Considering a Propane Bed Bug Heater? READ THIS FIRST
If you are trying to decide between propane or electric bed bug heaters there are some important things to consider before making a decision.
PestPro Thermal once considered offering both but after deliberate discussions with our insurance and legal teams we decided to only offer electric bed bug heaters.
Propane is dangerous to deal with. Obtaining the fuel, transporting the fuel, storing the fuel and making sure there are no leaks is critical. Everyone is familiar with how to plug into an electrical outlet and turn on a switch.
Propane is messy and requires the assembly of duct work from the flaming heater to the treatment area. This takes a long time and typically adds 45-60 minutes on either end of the treatment for set-up and tear-down once the treatment is complete.
Propane duct work is very intrusive, not discreet, blocks resident passageways and is a potential tripping and burning hazard if someone were to touch it (like an unsuspecting, curious child).
Burning propane gas introduces high humidity into the treatment area which very often results in wall paper damage and anything else that is glued together like most budget furniture and picture frames.
Most propane systems do not have automatic thermostats so monitoring the temperature of the treatment area is dependent on the folks running the equipment. Without constant human monitoring temperatures can exceed 185F. Electric heaters with auto-thermostats typically max out at 135-140F. There are many documented instances where too high heat has scorched wood, melted vinyl window blinds, blistered other items located in the treatment area and melted electronics like TVs.
Insurance claims associated with melting electronics, furniture, window blinds, picture frames and flooring can quickly outweigh the “low cost” of purchasing a propane system.
Some propane systems are even more dangerous and do not produce the heat in a trailer and blow it into the treatment area via duct-work but actually burn the propane in the treatment area or right outside the entryway. This is forbidden by law in most localities for obvious reasons. Please check with your local fire authority if this is the type of system you are considering.
Watch this video of how electric heat kills bed bugs from someone who should know at the University of Colorado.
We recently brought on a new regional PCO customer in Texas. They told us that their liability insurance was cancelled due to their using propane direct fired heat treatment equipment. Although they had never experienced any claims themselves their insurance company had had extensive claims due to damages caused by too high temperatures that destroyed personal belongings, flooring and electronics. This customer attempted unsuccessfully to acquire new liability insurance with a new carrier but to no avail. Their experience begs the question as to whether propane will be a real option for heat remediation service companies in the future. When considering investing in propane bed bug heating equipment it will be important to ask your insurance broker or agent if they are considering pulling coverage options for providing propane heat treatment services in the future.
This is taken from a paper presented at the Federation of Defense and Corporate Counsel which is an invitation-only organization of lawyers who focus their practice on the defense of civil claims and representation of insurers and corporations.
"In Cincinnati, Ohio, homeowners hired an exterminator to kill bedbugs which had taken over the home. Six propane powered convection heaters, which were designed to heat the home to 135 degrees to kill the bedbugs, caught the living room carpet on fire. The home where the fire began was a complete loss."
Read the entire paper here paying particular attention to p. 36 Section B.
The Travelers Insurance company’s own Risk Control Department recommends the following steps be taken for safe operation of indirect fired construction heaters:
- All heaters, hoses and fuel tanks should be inspected and maintained regularly by a qualified and licensed service company through a written agreement
- This represents another layer of complexity and cost to your project. Did you budget for this?
- Fuel tanks should be secured and protected by bollards and/or Jersey barricades
- Did you budget and arrange for this equipment to be delivered to the job site?
- Flue stacks should be located away from combustible items and vented to prevent fumes from entering the building structure
- Fuel line piping should be flexible and American Gas Association rated and secured against physical damage
- Who is responsible for checking if this is the case and will these lines function safely in sub-freezing temperatures when you really need them to?
- Heaters must be located outside the building on flat stable ground
- What if there is no flat, stable ground outside the building because it is on a slope?
- Dedicated personnel should be assigned to maintain and monitor even temperatures. This must be done manually by adjusting a dial back and forth since most fired heaters do not have automatic thermostats.
- Was this extra labor cost budgeted for? Are all possible foreign language barriers for this person being considered?
For additional information and details on bed bug heating equipment visit this post: The Ultimate Guide to Bed Bug Heaters: Buying a Bed Bug Heater vs Renting