Summer is great, but there’s something tiny that can be a big nuisance this time of year: mosquitoes. Lathering up bug spray isn’t your only defense against these bloodsuckers. A smart gadget is all you need.
The market for mosquito repellents and killers is vast. Not only are they extremely annoying, both buzzing and itchy, but they can also carry diseases. It is in your interest to have some kind of line of defense.
Many people only know the classics—insect repellent sprays with DEET, citronella candlesand tiki torches. However, we can do better than that with a nifty range of mosquito repellent devices from Thermacell.
To note: This is not a sponsored post. We have been using Thermacell products for several years and really like them. As of this writing in June 2022, Thermacell is the only company selling mosquito repellent devices like this.
What is a Thermacell?
Thermacell is the name of a company that produces mosquito repellent devices. The company offers a range of devices that all basically serve the same purpose. The idea is that you turn on the device and it creates an invisible protection zone around you.
There are a number of different devices from Thermacell for different use cases. The company offers rechargeable battery-powered models, fuel-powered models, and a wired garden system. All of these different models basically work the same way.
How it works?
You might think it sounds too good to be true, so let’s talk about how it works. Thermacells use either a saturated mat or a cartridge filled with liquid containing allethrin, a compound found in plants that is toxic to mosquitoes and other insects.
Whether powered by fuel or a battery, the liquid is heated and dispersed into the air. It is colorless, odorless and otherwise undetectable by humans. The protection zone depends on the Thermacell model, but is generally around 15 to 20 feet.
It should be noted that it takes some time for the heating element to turn on. You should expect to wait about 15 minutes before the full protection zone is established.
Is Thermacell safe to use?
Many insect repellents, including the notorious DEET— come with safety concerns for humans and other animals. If used correctly they are fine, but what about Thermacell devices?
Thermacell claims its repellent has been “independently tested” and has been approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, there are still some things to keep in mind. The liquid in the mats and cartridges should not be consumed by humans or animals. You should also avoid breathing vapors directly from the devices.
The most important thing to understand is that the ingredients in Thermacell devices are not technically “repellents,” despite marketing and packaging using the term repeatedly. Allethrin works by scrambling nerve signals in insects, causing them to fail and eventually die.
Warning: Yes, allethrin kills all kinds of insects in the “protection zone” – including bees, which you sure don’t want to kill. Keep this in mind when placing it.
This may or may not concern you, but it is something to keep in mind. Using a small Thermacell for a few hours at a time on your patio probably won’t have much of an impact. However, larger models, especially the backyard system, could disrupt the ecosystem.
With all that in mind, let’s find the best Thermacell model for you. There are basically three categories of Thermacell devices: battery-powered, fuel-powered, and complete garden system. Most of the devices are portable, but the fuel-powered models are advertised more as such because they don’t need electricity at all.
To note: The fuel-powered “portable” Thermacell models still need the same amount of time to establish a “protection zone” around you as the “stationary” options. If you stand in one place while fishing, they will protect you. If you’re hiking in the woods and constantly moving around, they won’t and you should use insect repellent instead.
While the Complete Garden System is certainly convenient, we wouldn’t recommend it for most people. It’s very expensive and you would be killing a lot of insect life in a large area. If you are investing in the backyard system, it should be used sparingly.
Best Battery Powered
Thermacell E-Series Repeller
The E Series has a rechargeable battery (via MicroUSB) that lasts up to 9 hours. It creates a 20ft protection zone and is small enough to easily take anywhere.
Thermacell MR450 Handheld Repeller
The Thermacell MR450 is a portable gas-powered model. Fuel allows you to take it to places where recharging is not possible. Fuel canisters last 12 hours and create a 15 foot protection zone.
Thermacell Backpacker Repellent
While most Thermacell models are small enough to be portable, the Backpacker is designed to go with you. It weighs only 4 oz and uses fuel cartridges. You still get a large 15ft area of protection, but not while moving.