Inspection 

Sometimes, you know that you have a bed bug infestation, but you don’t know exactly where they are. In this case, you will require professional inspection and detection.

Some professionals will charge you for inspection and others may not. If they do charge, you should expect to pay about $50–$200 for the inspection. This will be deducted from the extermination fee.

Some services use dogs to detect the presence of bed bugs. Whether or not they find the infestation, you might have to pay between $400 and $600 for the inspection.

4. Use of Heat chambers

Some pest control services will use a combination of chemicals and heat to treat bed bugs. In this case, a heat chamber is used to kill bed bugs on items that cannot be sprayed with chemicals. These include clothes, beddings, and shoes.

This option is much cheaper since the heat treatment is not used for your entire home. The chamber is heated up to about 45°C with the items to be treated inside.

The heating chamber may cost you $50 – $100 a day.

Steam can be used to treat mattresses and carpets to kill any bed bugs that might have escaped chemical sprays.

Bed Bug Heat Treatment Success Rate

One thing is for sure; heat treatment is effective and have a high success rate. In fact, if done correctly, you can expect to eliminate 100% of the bed bugs in your home.

However, this depends on the expertise of your exterminator and how well they know their job. If you are doing the treatment yourself for the first time, you might not see a 100% success rate.

The secret is to ensure that the heat is evenly distributed so that it reaches the most difficult bed bug hiding places. These include crevices, under carpets, under your mattress and the furniture.

This process does not do well with impatience. The exterminator has to allow ample time for all the bed bugs and their eggs to be killed.

To ensure a 100% success rate, you or your exterminator should observe the following during treatment:

  • Ensure that the rooms to be treated are well sealed to prevent bed bugs from escaping before the heat takes effect.
  • Give the treatment enough time, at least two hours. This is to ensure that the heat reaches all the cold hiding places in the room and fish the bed bugs out
  • Make sure that all items removed from the room do not have bed bugs or their eggs. If they do, put them in a heat chamber so that they are killed.
  • Ensure that the temperature is high enough. Anything less than 45°C may not be effective. We recommend using 50°C and above.

When you adhere to the above, you stand a chance of achieving a 100% success rate with bed bug heat treatment.

Bed Bug Heat Treatment DIY

Although we recommend that you seek professional help, sometimes you might find it necessary to do the treatment on your own. This is possible, but still, you will need the right equipment. So, your options come to either buying or renting one.

Either way, make sure to observe the following before and during treatment:

  • Get your room ready. Follow the room preparation guidelines we discussed above. For example, move all furniture away from the wall and do away with any stuff you don’t need.
  • Make sure the room you will be treating is sealed. Look for cracks on walls, baseboards and under the door. These are good escape routes for bed bugs.
  • If you have temperature monitors, place them around the room to keep track of the temperature. Otherwise, you can also monitor it manually.
  • Fans are great for circulating the heat around the house so make sure to turn them on. If you have ceiling fans, turn them on or buy a small one. Fans help to speed up the process and makes the treatment more effective.
  • Leave the heater on for at least two hours.

Below are some variables that will determine how long the treatment should take:

Room size

The larger the room, the longer it will take for heat to reach all spots infested with bed bugs. So add extra time for bigger rooms.

Degree of infestation

It’s important to gauge the degree of infestation before you begin the treatment. This will help you to prepare more thoroughly and know how much time the treatment will require. If the infestation is widespread, you will need more time and a higher temperature than when it is localized.

Building materials

Some materials tend to heat up faster than others. For example, steel and drywall will absorb heat faster than cement. This is because cement is naturally an insulator and will take time before it starts heating up.

Weather

The heating process is much faster in hot areas than in high humidity or cold areas. When the room is warm before heating, the treatment will be faster than when it’s cold.

The number of furniture

If you have a lot of furniture in the room, it will take more time for it to heat up compared to when there is little or no furniture. The furniture increases the surface area to be heated and, therefore, slows down the process.

Clutter

If you have piles of clothing or blankets, spread them out or remove them for separate treatment in a heat chamber. The bed bugs under this clutter may not be exposed to the maximum amount of heat as the rest of the room. For example, the room temperature may be 130˚F but 80˚F under the pile of clothes. We recommend that you thoroughly declutter the room before treatment.

