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Do Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Work?

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Default Author Icon Written by Brenda Woods Updated 06/27/2024

Ultrasonic pest repellers are a popular alternative to the chemical pesticides leading pest control brands often use. These plug-in or battery-operated devices are marketed as safe and environmentally friendly. The ultrasonic waves they emit are meant to disrupt pests’ nervous systems, making it uncomfortable for them to stay in the area. But does scientific evidence support these claims, or are ultrasonic pest repellers a gimmick? We’ll explain why these devices are “too good to be true” and offer some better alternatives for preventing pest infestations in your home.


The Science Behind Ultrasonic Pest Repellers

Ultrasonic pest repellers are small electronic devices that emit high-frequency sound waves, also known as ultrasonic sound waves, to repel cockroaches, crickets, bed bugs, rodents, and other pests. These devices produce sound at a frequency that is inaudible to humans but supposedly intolerable to pests.

Electronic pest repellers’ frequencies typically fall between 20 kilohertz (kHz) and 100 kHz. For perspective, humans can hear sounds with frequencies ranging from 20 hertz (Hz) to 20 kHz. The makers of these devices claim that high-frequency sounds above 20 kHz irritate and confuse pests, making it difficult for them to communicate, breed, and navigate their surroundings.

Ultimately, the manufacturers say, the discomfort pests experience should drive them away from the area where the device operates. Some manufacturers even claim that the sound induces an audiogenic seizure response, a physiological response characterized by convulsions, nondirectional running, and cerebral hemorrhage.

Green ultrasonic pest repeller isolated on a white background. Battery operated.
Adobe Stock

Are Ultrasonic Pest Repellers Effective?

Whether ultrasonic pest repellers really work is a subject of debate. Numerous studies testing their effectiveness have reported mixed results. As a result, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has issued warnings to several ultrasonic pest repeller manufacturers stating their claims of effectiveness were not supported by scientific evidence.

A few studies do suggest that ultrasonic frequencies can be effective in certain situations. However, researchers obtained the best results with repellent devices that pest control professionals and researchers had developed—rather than commercially available devices.

According to a review of sonic pest repellents published by the University of Arizona, “success is likely attributed to the development of techniques and devices that target specific species.” The devices researchers develop often use sounds derived from an organism rather than generic computer-generated tones. One example is a 2013 study that successfully used a playback of bark beetles’ own stress call to repel the species.

However, most scientific studies have found few or no signs that commerciallyavailable ultrasonic pest repellers actually work. Researchers at Kansas State University tested three devices in 2002 and found that none were able to repel ants in field or laboratory trials. Similarly, researchers observed no effect on bed bugs in a 2012 study that tested four devices or in a 2007 experiment involving German cockroaches and two types of mosquitoes.

QUICK Tip
Note that even the best ultrasonic pest repeller will not solve the underlying cause of pest problems. It will not eliminate the food sources that critters find appealing or the way they got into your home in the first place. As a result, you likely need to use other pest control methods simultaneously to address an existing infestation.

Factors That Affect Ultrasonic Pest Repellers

If you’re interesting in taking a gamble on the questionable effectiveness of ultrasonic pest repellers, consider the factors that may affect the results.

  • Room size: Larger rooms will likely require multiple devices, as sound waves emitted by a single device may not be strong enough to reach all corners of the room.
  • Placement: Furniture, walls, and other household objects can block or absorb high-frequency sound waves, limiting their ability to reach pests. To improve your device’s reach, place it in an open space at a height that allows the sound waves to travel unobstructed. Additionally, placing devices near known pest entry points or nesting areas may increase their effectiveness.
  • Pest type: Most studies have found these devices to be largely ineffective in repelling insects such as roaches, mosquitoes, and bed bugs. Furthermore, research has shown them to have limited effectiveness against rodents, with some rodents becoming accustomed to the sound over time. To increase your odds of success, look for a device designed for the pest you want to deter.
  • Frequency: Some devices offer adjustable frequencies, potentially increasing their effectiveness.
  • Environment: Certain environmental factors, such as temperature and humidity, may affect ultrasonic pest repellers’ performance. High humidity levels can absorb sound waves, potentially reducing the device’s effective range. Moreover, background noise can interfere with the ultrasonic sound waves, diminishing their effectiveness.
  • Pest population density: If you have a large pest population, consider combining your ultrasonic pest repeller with other pest control methods to achieve your desired results.

Other Considerations

When deciding whether to use ultrasonic pest repellers, consider the potential risks, the cost compared to other pest control methods, and customer reviews of popular devices.

Potential Side Effects

Cost

Customer Reviews

While ultrasonic pest repellers are generally considered safe for humans, some concerns have been raised about their potential effects on pets. For instance, guinea pigs, hamsters, and rabbits could be affected by ultrasonic rodent repellents. Before using an ultrasonic pest repeller, research the hearing range of any pets in your home and compare it to the frequency range of the device you’re considering purchasing.

