What the best electric blankets have
- Good safety features. Heated bedding of all types should meet current Underwriters Laboratories electric bedding safety standards. It's also important to read and follow manufacturer guidelines. Special care should be taken -- or use avoided altogether -- when selecting heated bedding for infants, the elderly, and those that are otherwise less sensitive to heat. Pet owners are advised to consider low-voltage heated bedding, or a mattress pad that's under the rest of the bedding so that it can't be chewed on by a four-footed companion.
- Durable, machine-washable materials. Some electric blanket manufacturers specify hand-washing only; however, trying to wrangle a large, wet blanket can be difficult -- and it can be hard to rinse it thoroughly as well. Machine-washable blankets are much easier to clean. When you do wash it, it shouldn't pill, shed or bleed color. Always be sure to detach the power cords before cleaning.
- Easy-to-use temperature controls. Because you might want to adjust 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. Many electric bedding models offer 10 settings, though some, including our top-rated heated throw blanket, offer fewer without receiving very much negative user feedback over that.
- An automatic shut-off. An automatic shut off allows you to fall asleep safely with the blanket still on. Ten hours is standard, though some blankets are offered with controllers with more shut-off time options.
- Dual control options. Many couples sleep "differently" with one partner preferring a hotter or colder environment. Dual controls, which are often found on queen-sized and larger blankets, 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.
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 -- and their owners -- if a claw or tooth exposes one of the heating elements. If you do sleep with a pet, experts suggest a low-voltage bedding option to minimize the risk of electric shock. In addition, a heated mattress pad might be a better choice as it is less likely to become a chew toy than a blanket that sits atop the bed.
Heated bedding won't last a lifetime. 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. While it's never a bad idea to buy a model with a good warranty and then keep all packaging, receipts and other documentation of your purchase, user feedback indicates that warranty limitations and the hassle of returning the bedding to the maker lead most to just toss a blanket or mattress pad that has failed and buy a new one. If durability is a top concern, electric mattress pads seem to enjoy a somewhat better track record according to experts and in user reviews, but typical life spans run two years or so, rather than the five years that makers often claim.
What's in a name? Most heated bedding sold in the U.S. is made by one of three companies. Perfect Fit 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. A fourth maker, Shavel Home Products, is new on the scene with an electric blanket that's sold under the Thermee and Micro Flannel brands. While color choices, and materials and features (including the style of controller) may vary between brands and models, all heated bedding made by the same manufacturer will use the same core technology and should perform similarly -- with one exception; while Perfect Fit is best known for its low voltage heated bedding, it produces traditional electric blankets as well.