To heat the entire room as discussed above, you will need to lend professional bed bug heaters. However, there are cheaper DIY heat treatment options. These include:

1. Using a Hot Box

A hot box is more effective at killing bed bugs in small items since the temperatures are higher with a small surface area. Some of the items that you can treat in a hot box include clothes, blankets, shoes, sheets, bags and so on. However, you must be cautious when using a hot box. When heated incorrectly, they may be less effective or even cause fires.

2. Steam

This is another effective way of killing bed bugs on your own. It requires less hassle, but is not as effective as heat. Steam may not penetrate cracks and other hiding places so it should only be used in open areas such as bed frames, box springs, curtains, pillows, blankets, and sheets.

Steam causes less damage compared to heat so use it on items that are vulnerable to heat. You will find a comprehensive list of items that can be damaged by heat towards the end of this guide.

3. Dryers

This is another efficient and less hectic way to kill bed bugs. If you have any items that have bed bugs on them, put them in the dryer for at least 20 minutes. Keep in mind that some items can be damaged by the dryer, so ensure to only treat those that are not vulnerable.

These are all great options that can help you save some cash, but they may not be as effective as you want. There are people who are specially trained to do this kind of work. So, unless you must do it yourself, you should seriously consider hiring a professional.

Here is why these DIY methods do not guarantee a 100% success rate;

Unlike professional heat treatment, they do not provide consistent high temperatures. Take steam, for instance, it is only hot for a short time. It may not be hot long enough to kill the bed bugs.

Yes, professional heat treatment is expensive, but for a reason; it is highly effective.

Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs Effectiveness

Bed bug heat treatment is effective. There is no doubt about that.

However, the process has to be done correctly and certain factors put into consideration to achieve maximum effectiveness.

The most important is to ensure that the temperatures are high and the treatment takes long enough to reach the bed bug’s thermal death point.

If you are working with a professional pest control expert, you can expect better results. Most of them capitalize on a multi-pronged approach to achieve a higher success rate. This is where more than one method of treatment is used to boost efficacy.

In this case, heat treatment is used in combination with other options such as steam or chemical sprays. This helps to treat places or items that are vulnerable to heat and reduce the possibility of some bed bugs going untreated.

Generally, heat treatment has proved to be way more effective than pesticides. It is also a more efficient and eco-friendly option since no chemicals are released to the environment and you won’t have to throw anything away for fear of possible poisoning.

Heat Treatment for Bed Bugs Preparation

So, how do you prepare your house for bed bug heat treatment? This one is a very common question, especially for people who are going through this process for the first time.

Well, it can be hectic. But it is necessary to ensure that nothing is damaged during the treatment. Remember that your house is exposed to very high temperatures. If there is any item that is vulnerable to heat during the treatment, it could be rendered useless.

But you can avoid that by preparing adequately. Here is how:

  • Before the heat treatment, avoid using alternative methods of pest control such as pesticide bombs, foggers or sprays. This will scare away the bed bugs to places where the heat might not reach.
  • It’s recommended to leave everything as it is in the infested area. But if there are items that might be damaged by the heat, put them in sealed bags so that they will be treated separately in heat chambers or hot boxes
  • All electronics must be unplugged except for vital appliances
  • Move furniture at least 5 inches away from the wall
  • If you have litter boxes or thrash in the treatment area, remove them before the process begins
  • Clean floors and carpets to ensure that they are dust and hair-free. Dust and hair might damage bed bug heaters
  • If you have piles of clothing, spread them out or hang them before the process
  • Items that cannot endure high temperatures should be removed and taken outside. These include vinyl or faux wood blinds, pets, house plants, perishable food, prescription drugs, vitamins, cosmetics, candles, pressurized items, flammables, wooden and stringed instruments. Note that these items should be first inspected for any bed bugs before putting them away.

