My family and I love nothing more than spending time in the great outdoors. Whether it’s a basketball game in the driveway or an outdoor movie night in the backyard, we aim to be outdoors as much as possible, meaning up to dusk sets in and the mosquitoes come out in droves. Truly nothing can spoil a delicious summer meal with family and friends on the patio like keeping bugs away from your food and your body, while trying to carry on a conversation.
And while bug sprays certainly provide a barrier of protection, the smell and residue require showering at the end of the night, which is no easy task when you have four kids. That’s why I was completely intrigued by Thermacell E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repellent, which claims to provide a 20-foot protection zone that is invisible and fragrance-free. and quiet. Lis: No ‘zzz’ audience every time a bug is zapped!
A small mosquito repellent that really works
Perfect for those who hate insects but also hate insect repellents, Thermacell E55 is an effective little repellent that can save you from bites.
Half the size of a portable speaker, the Thermacell E55 weighs just 12 ounces and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a lifespan of 5.5 hours (unless you’re using it during charge) which works to heat and diffuse mosquito repellent into the air. . More about this repellent: Contained in a cartridge of liquid solution, it includes active ingredient metofluthrin (5.5%) and contains petroleum distillate, but does not contain DEET or citronella.
Which led me to my first big question – is it safe for adults and children to sit amidst this active ingredient for several hours while enjoying the outdoors? “You will be using this product outdoors, so the actual exposure will be quite low,” said Elmer Gray, an entomologist at the University of Georgia. “The EPA describes metofluthrin as ‘practically nontoxic’ to humans, so yes, I would say it’s completely safe.” And if you have questions about pets, we understand! While metofluthrin can be neurotoxic to pets, Gray says Thermacell is safe to use around your furry friends when used correctly and as directed. “The fact that the [Thermacells] are EPA approved pretty much tells you what you need to know,” he says. “The entomology profession views the EPA as being very restrictive these days, so for them to approve something tells you that when used correctly, with a very wide safety margin, it’s OK.”
Next: Can DEET-free products really work? The answer was a resounding “yes” according to the experts I spoke to. “The active ingredient, metofluthrin, is an effective space mosquito repellent,” said Dr. Eva Buckner, assistant professor and extension specialist in medical entomology at the University of Florida. “[That said]space repellent emanators are more effective in low wind situations, which would allow the repellent to stay in the air around people.
Gray added: “A light breeze will move the vapors to the leeward side, making the protection zone more oval than round. I find [Thermacell’s] fairly ambitious estimate of a 20ft wide protection zone – I would still prefer to be within five or six feet of the device if mosquito populations were large.
With all that in mind, I tested the Thermacell E55 in the still buggy garden of my house four times in two months, for durations varying between one and three hours and with groups ranging from two to eight people. Here is what I found.
Gone are the days of sitting outside amid the glow of a neon light and the constant “zzz” sounds made by your family’s huge bug zapper. The modern Thermacell E55 alternative is pretty much the opposite – small in size, the device is also really quiet, delivering invisible, fragrance-free vapor into the air. So much so that I said to myself several times: “Does this work? (Luckily, four little lights indicate it’s on and working.)
I also tested the product indoors for about 10 minutes (don’t try this at home, kids!) to see if there really was no smell or sound emitted, and alas , this assertion holds true. I could see a slight plume of steam coming out of the repeller lid though, which was easier to capture inside without any breeze to dissipate it.
In terms of setup, the process is quick and easy and can be done in seconds, not minutes. Once charged, all you have to do is bring the device to your outdoor location, insert the liquid cartridge, remove its cap, put the repellent back on and press the power button. Then you place the E55 where you plan to hang around for about 15 minutes before entering the insect-free zone, which will then be saturated with repellent. Note: The repeller also takes a few minutes to heat up, indicated by a light pattern around the power button, which becomes static when ready to go.
Ultra-portable – there was an occasion when my group changed outdoor locations and the Thermacell E55 came with us – the device is small enough to easily fit in a backpack or purse, which also makes it ideal for travel (and camping!). And aesthetically, it’s sleek and small enough to not look like an eyesore in your outdoor space.
I’m not mad at that $40 price tag either. The E55 is cheap enough that I’m considering buying two, either to create a larger overlapping area or to have two protected spaces in separate areas of my yard. It also comes with a two-year warranty which can be extended to three years if you choose to register the product, which gives me peace of mind.
The main selling point for me, however, was the efficiency of the E55. I have to say it worked amazingly well every time we used it. While a few of us heard buzzing (maybe it was phantom buzzing due to PTSD from mosquitoes?!), and there were a few times we had to keep bugs away from exposed food , literally none of us had any resultant bites when we were inside about 10-15 feet of the Thermacell E55.
What was tricky about this device for me is that my kids are constantly on the move, and given the 20ft protection zone, that meant they couldn’t go far without being vulnerable to mosquitoes again. . Which is to say, if you really want this thing to work, you have to stay put!
Although I’ve also seen complaints online about the battery life of previous Thermacell iterations, I haven’t had any issues in that department. Whether I used it for one or three hours, my E55 was operational all the time. What annoyed me, however, was that the E55 didn’t include a plug-in adapter for the wall. I know, I know, it’s not uncommon among tech devices these days, but given the growing number of products in my house that need regular charging, I really appreciate it when a brand includes an adapter, which eliminates the need for me to go hunting for one.
Another downside for me is that this is a product you have to keep investing in – these refills won’t magically arrive at your doorstep and will pay for themselves! REI is currently selling a two-pack of 36-hour refills for $24.93, which will surely last you a long time, but is also an additional cost on top of the $40 you’ve already paid. Refill life times are accurate – my 12 hour cartridge lasted exactly that long.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, insect repellents are the bane of my existence. The extreme smell and stickiness they come with often leaves me with itchy rashes and headaches.
As for other popular repellents, candles and tiki torches can get the job done, but their open flames are a constant source of stress, especially when kids are running around. And as I mentioned before, this thing is light years more advanced than your grandma’s old bug zappers.
If you’re looking for a larger repellent solution that can cover a larger expanse of space, consider Thermacell’s LIV Smart Repeller System ($699-$899), a DIY solution that connects multiple repellents placed in your outdoor space to one app. which can trigger the heat-activated repellents on demand.
The Thermacell E55 is almost too good to be true. Of course, it has plenty of brilliant selling points. Portable? Check. Quiet? Check. Invisible and odorless? Check and check. And it’s affordable (-ish, considering the refills you’ll eventually have to buy) and sleek enough that most people assume it’s a Bluetooth speaker.
But ultimately what’s worth buying is that it works to repel mosquitoes from the area you’re sitting in and biting you – as long as you stay in that confined space for the whole the duration of time. Summer may be ending in a few weeks, but the temperatures aren’t going anywhere this fall, so trust me, the E55 is worth the investment.