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Thermacell: Stop the Swat

Thermacell keeps backyard bugs at bay

Thermacell Mosquito Repellents are changing the way people seek protection from pests, and many pool and spa owners say the products help them enjoy time by the water sans pesky mosquito bites.

Company founder Bill Schawbel previously created a heating technology used in the Conair curling iron and Thermacell heated insoles before moving to mosquito repellent. The Bedford, Massachusetts–based company later sold the Thermacell Mosquito Repellent segment to New York equity-based firm Kinderhook Industries in 2014, and things started taking off. Over the last five years, Thermacell’s mosquito technology has led to a slew of new products, and an increase in both sales and demand.

“Our core technology is in the area of mosquito repellant,” says Kyle Adelman, senior manager of marketing and graphics for Thermacell Repellents, Inc. Its products create a zone that mosquitoes will not fly into, with the most effective area being a radius of about 15 feet.

By doing this, the Thermacell products can repel approximately 98% of all mosquitoes.

The devices are for stationary use and first gained a following in the hunting space. “Hunters are really susceptible to mosquitos and often can’t use sprays because they have an odor animals can detect,” Adelman says. “This allowed hunters to sit still in the woods, buggy places and swamps for a long time.”

It has since pivoted into other consumer uses, with Thermacell growing in popularity among campers and the backyard space.

The company’s main repellent product uses a butane cartridge, which lasts for 12 hours, as a heat source. The user slides blue mats that contain the mosquito repellent into the top of the Thermacell device. Once ignited, the repellant is vaporized and constantly refreshed into the surrounding area, lasting up to four hours. The blue mats turn white when it’s time to replace them.

The main mosquito repellent ingredient is allethrin, a synthetic replica of the chrysanthemum flower, a natural repellent.

Making a Difference

The Thermacell Mosquito Repellent is sold in hundreds of pool and hot tub stores around the country as more consumers demand a product that works.

“Ultimately, we are in the business of helping people spending time outdoors,” Adelman says, adding that its most successful markets are, predictably, the very “buggy” places: southeast of the Mississippi, the upper Midwest and the Northeast. “We hear from elated consumers all the time about how this product in some small way changed their life,” Adelman says, “because they reclaim their outdoor space.”

Townley Pool & Spa in Little Rock, Arkansas, started selling Thermacell last spring. Owner David Townley sold citronella and sandalwood products in the past, but says customers disliked the smell of both.

“We’ve had great response from our customers that the product works great and does not have that bad odor,” Townley says. “The new colors and designs make it more attractive for your table setting and hot tub ledges.”

Mike O’Neill, general manager of Texsun Pools & Spas in The Woodlands, Texas, says consumers can now eat outside, or enjoy drinks around their hot tub or pool without being bitten.

“Thermacell is a high-efficacy solution that protects multiple people simultaneously, and you don’t have to put topicals on your skin,” O’Neill says. “Our customers certainly enjoy spending more time out by their hot tubs now.”

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