What the best electric blankets have

  • Good safety. Heated bedding of all types should meet current Underwriters Laboratories electric bedding safety standards. It's also important to read and follow manufacturer guidelines.
  • Durable, machine-washable materials. You'll want to wash the bedding eventually; it shouldn't pill, shed or bleed color when you clean it. Most heated bedding on the market today allows you to detach the power cords and wash and dry it at home.
  • Easy-to-use temperature controls. Because you'll be adjusting the temperature in the middle of the night, you want the controls to be intuitive and within reach. Many electric blankets and other heated bedding use digital controls, but others use analog dials. User ratings don't seem to be influenced by the style of the controller, but we see some comments that in some instances, the dial can be easy to jostle. A few electric bedding products offer wireless controls.
  • A range of heat settings, including preheating. To get the most use out of your electric blanket, throw, or mattress pad, you'll want to be able to choose settings appropriate for everything from a cool summer evening to a winter blizzard. Most electric bedding models offer 10 settings, though some, including our top-rated heated throw blanket, offer fewer.
  • An automatic shut-off. An automatic shut off allows you to fall asleep safely with the blanket still on.
  • Dual control options. Many couples sleep "differently" with one partner preferring a hotter or colder environment. Dual controls, which are usually found on queen-sized and larger beds, allow each person to adjust the heat on his or her side of the bed. Some heated bedding take things a bit further by allowing adjustment of individual zones (such as the feet) for either user.
  • A multi-year warranty. Judging from user reviews, all types and brands of heated bedding suffer from so-so durability -- with the controls and heated wiring both being trouble spots. That's why it's a good idea to buy a model with a good warranty and then keep all packaging, receipts and other documentation of your purchase. If durability is a top concern, electric mattress pads seem to enjoy a somewhat better track record according to experts and in user reviews.

Know before you go

How often will you use your electric blanket? If you live in a cold climate or often are cold in the evenings, you may want to outfit your bed with a reliable heated mattress pad. On the other hand, if you will only use the product a few weeks or months per year, a blanket may be more practical.

Measure your bed and electrical outlet. Electric blankets and mattress pads are sold in normal bed sizes, such as twin, full, queen and king, but it's best to be sure. Most electric blankets have power cords that attach at the foot of the bed, with controls that stretch up to the head of the bed. If the cords aren't long enough to reach a power outlet, you may need to rearrange your furniture. Most manufactures recommend that, for safety, extension cords not be used.

Do you have pets that sleep in bed with you? Heated bedding can pose a hazard to pets if a claw or tooth exposes one of the heating elements. If you must sleep with a pet, experts suggest a low-voltage bedding option to minimize the risk of electric shock. In addition, a heated mattress pad is less likely to become a chew toy than a blanket that sits atop the bed.

Buying tactics and strategies

Look for sales each autumn and spring. Electric bedding models are often heavily discounted during warmer months -- autumn and spring. In the summer months, you won't find them at all in traditional brick and mortar stores, though they will be available online.

When comparison shopping, be aware that similar models are sold under varying names.

Most heated bedding sold in the U.S. is made by one of three companies. Perfect Heat industries makes bedding under its own name as well as the Soft Heat, Select Comfort and Chattam & Wells brands. Sunbeam also manufactures the Slumber Rest, Therapedic and Imperial lines. Biddeford Mills makes Cannon, Sealy and Delightful Nights electric bedding. While color choices and materials may vary between brands from one manufacturer, all will use the same technology and should perform similarly.

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