Heat treatments have proven to be very effective at killing bed bugs quickly and thoroughly. Exposure to heat above 120 degrees Fahrenheit will kill bed bugs of all life stages within just an hour. This saves time spent checking each and every item, and saves money that may otherwise be spent replacing infested items that are thrown out.
However, bed bug heat treatments are difficult to set up and execute. They’re normally done with forced-air kerosene or propane heaters and insulation throughout the room. This allows for rapid heat-up, but if done incorrectly could have disastrous results. Multiple homes have caught fire in recent years due to improper heat treatment attempts. It’s important that you use the right equipment and follow the right process.
Fortunately, the new Tri-Flo bed bug heat treatment kits are here to help. These are ETL-certified, UL-recognized heater designs that can safely heat up a room with minimal setup and no additional electric equipment than what is already available on site. But can these simplified packages really get the job done? Let’s find out.
Benefits of an Electric Heat Treatment
Regardless of the type of equipment used, a heat treatment can be an effective option for professionals working with many small units. Hotel owners, property managers, and pest control professionals all benefit from rotating through units with heat treatment kits. Hotels can treat rooms faster and get them back in service sooner so they can start collecting revenue again. Less follow-up effort is required per room, and the overall cost can be lower once the same equipment has been used in several treatments.
Heat treatments with electric heaters are significantly safer than other heat treatment methods, such as kerosene or propane. The latter may use more powerful heaters, but at a real risk to excessive carbon monoxide exposure, in addition to the previously discussed risk of accidental fires. The right electric-only gear, such as the Tri-Flo kit, would be ETL-certified to ensure safe operation.
Choosing a Tri-Flo Package
Before you purchase a Tri-Flo treatment kit, you’ll need to determine which package is right for your needs. There are two Starter packages available for rooms approximately 325 square feet or smaller. The 110 Starter includes three 1,800-watt heaters that use regular 110-volt plugs. These heaters are simple to hook up – just find three 110/120-volt outlets that are each on their own breaker to plug each heater into.
The 220 Starter has one, much more powerful 5,000-watt heater. With the 220 kit, you only have one heater that needs a plug, but it needs a 220/240-volt plug. This is a different outlet than a typical North American electrical socket, and is commonly used for large room heaters. If you don’t have access to that type of socket, the 110 Starter would be a suitable alternative; the three 110-watt heaters can match the 220-watt heater in heating power without the need for the 220-volt plug.
The Tri-Flo 500 Combo combines a 5,000-watt heater with two of the 1,800-watt heaters. This is a much more potent solution intended for larger spaces, and is ideal for rooms up to 500 square feet in size. However, the combo will require access to both 110-volt and 220-volt power sources, with each socket on independent circuits.
Unboxing and First Impressions
Like other professional-oriented gear we’ve reviewed, the Tri-Flo treatment kits ship out in discrete, flair-free packaging. No bright colors or gaudy marketing material here – Tri-Flo ships only what you need and nothing else. The kit will come in multiple boxes, some for the large heater units and others for the circulation fans included to improve heating efficiency.
While the unpacked arrangement may seem complicated to heat treatment newcomers, Tri-Flo’s packages are much simpler from the start than the heating gear that pest pros are used to. Electric heat setups usually require at least a 3-phase, 20kW diesel generator. Those weigh almost 800 pounds and need to be towed to the job site. In addition to the fuel, hookups, and the (traditionally larger and more complex) heaters and fans themselves, complete setups used to start at over $40,000. Compared to that headache, the 3- to 6-piece Tri-Flo rigs are a huge relief when it comes to cost and setup.
The heaters themselves appear very well made, especially considering their low price. The stamped metal design provides a durable design that should last through many treatments over the years with minimal upkeep. The lack of a gas-powered motor helps cut down on noise, maintenance, and weight, leaving only a simple and compact heater design.
The included Stanley circulation fans are simple and ergonomic in design, and provide side-mounted 110V outlets so that they can be daisy-chained to each other. This cuts down on the total number of 110V outlets your kit needs: rather than needing three separate sockets for your fans, you could cut it down to just one if you can position the fans accordingly. Note: do not attempt to plug 110V heaters into the fans’ side-mounted outlets. Due to their power requirements, the heaters need their own wall outlets on their own circuits.
Using the Tri-Flo Kit
Before hooking up the heaters and beginning your treatment, there are a couple of steps you’ll need to do to prepare the room. Begin by inspecting the room, if you haven’t already, to gauge the severity of the infestation. Remove the sheets on the side of each bed in the room and inspect along the seams of the mattress for black dots (fecal matter), brownish transparent bed bug shells or actual bed bugs. Inspect the box springs as well, including the corner guards, which are a popular hiding spot for bed bugs. Check the sheets for small blood stains, which could be indicative of bed bugs.
Reduce clutter in the room to reduce hiding places and speed up the heating process. Things like clothes, books, drawer contents, and small electronics should be sealed in garbage bags and stored away from the room. Remove any couch seat cushions and lean the mattress and box spring upright against the wall. Open any dresser drawers and closet doors to ensure adequate heatup inside and out.
Once you’re ready to start your treatment, pre-heat the room by setting the thermostat to the highest setting available, ideally 90 degrees or more. Place the heater units around the bed and other key treatment areas so that they heat up first. Turn the heaters on the high setting and monitor location temperatures until the room reaches a temperature of at least 106 degrees. The included laser thermometer can help with this, but wireless temperature monitors would be more convenient. If multiple probes are available, place one close to the heaters and another very far away from the heaters so that you can compare the room’s minimum and maximum temperatures.
Once the room temperature has reached a minimum of 106 degrees, place the included fans in the room to provide heat circulation. Point the fans at the most heavily infested areas and turn them on the high setting. This will accelerate the convection effect, allowing the overall temperature to rise over the lethal 121 degrees we’re shooting for.
Monitor location temperatures until the room has maintained a temperature of at least 130 degrees for 2 to 4 hours, depending on the level of infestation. This temperature will be uncomfortable to stay present in, so check in every 30 minutes or so with the included laser thermometer.
After the heat treatment is finished, you’ll want to follow up with a residual spray application. Look for sprays labeled for the surfaces in the room, such as CrossFire or Temprid. Then apply bed bug proof mattress and box spring covers and ClimbUp Insect Interceptors if the bed didn’t have those already.
Bed bug heat treatments have been as effective for many users as they are risk- and cost-prohibitive for others. With the prospect of hauling around hundreds of pounds of gear and dealing with diesel or kerosene, in addition to the added noise and chemical exposure, most professionals have resigned to using slower alternative treatment methods that require multiple follow-ups.
The Tri-Flo heat treatment kits are here to change that. These are simple, effective, and safe alternatives to the gas motor-powered heaters in the field today. One plug per heater, and you’re in business; no generators, no fuel, and no extra power equipment. For the first time, hotel managers, property managers, and pest control operators have access to a truly safe and cost-effective heat treatment package.