Summer is great, but there’s something tiny that can be a big nuisance this time of year: Mosquitos. Lathering on the bug spray is not your only defense against these bloodsuckers. A clever gadget is all you need.
The market for mosquito repellants and killers is vast. Not only are they extremely annoying—both with the buzzing sound and itchy welts–but they can also carry disease. It’s in your best interest to have some sort of line of defense.
A lot of people are only familiar with 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 repellant devices from Thermacell.
Notes: This is not a sponsored article. We have been using Thermacell products for several years and just like them a lot. At the time of writing in June 2022, Thermacell is the only company that sells mosquito repellant devices like this.
What Is a Thermacell?
Thermacell is the name of a company that produces mosquito-repellant devices. The company offers a range of devices that all essentially serve the same purpose. The idea is 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 use-cases. The company offers rechargeable battery-powered models, fuel-powered models, and a wired-in whole backyard system. All of these different models work essentially the same way.
How Does It Work?
You might be thinking that sounds too good to be true, so let’s talk about how it works. Thermacells use either a saturated mat or liquid-filled cartridge that contains allethrin, a component found in plants that are toxic to mosquitoes and other insects.
Whether powered by fuel or a battery, the liquid is heated up and dispersed into the air. It’s colorless, odorless, and otherwise undetectable by humans. The zone of protection depends on the Thermacell model, but it’s usually around 15 to 20 feet.
It’s worth noting that it takes some time for the heating element to get going. You should expect to wait around 15 minutes before the full zone of protection is established.
Is Thermacell Safe to Use?
Many bug repellants—including the notorious DEET—come with safety concerns for humans and other animals. If used correctly, they’re fine, but what about Thermacell devices?
Thermacell says its repellant has been “independently tested” and it 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 in the vapors directly from the devices.
The most important thing to understand is the ingredients in Thermacell devices are not technically “repellants,” despite the marketing and packaging using the term repeatedly. Allethrin works by scrambling nerve signals in insects, causing them to fall and eventually die.
Warnings: Yes, the allethrin kills all kinds of insects in the “zone of protection”—including bees, which you definitely don’t want to kill. Keep this in mind when placing it.
That 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 is probably not going to impact much. However, the larger models—especially the backyard system—could disrupt the ecosystem.
With all of 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 of the devices are portable, but the fuel-powered models are advertised that way more due to not needing electricity at all.
Notes: The fuel-powered “portable” Thermacell models still need the same amount of time to establish a “zone of protection” around you that the “stationary” options. If you’re standing in the same spot while fishing, they’ll provide protection. If you’re hiking through the woods and moving nonstop, they won’t and you should use an insect repellent instead.
While the full backyard system is certainly convenient, we don’t recommend it for most people. It’s very pricey and you’d be killing a lot of the insect life in a large area. If you do invest in the backyard system, it should be used sparingly.
Best Battery Powered
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 be easily taken anywhere.
Best Fuel Powered
Thermacell MR450 Portable Repeller
The Thermacell MR450 is a portable, fuel-powered model. The fuel allows you to take it places where recharging is not possible. The fuel cartridges last 12 hours and it creates a 15-foot zone of protection.
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.