How do electric blankets work?

Direct Energy, December 14, 2023

4 minute read

How do electric blankets work?

Direct Energy, December 14, 2023

4 minute read

On a frosty winter evening, every little bit of heat helps, and it's especially important to feel warm and snug in your bed so you can get a good night's sleep. One option to help ward off the wintertime chills and experience supreme comfort when you crawl into bed is an electric blanket. In addition to the added warmth, many people even find that electric blankets, also known as heated blankets, help with certain medical ailments such as arthritis symptoms or menstrual pain. The added warmth may even help you save on your heating bill. Read on for answers to questions, like how do electric blankets work? What costs can you expect? Are there safety concerns about electric blankets?

Cozy girl seated at sofa covered in a warm blanket
Cozy girl seated at sofa covered in a warm blanket
Cozy girl seated at sofa covered in a warm blanket

How electric blankets work

Although they appear and act as bedding, electric blankets fall under the category of household appliances because they plug into the wall and draw electricity from your circuits. Small, thin wires run through the fabric, carrying heat that warms up the blanket and promptly transfers to you. Don't worry about the wires poking you – in a blanket of any quality. They are thin enough and enmeshed in thick enough fabric that you shouldn't ever feel them. Aside from the heat, the blanket shouldn't feel any different than a standard, non-electrified piece of bedding. Many blankets can even be thrown in the washing machine – after you remove the plastic temperature dial, of course.

Heated blankets aren't one-size-fits-all, either. A wealth of options on the market offers models featuring variations such as fabric, size, texture, weight, the number of heat settings, and dual-temperature settings for people who share a bed. Modern electric blankets even offer the option to program the heat to warm up the bed before you climb in, and automatic shutoffs so you don't waste electricity all night once you're already snoozing comfortably under your warm pile of bedding.

How much do electric blankets cost?

You might be worried about the prospect of shelling out a lot of money for an electric blanket, but fortunately, these nighttime sleeping aids typically don't break the bank. There are numerous types available to suit nearly any price range, with smaller models available for under $20 from certain retailers, all the way up to $300 or more for fancier options.

As an added monetary incentive, you may be able to cut back on your heating bills if you are able to knock your thermostat down several degrees while you sleep under the comfy heated blanket. Instead of paying to warm up your entire house, you're only on the hook for the electricity providing heat directly to your body.

Do electric blankets use a lot of electricity?

If you choose to supplement your bedding with an electric blanket, you may be pleasantly surprised by the associated energy costs. According to an Energy Savers booklet produced by the U.S. Department of Energy, an electric blanket is among the very least expensive home appliances you can use. Many electric blankets consume around 200 watts of electricity, which would make their operating cost about two cents per hour in many places. To determine the operating cost per hour of a specific blanket, simply divide the electric blanket's wattage by 1000 and multiply the result by your current kWh rate for electricity.

Those are averages, of course. It's challenging to calculate exactly how much electricity an electric blanket will use in your household because they have many different heat settings and consumption will depend on how often and how long you use it. Typically speaking, heated blankets should use 100 watts or less of electricity even on the highest setting, or twice that if it's double-sided, and shouldn't cost you more than a few dimes per night in electricity consumption at the most. That sure beats the expense of bumping your thermostat up. Special low-voltage blankets use even less electricity, although they tend to cost a little more upfront and don't get quite as warm as standard models.

How to use an electric blanket safely

It can be a bit disconcerting to bring an electric device into bed with you, and it is possible for your blanket to overheat if you don't take the proper precautions. Fortunately, you have little to fear if you follow a few electric blanket safety tips. Here’s how to use an electric blanket safely:

  • Follow all the manufacturer's instructions for the use, care, cleaning and storage of the blanket.
  • Keep an eye out for dark spots or fraying that indicate burns and dispose of the blanket if you encounter any.
  • Look for a model with an automatic shutoff so you don't accidentally leave it running all night and day.
  • Only use heated blankets for your top level of bedding, and make sure they lie flat without folds or bunches to avoid overheating areas.
  • Electric blankets should be avoided with young children and people with cognitive disabilities who might not be able to remove or shut off the blanket in the event it gets too hot.
  • People who have diabetes should steer away from heated blankets, as decreased skin sensitivity could lead to burns.
  • Don't use electric blankets with pets. They don't need them and could chew on the wires, creating a hazard.
  • Make sure you unplug the blanket every morning when you aren't using it.

Taking care of your electric blanket and exercising good judgment when using it can provide a toasty and inexpensive way to get a warm and restful night of sleep.

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