Summer is great, but there is one little thing that can be a major nuisance at this time of year: mosquitoes. Soaping on the bug spray isn’t your only defense against these leeches. A smart gadget is all you need.
The market for mosquito repellents and killers is huge. Not only are they extremely annoying – both with the buzzing sound and with itchy welts – but they can also transmit disease. It is in your best interest to have some sort of defense line.
Many people only know the classics: bug sprays with DEET, citronella candles and Tiki torches. However, we can do better than that thanks to a nifty line of mosquito-repellent devices from Thermacell.
Remark: This is not a sponsored article. We have been using Thermacell products for several years and really like them. At the time of writing in June 2022, Thermacell is the only company selling such mosquito repellent devices.
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 serve essentially the same purpose. The idea is that you turn on the device and it creates an invisible zone of protection around you.
There are a number of different devices from Thermacell for different usage situations. The company offers rechargeable battery models, fuel-operated models and a wired system for the entire backyard. All of these different models work essentially the same way.
How does it work?
You may think this sounds too good to be true, so let’s talk about how it works. Thermacells use either a saturated mat or a liquid-filled cartridge containing allethrin, a compound found in plants that is toxic to mosquitoes and other insects.
Whether fuel or battery, the liquid is heated and dispersed into the air. It is colorless, odorless and otherwise undetectable by humans. The zone of protection depends on the Thermacell model, but is usually about 15 to 20 feet.
It’s worth noting that it takes some time for the heating element to kick in. You have to wait about 15 minutes for the full protection zone to be set.
Is Thermacell safe to use?
Many repellents, including the infamous DEET, pose safety concerns for humans and other animals. When used correctly, they are fine, but what about Thermacell devices?
Thermacell says the repellent has been “independently tested” and approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). However, there are still some things to keep in mind. The liquid in the mats and cartridges must not be consumed by humans or animals. You should also avoid inhaling the fumes directly from the devices.
The important thing to understand is that the ingredients in Thermacell devices are not technically “repellant”, despite the term being marketed and used repeatedly on the packaging. Allethrin works by distorting nerve signals in insects, causing them to fall and eventually die.
Warning: Yes, the allethrin kills all kinds of insects in the “protection zone” – including bees, which you definitely don’t want to kill. Keep this in mind when posting.
That may concern you or not, but it’s something to keep in mind. Using a small Thermacell on your patio for a few hours at a time probably won’t make much of an impact. However, the larger models, especially the backyard system, can disrupt the ecosystem.
With all that in mind, let’s find the best Thermacell model for you. There are essentially three categories of Thermacell devices: battery-powered, fuel-powered, and the full backyard system. Most devices are portable, but the fuel-powered models are more advertised that way because they require no electricity at all.
Remark: The fuel-powered “portable” Thermacell models still take the same amount of time to create a “zone of protection” around you as the “stationary” options. If you stand in the same spot while fishing, they provide protection. If you’re walking through the woods and moving non-stop, they won’t and you’ll have to use insect repellent instead.
While the full backyard system is certainly useful, we don’t recommend it for most people. It is very pricey and you would be killing a great deal of insect life in a large area. If you are investing in the backyard system, it should be used sparingly.
Best on batteries
Thermacell E-Series Repeller
The E-Series has a rechargeable (via MicroUSB) battery that lasts up to 9 hours. It creates a 20-foot zone of protection and is small enough to easily take anywhere.
Best fuel powered
Thermacell MR450 Portable Repeller
The Thermacell MR450 is a fuel-powered portable model. The fuel allows you to take it to places where recharging is not possible. The fuel cartridges last for 12 hours and it creates a 15 foot protection zone.
Thermacell Backpacker Repeller
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 the fuel cartridges. You still get a large 15-foot zone of protection, but not while moving.