home made bug zapper

DIY Bug Zappers- Everything You Need to Know

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A bug zapper, aka “electrical discharge insect repellent system” has become quite a popular method to eliminate the annoying biting and flying insects. In order to be efficient, they need to accomplish 2 different functions.

On the one hand, a bug zapper has to lure insects in some way, and on the other hand, it also needs to put out enough electricity to kill the insects.

Even though they may come with all sorts of bells and whistles, they’ve been around since the ’30s and haven’t changed that much in terms of design.

Are DIY bug zappers safe to use around children?

Bug zappers (and DIY type, just as well) are efficient ways to kill the pests and they require minimal to none effort on your part. This sure explains their popularity, especially in summer time.

They are seen as clean, easy and effective methods to electrocute mosquitoes or other flying insects.

As they’re based on electricity, it only makes sense that they also pose some concerns about their safety around children and pets. After all, not only the insects are going to be attracted by the fluorescent lights or chemicals. We all know how curious the little ones and the furry ones can be.

Here are some safety matters that should be taken under consideration, no matter if you’re using a commercial or a DIY bug zapper:

  • Kids and pets are going to be attracted by the bright light of a DIY zapper
  • The use of electricity makes the DIY bug zappers into really dangerous objects, especially around the young children. This is why you should never place a bug zapper near flammable gas, power lines. Don’t hang them during lighting storms or place them in wet grass either.
  • Play it safe and never left a DIY bug zapper outside in the rain. The risk for sparking and ignite or fire is really high.
  • You can never be too sure with children and they may push their fingers through the mesh, which is going to cause a painful and harmful electric shock.

Note: The bright lights and chemicals used on a DIY bug zapper are going to draw more insects than you’d have in normal circumstances. When an insect is killed, its body is going to explode and parts of its body are going to splatter all around. they may end up on the child’s hands, clothing or even on his food. As insects do carry plenty of diseases, it’s better that a child doesn’t sit close to a bug zapper.

What do you need when building your DIY bug zapper?

Even though building your own DIY bug zapper isn’t the most complicated thing on Earth, there are some things that you need to keep in mind:

  • The light bulb

You’re going to need a light bulb that gives UV light. This type of light bulbs is using mercury or neon vapor in order to create UV light, attracting the insects. The reason for using UV light is the fact that insects see UV light a lot better than visible light. In case you don’t know (and chances are you don’t), many flowering plants are actually using ultraviolet coloration.

On the side note, it’s important to highlight that mosquitoes are in fact more attracted to heat and carbon dioxide.

  • The transformer

You’re also going to need to make the transformer in order to create the electricity of the DIY bug zapper. The transformer is going to increase the voltage that your electrical outlet is able to produce, from 120 volts to at least 2,000 volts. You do need this kind of voltage for actually killing the insects.

  • The mesh grid

This is also going to require some skills on your part and you need to build the wire mesh grids around the light. Each of the two terminals of the electrical circuit is going to be connected to the wire mesh. You want the meshes to be separated by only a couple of inches so that when the insects are going to try to fly through the mesh, in order to get to the light, their body gets electrocuted.

  • The casing

You are going to need to hold the parts together with some sort of outer casing. Plastic or metal that is electrically grounded are the most common options for the housing. This where the fun part comes in the DIY bug zappers. You can shape it as a lantern or go with any other form that you fancy (as long as you have the skills for it).

Most commercial bug zappers out there come with an exterior grid which reduces the risk for accidental touching the electrified grid.

How to build your very own DIY bug zapper?

Here are the things you need for this type of DIY bug zapper:

  • Glue gun
  • Small drill
  • Screwdriver
  • Stapler wire
  • Wire fish trap
  • Mesh
  • Soldering gun
  • 3AA batteries
  • 3 blue LEDs
  • 1/2in PVC pipe
  • Disposable 35mm camera

No matter if you’re the dedicated DIYer or an entry-level hobbyist, following some steps is never a bad idea.

  • Step 1- have your supplies ready

You should begin with removing the film from your disposable camera. Remove the part of the fish trap that is conical. Build a second cylinder of mesh, making sure that it’s going to fit into the groove of the fish trap lid. You also need to cut a 6-in long PVC pipe and to cut off the tips of your LEDs so that you diffuse the lights.