Things to do after treatment 

After the bed bug treatment, things might be a bit messy and disorderly. Here is what you should do to ensure that you go back to the status quo:

  • Put everything back in order. This includes furniture, clothes, shoes, and beddings that were moved before the treatment
  • The temperature will be higher than normal, so make sure to open windows and air conditioning to speed up the cooling process
  • There will be some dead bed bugs after the treatment. Vacuum the entire house to remove them
  • Wash beddings such as blankets, sheets, and pillows before putting them back
  • We strongly recommend that you buy new mattresses and box springs to avoid reintroducing bed bugs into the house. Even a single egg left untreated can give rise to a new infestation
  • Do a weekly inspection to ensure that you are completely free of the bed bugs. If you find any, report to the company that did the inspection immediately
  • After the heat treatment, bed bugs may come back to your house again from other areas such as school or workplace. Be vigilant and do a regular inspection so you don’t start another infestation. Avoid areas that have bed bugs if you can, or talk to the relevant personnel to have them treated

Bed Bug Heat Treatment Damage

Bed bug heat treatment is effective, but can cause damage to some things in the house. That is why we recommend that you remove anything susceptible to extreme heat before treatment. In fact, this kind of pest control should only be used in empty rooms or commercial spaces.

Some of the items that could be damaged by high temperatures include:

  • Candles
  • Rubber shoes
  • Clothes
  • Carpets
  • Wax rings, especially those at the bases of toilets
  • Cedar furniture
  • Photo albums
  • Plastic items such as bottles and buckets
  • Food materials
  • Fresh milk

Remove as much stuff from the house as you can and make sure to inspect them separately. Only heavy furniture and appliances can be exempted.

Bed Bug Heat Treatment Equipment Rental

Bed bug heat treatment is expensive, but there is a way around it. You can rent the equipment and do the job on your own. Although the machinery is a bit more complicated than your typical spray, you can easily learn how to use it.

The best part is, you can rent the equipment for a minimum of one week. So, you will have enough time to prepare your house for treatment without feeling pressured.

Where to Find Bed Bug Heaters for Rent

The equipment is rare and there is a chance you might not find one near you. Being as expensive as it is, not many people buy it except those who intend to use it commercially. The best way to find one is to search online.

Fortunately, Google My Business can help you locate a rental service that is nearest to you.

Just search for “Bed bug heaters for rent near me” and you will get a list of services renting out this equipment.

You can also ask on social media and relevant online forums.

How Much Does Renting a Bed Bug Heater Cost?

The rental charges vary based on the service you rent from. Some will charge per day while others will charge per week. For example, you may be charged around $99 per day or $399 per week. You will also have to pay for the shipping and handling fee.

There is, for instance, a service that charges $250 for the first week and $50 per day after that. Given this, you can save some money by cutting down the number of days that you use the equipment.

Bed Bug Treatment Chemical or Heat

Merely 10 years ago, chemical pesticides were the ideal treatment for bed bugs. Now, homeowners and pest control experts frown down upon them. They are still fairly reliable but if you are looking to eliminate a bed bug infestation, pesticides shouldn’t be your sole option.

Pesticides are becoming less and less effective because of two major reasons:

  • They cannot reach certain bed bug hiding spaces such as deep crevices and attics
  • Bed bugs are becoming resistant to them

However, they are not completely useless. In fact, if your finances are hanging by a thread, this could be your only option. They may not wipe out an entire infestation, but will keep it from growing further.

To better understand your options, let’s break down the pros and cons of both chemical and heat bed bug treatments.

Chemical Treatment

This is a good option if you are looking for a quick and affordable bed bug treatment. There are over 300 pesticides that have been approved by the EPA for use on bed bugs so you won’t miss out on your pick. However, you should be wary of insecticides that are not EPA-approved. These may cause more harm than good.

Advantages of Chemical Treatments

  • More affordable – You only need about $10 to buy a gallon of insecticides while a professional heat treatment could cost you up to $1000
  • Readily available – Pesticides can easily be found in local stores, but professional heaters are hard to come by
  • Easy to use – You don’t need trained personnel to apply pesticides

Disadvantages of Chemical Treatment 

  • Not eco-friendly – Even the pesticides that are approved by the EPA are still a threat to the environment
  • Pose a health risk to people in your house – These include children, the elderly and pets
  • Some types of chemicals can damage furniture and other items in the house
  • You may have to dispose of some items after spraying
  • It only works on bed bugs that are within a close range. Those hiding in cracks can escape easily
  • Pesticides cannot be applied to items such as mattresses, blankets, bed sheets, and clothes
  • Requires a lot of follow up treatments to reduce an infestation

Heat Treatment

With this pest control method, specialized equipment is used to kill bed bugs by raising the temperature of the room to lethal levels, say 50°C for about 2 hours. A thermometer is used to monitor the temperature to ensure that it is high enough to destroy bed bugs.

