Electric blankets are stuck with a bad reputation -- largely based on reports of old, faulty products. But today's electric blankets have evolved from the sketchy models you might remember from your grandma's house 20 years ago. These days, electric blankets are low-voltage gadgets that are not only safe (when used properly, of course) but can actually help you save pretty significantly on your heating bills by dialing down your thermostat at night.
Best electric blankets: A couple of contenders
Good Housekeeping has the only multi-blanket comparison review we found. Editors check out seven blankets, measure each for efficiency in heating, ability to reach an optimal 70-degree temperature, and how well they hold up in the wash without getting all pilly or stretching out.
Sunbeam electric blankets are easiest to find in stores, but they make so many different models, it's hard to comparison shop. The one version that gets a sufficient number of reviews is the Sunbeam Microplush Heated Blanket (*Est. $85 to $150), which comes in nine colors. This particular Sunbeam blanket gets the nod in the Good Housekeeping test, and it gets quite a bit of support in user reviews as well. About 90 owners posting to Walmart.com give it near-perfect ratings (only five people got blankets that didn't work). The downside in the Good Housekeeping writeup is the confusing instruction manual that comes with this Sunbeam electric blanket. But it did wash well, and didn't use much energy. The smaller throw version of this electric blanket, the Sunbeam Microplush Warming Throw (*Est. $50), and check out the Angelina Jolie look-a-like wrapped in the throw (it gave us a double-take).
Other electric blankets get mixed reviews
We didn't find the same consistent reviews for other blankets as we did for the Sunbeam Microplush. One example, the Soft Heat Microfleece Warming Blanket (*Est. $100 to $190) took more than an hour to heat up in the Good Housekeeping test, and it never reached 70 degrees. The Sealy Classic Electric Blanket (*Est. $80 to $190) didn't wash very well -- it pilled and shrunk. Five of the 16 reviews at JCPenney.com say that the blanket stopped working after they washed it.
Biddeford and Perfect Fit are two other brands of electric blankets we saw in a handful of reviews. The Perfect Fit Plush Warming Blanket (*Est. $70 to $115) took 45 minutes to heat up to 70 degrees at Good Housekeeping, but it was judged the nicest-looking. Biddeford electric blankets get a handful of positive user reviews. The Biddeford Delightful Nights Electric Warming Blanket (*Est. $90 to $200) gets mainly good reviews at Amazon.com, but there just aren't as many reviews for this blanket as for the Sunbeam Microplush Heated Blanket which doesn't cost as much.
Not many electric blankets are reviewed, but the Sunbeam Microplush blanket is the easy standout. Most owners are happy with it and it passed the more formal testing at Good Housekeeping. One note about electric blankets in general: Keep the receipt. About all blankets, we found some product-failure reports, sometimes after a month or two, but sometimes after a single season of use. The Sunbeam blanket comes with a five-year warranty.