  • Step 2- Put it all together

You also need a capacitor for the camera, which is typically in the upper right hand side. You need to solder a 5in long electrical wire to each lead of the capacitor. You should also drill two holes near the view finder. The holes have to be large enough so that the wires pass through. You’re going to need to close the camera after you got the wires through the holes.

Get the mesh and roll it into a cylinder. The cylinder should be 3/16 in smaller than the diameter of the fish trap. Staple the cylinder to the length of the fish trap.

Continue with gluing the mesh cylinder that matches the groove of the fish trap lid. Keep in mind that the mesh cylinders should never touch. You also need to solder the free leads to one of the meshes to the camera.

  • Step 3-Coming to an end

Put inside the 3 AA batteries inside the wire and pip parallel to the LEDs. The wires have to be in place. Use electrical tape to hold them. You’re going to need to connect the electoral switch into the circuit. Continue with gluing the light structure into the base of the top cap of the fish trap. Finish by gluing the electrical switch on the top of the top cap of the fish trap.

  • Step 4- give it a test

If you’ve done everything right, your DIY bug zapper should be ready to go. the LEDs and the flash switch of the camera have to be turned on. It’s only a matter of time until the insects notice the LEDs and try to get to it. As they’re going to touch both meshes at the same time, they’re going to activate the capacitor in the camera, which is only going to kill them.

Did the DIY bug zapper break? How to fix it?

No matter how great your DIY bug zapper is, sometimes accidents happen so you shouldn’t just throw it away, but try fixing it first.

Here’s what you’re going to need:

  • Pliers
  • Screwdriver
  • Wire clips
  • Wire strippers
  • Solder and soldering gun
  • Electronic starter

Once you have these tools within reach, try to fix your DIY bug zapper by following these steps:

  • Step 1- prepare it

If the bug zapper is plugged, you should start by unplugging the cord. If the problem comes from the hard-wired system, it’s better that you identify the circuit breaker that powers your device, turning it off. Inform everyone around that you’re working on it and place a piece of masking tape over the switch.

  • Step 2- take out and clean the tray

Most bug zappers include a bug catcher tray (typically is placed on the bottom of the bug zapper). You need to pay attention when removing it as you don’t want to spill its content. Dead bug carcasses are really dangerous for our health. Dispose of the dead insects the right way and use some warm water and mild detergent for cleaning the tray. Rinse it really well and let it to dry in a safe place.

  • Step 3- remove the body screws

You should remove the body screws that hold the outer casing and the top. It may be a bit more difficult than you may think. Keep in mind that you match the right size when replacing it with other hardware.

  • Step 4- remove the top of the bug zapper

You need to get to the electronic elements so removing the top is going to help you. Identify the wires and the capacitor terminals. Discharge any stored electricity with the screwdriver, placing the metal part of the tool across the terminal screws. Don’t get scared if you notice a small spark. It’s normal.

  • Step 5- start vacuuming

You can use a handheld vacuum or attach a nozzle to your vacuum hose. Take time and vacuum out all debris from within the bug zapper. Be extra careful as you don’t want to dislodge any wiring or damage the device’s bulb as you’re cleaning.

  • Step 6-Connect the new starter

You should replace the starter wires by cutting them to the bulb really close. Discard the old starter and use the wire strippers for removing ¼ of insulation from the lead wires.

Connect the wire connector clips to the lead wires to the new electronic starter where you can. As they’re non-polarized, it really makes no importance where you place them. Don’t forget to turn on the power for replacing the batter. If the bulb is going to light, everything is good to go.

  • Step 7- solder wires and put it back together

Put aside the power source once again (all plugs disconnected and batteries removed, power is turned off). Remove the wire clips and solder all connection to the new starter.

Put the bug zapper back together, using the new hardware.

One tip for the road

DIY bug zappers are fairly easy to make and are an efficient way to get rid of the annoying and biting insects. As long as you got the skills for it, why not give it a go?

And here’s an instructional video from Paul Z, not for the faint of heart!

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