Heat treatment is highly effective and kills bed bugs in any stage of the life cycle. That is eggs, nymphs and adults.

Advantages of Heat Treatment 

  • It has a 100% success – Kills all bed bugs with their eggs and nymphs
  • It is eco-friendly – No chemicals are released into the air during treatment
  • Unlikely to damage property
  • You don’t have to remove everything from the house like you would do with pesticide sprays. Only items that are vulnerable to heat are removed

Disadvantages of Heat Treatment

  • Very expensive – Most homeowners shy away from this treatment method because of the high charges it attracts.
  • Requires a professional – The equipment used for bed bug heat treatment is sophisticated and needs proper training to operate

Common Questions 

1. Does Vacuuming kill bed bugs? 

Yes, vacuuming can help reduce bed bug infestation, but it is not 100% effective. This method is recommended where there are clusters of bed bugs such as on the carpet.

Here are some ideas to help you control bed bugs more effectively with a vacuum:

  • Make the suction powerful enough
  • Concentrate the vacuum on areas with a huge infestation
  • Be gentle on the fabric. Don’t press too hard lest you blow the bed bugs away instead of capturing them
  • Make sure to remove the bed bugs and kill them when you are done vacuuming
  • Supplement vacuuming with other methods such as heating to increase the success rate

2. Does homeowners’ insurance cover bed bugs? 

No. According to the Insurance Information Institute, bed bug extermination is considered a home maintenance exercise and, therefore, not covered in a renters’ or homeowners’ insurance. This means that the cost resulting from the extermination is solely on you.

3. What causes bed bugs? 

There is a common misconception that bed bugs are caused by filth or unhygienic conditions. However, bed bugs are not drawn to dirty places. In fact, they can be found in the cleanest areas. They live anywhere that their food source (humans) lives.

So, where do they come from?

Bed bugs are usually transferred from one place to the other by humans and luggage. You can get them from the workplace and transfer to your house or the kids may bring them from school. They may also be transferred by furniture or beddings moved from one house to another.

4. What draws bed bugs from their hiding places?

Bed bugs are good at hiding, but you can force them out of their hiding places if you know where they are. The most common method is to wait until it’s dark since they will naturally come out to feed.

Other options are:

  • Setting a CO2 trap. Bed bugs are attracted to CO2 and heat normally produced by human bodies. The CO2 trap has a glue cartridge that trap bed bugs after which you can kill them.
  • Using a heat source that has glue. This works the same way as the CO2 trap. Both of these methods work best at night when bed bugs come out to feed.

5. Do washing clothes kill bed bugs?

It is unlikely that you will find bed bugs on the  clothes you are wearing, but if they live inside your suitcase or closet, they may end up on your clothes too.

Washing clothes will help reduce bed bugs, but does not guarantee full elimination. If you intend to kill more on your clothes, we recommend that you use hot water for laundry. This will not kill all the bed bugs, but you should be able to do away with a few.

A more effective way is to put the clothes on a high-temperature dryer for about 30 minutes.

Conclusion 

Bed bug heat treatment is one of the most effective ways to eliminate bed bugs from your home. The method is eco-friendly and guarantees a high success rate when done the right way. However, this method is expensive and it is fine to look for alternatives if you cannot afford it now. There are some DIY bed bug treatment options out there that can help you keep the infestation in check even though they don’t guarantee total elimination.

But if you have the means, we highly recommend that you get professional heat treatment. This will help you deal with your bed bug problem once and for all.

Sources

https://citypests.com/bed-bug-facts-statistics/

https://www.bed bugsinsider.com/heat-treatment-for-bed-bugs/

https://www.networx.com/article/does-bed-bug-heat-treatment-work

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2010/09/q-is-a-bed bug-infestation-covered-by-my-homeowners-insurance/index.htm

https://www.bed bugs.umn.edu/bed-bug-control-in-residences/laundering

https://www.cdc.gov/parasites/bed bugs/faqs.html

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/bed bugs/symptoms-causes/syc-20370001