Additionally, the high-frequency sounds these devices emit can sometimes interfere with other electronic devices, such as hearing aid or pacemakers. Be sure to consult a medical professional if you have concerns about the effect of ultrasonic sound waves on a medical device. Some users have also claimed the sounds seem to interfere with their burglar alarm systems and telephone conversations.

The cost of ultrasonic pest repellers varies significantly depending on brand, features, and quality. However, they are generally affordable compared to the cost of other pest control methods, such as professional pest control or chemical pesticides.

While some ultrasonic pest repellers are quite inexpensive, the money is still wasted if the device doesn’t work. If an ultrasonic device fails to deter or eliminate pest infestations, you will likely have to invest in alternative methods anyway. Many pest control companies offer affordable monthly plans that include ongoing treatment for several pests, from mice extermination services to routine pest inspections.

Customer reviews of popular electronic pest repellers suggest that many renters and homeowners find them effective. Dozens of devices on Amazon have ratings of 4 out of 5 stars or higher across more than 1,000 reviews. A few devices have even earned an average of 4.6 to 4.9 stars.

Not all reviews are positive, and it can be hard to determine which reviews are legitimate. Homeowners often try multiple pest control strategies at once, and there’s no guarantee good results are due to the ultrasonic repeller. We recommend carefully reading customer reviews to get a comprehensive understanding of the potential benefits and limitations of each specific device.


Alternatives to Ultrasonic Pest Repellers

Most homeowners who consider buying an ultrasonic pest repeller are looking for an inexpensive solution to a potential or actual pest infestation. However, you’re better off spending your time and money elsewhere. Here are some pest control strategies recommended by the Environmental Protection Agency that actually work.

  • Remove food and water sources: Pests go where the food and water is. You can make your home less tempting by sealing up your own food in plastic or glass containers, cleaning up spills promptly, and using a garbage can with a tight-fitting lid. Additionally, fix plumbing leaks promptly and keep basements and crawl spaces dry.
  • Seal up potential entry points: Pests can enter your home through the tiniest cracks and crevices, so seal up gaps around windows and door frames with weatherstripping or caulk, as appropriate. Fill and seal spaces around pipes, particularly as they exit the exterior of your home.
  • Get rid of clutter: Although having a pest infestation doesn’t necessarily mean your home is dirty, clutter provides shelter and even nesting materials for many pests. Get rid of old cardboard, magazines, and newspapers or put them in sealed containers.
  • Use DIY pesticides safely: After prevention methods, baits and traps are often a good next step. Always read and follow the instructions when using pesticide products. Some are not meant to be used indoors or around pets, and some require you to wear protective equipment. Foggers should only be used as a last resort.
  • Know when to call the pros: If the above methods don’t work or you need pests eliminated quickly, call a professional pest control company. Their experienced, knowledgeable technicians will work with you to create a safe, effective treatment plan that will also prevent the pests from returning.

Our Conclusion

Though research has shown that, in some cases, sound can be an effective pest deterrent, the devices available to consumers likely don’t use the right type or frequency of sound to remedy infestations. Nevertheless, some customers have reported modest success.

Ultimately, we recommend opting for prevention strategies and DIY pest control methods that have proven effective. If your pest problem persists, call a professional pest control company like Terminix or Orkin. You’ll pay a bit more, but you’ll get better results.


FAQ About Ultrasonic Pest Repellers

What pests are ultrasonic pest repellers effective against?

According to a paper published by the University of Arizona, scientific studies have found commercially available ultrasonic pest repellers to be ineffective.

Do ultrasonic pest repellers work on mice and rats?

Ultrasonic pest repellers do not seem to work on mice and rats. While mice and rats showed a mild aversion to ultrasonic sounds when studied, their dislike decreased over time as they became accustomed to the noise and realized it wasn’t a threat.

Are ultrasonic pest repellers safe for pets and humans?

Ultrasonic pest repellers are generally considered safe for humans and most pets. However, pets with sensitive hearing might be affected by high-frequency sounds. This includes pets in the rodent family, such as hamsters and guinea pigs, as well as certain dog breeds.

How many ultrasonic pest repellers do I need per room?

According to manufacturers, the number of ultrasonic pest repellers you need per room depends on the size of the room, its layout, and the range of the device. However, we recommend prevention strategies over ultrasonic devices.


Our Rating Methodology

We back up our pest control recommendations with a detailed rating methodology that we use to objectively score each provider. We review pest control plans, navigate the provider website, speak with customer service representatives by phone and online chat (if available), request quotes, and analyze customer reviews for each provider. We then score the provider against our review standards for plans and services, reputation and customer responses, customer service offerings, workmanship guarantees, financing, and availability to arrive at a final score on a 5-point rating scale.

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