My family and I love nothing more than to spend time in the great outdoors. Whether it’s basketball in the driveway or a movie night in the backyard, we strive to be outside as much as possible—that is, until dusk sets in and the mosquitoes come out in droves. There really is nothing that can ruin a delicious summer meal with family and friends on the patio like chasing bugs away from your food and body while trying to maintain a conversation.
And while repellent sprays certainly provide a barrier of protection, the odor and residue must be showered off at the end of the night — something that’s not easy when you have four kids. That’s why I was utterly intrigued by the Thermacell E55 Rechargeable Mosquito Repellent, which claims to provide a 6m protection zone that is invisible and odor free and quiet. Read: No hearing “zzz” every time a bug is removed!
A small mosquito repellent that really works
Perfect for those who hate bugs but also hate bug spray, the Thermacell E55 is a small and effective repeller that can keep you bite-free.
The Thermacell E55 is half the size of a portable speaker, weighs just 12 ounces and is powered by a rechargeable lithium-ion battery with a 5.5 hour life (unless you use it while charging) that works to release mosquito repellent into the air. heat and spread. More on that repellent: It comes in a liquid solution cartridge, contains an active ingredient of metofluthrin (5.5%), and contains petroleum distillate, but has no DEET or citronella.
Which brought me to my first big question: is it safe for both adults and children to sit in the midst of this active ingredient for several hours while enjoying the outdoors? “You’re going to 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 non-toxic’ to humans, so yes, I’d say it’s completely safe.” And if you’re wondering about pets, we get it! While metofluthrin can be neurotoxic to pets, Gray assures that the Thermacell is safe to use around your furry friends when used correctly and as instructed. “The fact that the [Thermacells] being approved by the EPA pretty much tells you what you need to know,” he says. “The entomology profession today sees the EPA as very restrictive, so when they approve something, you know it’s okay if it’s used properly , with a very wide margin of safety.”
Next: Can DEET-Free Products Actually, You Know, Work? The answer was a resounding “yes” according to the experts I spoke to. “The active ingredient, metofluthrin, is an effective spatial repellent against mosquitoes,” says Dr. Eva Buckner, assistant professor and specialist in medical entomology extension at the University of Florida. “[That said]Spatial repellent emanators are most effective in low wind situations, allowing the repellent to remain in the air around people. ”
Gray added: “A light breeze will move the fumes to the windward side, making the protection area more oval than round. I think [Thermacell’s] estimate of a 6-foot-wide conservation area quite ambitious – I’d still rather be within five or six feet of the device if mosquito populations were extensive.
With all that in mind, I tested the Thermacell E55 four times over the course of two months in the backyard of my house, which was always full of buggies, for periods ranging from one to three hours and with groups of two to eight people. . This is what I found.
Gone are the days of yore sitting outside amid the glow of neon lights and constant “zzz” sounds emitted by your family’s huge bug repellent. The modern alternative of the Thermacell E55 is quite the opposite: the device is small in size and is also really quiet, delivering an invisible and odor-free vapor into the air. To the point where I said to myself several times, “Does this thing work?” (Luckily, four little lights indicate it’s on and running.)
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, that claim totally stands. However, I could see a slight plume of vapor coming out of the repeller’s hood, which was easier to catch indoors with no breeze to dissipate it.
As far as installation goes, the process is simple and airy and can be done in seconds, not minutes. Once it’s charged, simply take the device to your outdoor spot, insert the fluid cartridge, remove the cap, replace the repeller top, and press the power button. Next, place the E55 where you want to hang out for about 15 minutes before entering the bug-free zone, which will then be saturated with the repellent. Note: The repeller also takes a few minutes to warm up, indicated by a chasing light pattern around the power button, which becomes static when ready to use.
Ultra-portable – there was one time when my group switched locations and brought the Thermacell E55 with us – the device is small enough to easily stow in a backpack or purse, making it great for travel (and camping!) too. And aesthetically, it’s sleek and small enough not to look like an eyesore in your outdoor space.
I’m not mad at that $40 price tag either. The E55 is so cheap that I’d consider buying two, either to create one larger overlapping zone or to have two protected areas in separate areas of my yard. It also comes with a two-year warranty that can be upgraded to three years if you choose to register the product, which gives me a lot of peace of mind.
However, the biggest selling point for me was the effectiveness of the E55. I have to say it worked incredibly well every time we used it. While a few of us heard buzzing (maybe it was phantom buzzing because of mosquito PTSD?!), and there were a few times we had to swat bugs away from exposed food, literally none of us had a resulting bite when we were in about 10 to 15 feet from the Thermacell E55.
What was tricky for me about this device is that my kids are constantly on the move, and given the 6m protection zone, it meant they couldn’t go far without being vulnerable to mosquitoes again. That is, if you really want this thing to work, you should stay put!
While I’d also seen some complaints online about battery life from previous Thermacell iterations, I had no issues in this department. Whether I used it for one or three hours, my E55 worked all the time. What annoyed me, however, is that the E55 didn’t include a wall plug-in adapter. I know, I know, this is not uncommon among tech devices these days, but given the increasing number of products in my home that require regular charging, I really appreciate it when a brand includes an adapter, which saves me from having to to go hunting for one.
Another downside for me is that this is a product you have to keep investing in – those refills won’t magically arrive at your home and pay for themselves! REI currently sells a 2-pack of 36-hour refills for $24.93, which is sure to last, but is also an additional cost on top of the $40 you’ve already paid. The shelf life of the refills are accurate – my 12 hour cartridge lasted just that long.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, bug sprays are the bane of my existence. The extreme smell and stickiness that comes with them often leaves me itching and getting a headache.
In terms of 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 like I said before, this thing is light years more advanced than your grandma’s old bug killers.
If you’re looking for a more comprehensive repellency solution that can cover a much larger space, consider Thermacell’s LIV Smart Repellent System ($699 to $899), a DIY solution that can connect multiple repellers in your outdoor space. connects to an app that can activate the heat-activated repellents on demand.
The Thermacell E55 is almost too good to be true. Sure, it has a lot of shiny selling points. Portable? To check. Quiet? To check. Invisible and odor free? Check and check. And it’s affordable (-ish, considering the refills you’ll end up buying) and sleek enough that most people will assume it’s a Bluetooth speaker.
But what makes it worth the purchase in the end is that it repels mosquitoes from the area where you sit and bite you — as long as you stay in that confined space for the duration of time. Summer may end in a few weeks, but temperatures aren’t going anywhere this fall, so trust me, the E55 is worth investing in.