Generally speaking, winter is a slower time of the year for pest control operators, including companies that exclusively perform bed bug heat treatments. Naturally, this lull in activity tends to create some angst for business owners; from my own personal experience, I understand. As a result, many of my conversations with clients this time of the year tend to revolve around strategies to improve sales/marketing and operational efficiency (aka, Cost Reduction).
I spent nearly 10 years working all positions at a bed bug extermination company, from technician to owner and everything in between. I am fortunate to have learned a few tricks along the way and am happy to share them with you!
This article is the first of two parts. In part 1, I’ll share tips related to cost reduction; the second article will focus on tips related to sales & marketing.
We are always looking to “trim the fat” and eliminate unnecessary costs in our respective organizations. When things are exceptionally busy it’s easier to overlook smaller, seemingly inconsequential costs to our businesses. Fuel is a perfect example. With the exception of labor, fuel is often the top line expense for thermal remediation service providers. Tackling this large expense first can benefit your company during slow seasons. Therefore, I’ve listed several fuel saving tips below.
Tip 1: Propane
If you operate propane-fired heaters, you probably already know that propane costs historically jump in the winter due to higher demand. However, most vendors will let you “pre-buy” or lock in rates over a 12-month period based on volume. In my opinion, pre-buying is worth looking in to.
Additionally, propane heater capacity can be diminished in the winter if you do not increase your fuel supply. For example, your heater will produce more heat with 3 tanks in the summer, vs. 3 tanks in the winter. That’s because propane vaporization rates slow down as the amount of fuel drops in the tank, and in colder temps. As a result, your tanks may freeze, and the job may take much longer than anticipated. Bottom line, keep your tanks full, or have spares with you and consider pre-buying to reduce overall costs.
Tank freezing from low levels of fuel
Tip 2: Use All Available Resources
Another opportunity to reduce fuel costs can be achieved with the cooperation of your clients. Asking your client to turn on the heat to max temperature (typically 90 degrees F) in the morning before they leave will preheat materials and offset the cost of the fuel needed to raise your temps to max. The cost to the client is offset as the structure continues to “release” heat for hours after the treatment.
Using the structure’s HVAC system to “pre-warm” materials saves time and money.
If you are limited by heater capacity or exceptionally cold conditions, the following resources may help:
- Reusable foil insulation such as Reflectix can be taped to windows to reduce heat loss.
- Tarps and extension poles (paint poles) can be used to separate areas, or block off an area deemed to be unaffected by bed bugs resulting in less fuel consumption & more heat being delivered to your treatment space.
- Removing switch plates and outlet covers can also help expedite the process of heating walls.
Tip 3: Heater Selection
If you are fortunate enough to have multiple pieces of equipment, especially ones with different power and/or fuel sources, it may be to your advantage. For example, if you have electric heaters, you can use them in concert with your gas-fired systems to increase capacity. Using the customer’s power will result in a negligible cost to their electric bill but could save you money as an operator by adding heat with no fuel cost. It can also aid in speeding up the treatment, or lowering the amount of fuel needed to raise the temperature to the “kill zone” on your jobs.
Recirculating propane systems like the SleepTight 1500SD are certified for indoor use and provide excellent savings in cold-weather conditions. Recycling air inside the space requires far less fuel to raise the temperature than heating frigid outside air.
If you have a direct-fired or indirect-fired forced-air heater, you can use return ducts to return air from the space to the back of your heat system. There is some heat loss in the return duct, but regardless, it reduces overall fuel usage in a heat treatment. If you have recirculating propane systems that are rated for indoor use, we strongly recommend using these systems as much as possible to help reduce fuel costs.
Recirculating the heat from inside the space to the back of the heater reduces fuel consumption.
These are just a few of the tricks I have learned along the way. I hope you found at least one of them to be helpful. Part two of this article will be released in the upcoming month. Please don’t hesitate to reach out to us with any questions, comments, or tips you’d like to contribute to the industry.