Electric blankets are safe, soft and subtly warm
Sleeping well on a cold night can be a challenge, but heated bedding can be a big help. Electric blankets, electric throws and heated mattress pads offer a lot of appeal for people who would love to crawl between preheated sheets on a chilly night. Those suffering from cold feet in the middle of the night might find them a godsend. Additionally, some claim that an extra warm bed helps alleviate body aches.
Electric blankets, electric throw blankets and electric mattress pads make a warm bed a reality with just a flick of a switch. Many have preheating functions, which allow you to set a desired temperature while getting ready for bed. Heat controls typically feature up to 10 temperature settings so you can get the level of comfort that's right for you. Additionally, many queen-sized and larger models may have two controls, one for each side of the blanket, so that each sleeping partner can stay as cozy and warm -- or not -- as they prefer.
Electric blankets haven't always enjoyed the best reputation. Older models tended to be thick and scratchy, and sometimes posed a fire hazard with extended use. Modern heated blankets are much improved. They warm you with thin, supple wires sandwiched between layers of ultra-soft fleece, plush, or knitted material.
Learning from the past, safety ratings are now paramount, and electric blankets and mattress pads come with automatic shut-off timers and amply rated power adapters to keep the bedding -- and you -- from overheating. Others, like the Soft Heat Luxury Micro-fleece Blanket (Est. $65 and up), use low-voltage electricity, which experts consider safest of all. Additionally, most modern electric bedding can be machine-washed and even machine-dried, as long as the manufacturer's recommendations are observed.
Heated bedding can take several different forms.
Electric blankets offer convenience and versatility. They can easily be put on or pulled off a bed, even in the middle of the night if you get too warm and the blanket has yet to cool down. However, since they lay above you on the bed, they lose a little bit of efficiency as heat that's radiated upwards is lost. They also aren't a great choice if you have pets, as a dog's or cat's natural tendency to chew and claw can damage the blanket.
Heated throw blankets are similar, but smaller. They won't generate as much heat as a full-sized electric blanket, but are great for wrapping around yourself, say while curled up on your couch on a chilly night.
Electric mattress pads sit between you and your mattress. That makes spur-of-the-moment use more difficult (unless you want to strip down the bed to pull it on or off), but improves energy efficiency -- you, not the ceiling, is the beneficiary of heat that's radiated upwards. The Electric Blanket Institute also holds that heated mattress pads are "inherently safer." Electric blankets can get bunched up, allowing heat to buildup -- and that was a major source of electric blanket fires with older models that lack modern safeguards. Since a heated pad is held tight to the mattress, there's much less chance of that happening.
While there are a multitude of electric bedding brands offered in the U.S., the Electric Blanket Institute reveals that virtually all products are currently made by one of three manufacturers -- Biddeford Mills, Sunbeam or Perfect Fit Industries. The Institute adds that, while materials and controllers will vary, all heated bedding made by that manufacturer, regardless of branding, will use the same technology.
Finding the best electric blankets, throws and mattress pads
Electric blankets, heated throws, and heated mattress pads receive only a little attention from professional reviewers but do get ample feedback from owners sharing their opinions and experiences on retail websites. Good Housekeeping is one expert we do turn to. Though its testing is several years old now, most of the electric blankets and heated mattress pads rated there are either still sold, or are offered in nearly identical models. The Electric Blanket Institute does not rate electric blankets or mattress pads, but offers helpful buying guidance and discusses the differences between models offered by the major manufacturers.
Owners fill in the rest of the picture. While not every electric blanket, electric throw or electric heating pad gets tons of feedback, others draw hundreds and sometimes thousands of reviews across sites such as Amazon.com, Walmart.com, Target.com, JCPenney.com and others. When analyzing reviews to find the best choices, we look for feedback regarding performance, ease of use, comfort and the overall ownership experience. While not every electric blanket, electric heated throw blanket, or heated mattress pad will excel on every point, the very best ones will outperform its competitors in most regards.
Elsewhere in this Report:
Best Electric Blankets: Looking for a cozy electric blanket to keep you warm through a cold winter's night? These top performers use safe and efficient modern technologies to keep the chill at bay.
Best Heated Mattress Pads: They aren't as popular in the U.S. as electric blankets, but heated mattress pads offer lots of advantages. Editors name the top choices.
Best Heated Throw Blanket: Small electric throws are perfect for curling up in on an easy chair or couch. These are the top choices as identified in reviews.
Buying Guide: Not sure what to look for in an electric blanket, throw or mattress pad? This buying guide names the most important considerations.
Our Sources: These are the expert and user reviews we consulted in finding the best electric blankets, heated throw blankets and electric mattress pads. They are ranked by the helpfulness of the site and its reviews.