What the best electric blankets have

  • Safety standards. The Electric Blanket Institute discusses common electric blanket safety issues, such as when, where and who should or shouldn't use them.
  • 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.
  • A range of heat settings, including preheating. To get the most use out of your electric blanket or mattress pad, you'll want to be able to choose settings appropriate for everything from a cool summer evening to a winter blizzard.
  • An automatic shut-off. An automatic switch 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.
  • A multi-year warranty. Judging from user reviews, heated bedding has a high occurrence of malfunction with the controls and coils, so 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.

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.

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, the experts at ElectricBlanketInstitute.com recommend a low-voltage bedding option to minimize the risk of electric shock.

Buying tactics and strategies

Look for sales each autumn and spring. Electric bedding models are often heavily discounted during warmer months -- autumn and spring.

When comparison shopping, be aware that many models are sold under varying names. The company Perfect Fit makes Soft Heat, Select Comfort and Chattam & Wells, while Sunbeam also manufactures the Slumber Rest, Therapedic and Imperial lines. Biddeford makes Cannon, Sealy and Delightful Nights.

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