Professional exterminators and pest remediation services can rid a residence of a bed bug infestation using one method or a combination of heat, steam, or natural or chemical insecticide spray. The heat method involves heating the rooms where the bugs are to above 120 degrees Fahrenheit for an hour or more, using fans to circulate the hot air throughout the space and monitoring the temperature. This method, though effective and nontoxic, is typically only recommended for empty commercial spaces or for spot treatment of empty rooms because the extreme heat can damage furniture, window blinds, televisions and other heat-sensitive items. Heat treatments also cost at least three times as much as conventional methods—as much as a few thousand dollars in some cases. Luis Hernandez, owner of Hernandez Pest Control in Brooklyn, New York, and Dennis Duckworth, owner of LeadTech Pest Services based in the Indianapolis metro area, both recommend a chemical spray treatment in most cases and both guarantee their work. Both companies also offer nontoxic spray options. Heat treatments are often combined with applications of insecticide for best results. Bed bugs are parasites and require human hosts to live and reproduce, but they have been known to survive three months to a year without a blood meal.
Like chemical bed bug extermination, services that kill bed bugs with heat typically charge by the room or by the square foot. The more rooms that need to be treated, the higher the cost because in each room, the service must clear an area to place equipment (heaters, fans and temperature-monitoring equipment). In fact, some furniture and other items must be removed to prevent heat damage. In addition, homeowners must typically sign a waiver so the service is not liable for any resulting damage. Hernandez of Hernandez Pest Control recommends combining the spray application and steam to guarantee eradication. He charges $200 for the first room and $75 per room after that. He said the total cost is usually $425 to service a two-bedroom apartment.
For an additional $50 a day, Hernandez Pest Control offers a heat chamber option, which is a way to heat treat clothing, shoes, bedding and other items that may have bed bugs after the chemicals have been applied throughout the residence. The chamber heats up to about 130 degrees Fahrenheit, which kills the bugs quickly. He also uses steam to clean household items such as mattresses and carpets to kill any remaining live bugs and eggs.
The specialized equipment used to treat bed bugs by heating an entire room above 120 degrees Fahrenheit costs thousands of dollars, which is one reason this method is expensive for customers, too—starting at $1,500 and going as high as $4,000 or more depending on the number of rooms and total square footage. Another disadvantage to heat treatments is that unlike with the liquid applications, they don’t offer any residual bed bug remediation.
People usually call a bed bug exterminator because they have seen bugs on themselves or on the premises or they have been bitten. In some cases, however, residents notice bites but can’t see the bugs because they are only active at night. The critters hide in cracks, behind picture frames, in electrical outlets, in heater vents and other out-of-the-way spots. Hernandez says they leave behind small dark spots, or blood secretions, which are visible and that he has never been unable to detect their presence. His company charges $125 for an inspection, which is deducted from the extermination fee if the home tests positive and they hire him to do the remediation. The average cost for an inspection is $50–$200, which is often deducted from the extermination fee.
Some services say they can detect the presence of bed bugs with dogs trained to sniff them out. This service typically costs $400–$600, and there is no guarantee they’ll find anything, so Hernandez of Hernandez Pest Control advises against it.