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5 Different Types of Electric Blankets

Here's everything you need to know about electric blanket including its history, manufacturing, its different types, and some tips and tricks on how to use this wonderful blanket safely.

Electric blankets on the bed.

Is there anything worse than getting back from work on a freezing evening, warming up with a warm bowl of soup, and taking a blissfully hot shower to soak off the frost, just to climb into an ice-cold bed that drains the warmth right out of your bones?

So, if you are thinking about warming your bed with an electric blanket this winter, stick around as we explore this marvelous invention through its history, manufacturing, the different types available in the shops today, and a few tips and tricks to get the most out of your wonder blanket.

The History Of The Electric Blanket

An ancient heating pan on the bed.

Before the invention of electricity, households had to rely on a clever little apparatus called a bed warmer (also known as a heating pan) to keep their tootsies toasty during freezing winter nights.

However, the drawback of these heating pans was that they didn’t keep the bed warm for the duration of the night ­– and it was probably the tedious task of some poor servant to exchange the bed warmers throughout the night.

If you are curious to see how bed warmers worked, have a look at these videos that provide some insight into the history of heating pans and how our ancestors kept warm during cold nights.

When Was The First Electric Blanket Made?

Electricity paved the way to marvelous household appliances such as dishwashers, vacuum cleaners, washers, dryers, refrigerators, and clothes irons that made household work more manageable and a lot less time-consuming.

And, of course, the heating pan was put aside for the electric blanket. A semblance of the electric blanket first appeared in the 1900s; naturally, it held little in common with what we are used to today, but it remains the driving force behind the invention.

While Samuel I Russell was not the first person who thought to heat a blanket using special wiring and electricity, he did patent the concept of the electric blanket that has evolved to what we know today.

The first widespread use of electric blankets was after the 1920s. The white plague wreaked havoc in the 19th and 20th centuries. One of the treatment plans for this disease was fresh air and sunlight; however, it would get pretty cold in winter. Many sanatoriums used electric blankets to keep tuberculosis patients warm while receiving therapy.

With antibiotics curing tuberculosis patients, sanatoriums started to shut down in the 1960s, but the electric blanket, now controlled with a thermostat, has only thrived.

Today, several types of electric blankets are available on the market, with all manner of features, from fitted to non-fitted under-blankets, over-blankets, throws, duvets, and even an electric pad range designed for pets.

How Does An Electric Blanket Work?

Woman sleeping on an electric blanket.

The difference in the types of blankets lies mainly in how these blankets or pads can be used. However, they still have the basics in common, like heating elements (the wire you see looped through the material) and the use of electricity to generate heat.

Sunbeam, one of the leading manufacturers of electric blankets, uses something called ThermoFine® technology; this intelligent feature allows the blanket to adjust as it acclimates to the room’s temperature and internal body temperature. This technology provides for even and consistent heating, and according to Sunbeam, can even save on the monthly utility bill.

For some people, the presence of wires and electricity makes them a little apprehensive about the idea – you’ve probably also heard the stories of electrocutions and fires caused by electric blankets. But most of these accidents don’t just occur spontaneously.

To avoid any possible accidents, you need to make sure you buy a quality product packed with safety features and carry a stamp of approval through a third-party testing institution that ensures the product’s safety. And always adhere to the manufacturer’s guidelines; it’s there for a reason.

Types Of Electric Blankets: Under-Blankets

Under blanket heating pad

Under-blankets – also known as heated mattress pads – are the most well-known and preferred electric blanket on the market.  Under blankets come in two choices, either fitted or non-fitted options.

Fitted Electric Blankets

Fitted Electric Blankets work the same way as a fitted bed sheet; only this one goes under the standard sheet and the mattress protector (if you have one).  The fitted option is excellent for rough-sleepers as it keeps the heating pad where it should be.

Another great thing about the fitted sheet is that you’ll always have excellent heat distribution as the blanket size is made according to the dimensions of the mattress. Additionally, it prevents the pad from creasing or folding over.

Two Of The Best Fitted Electric Blankets On The Market

Beautyrest Heated Mattress Pad
Beautyrest 100% Cotton Heated Mattress Pad, Dual Temperature Control Electric Bed Warmer with 18" Deep Pocket, 20 Level Setting, Auto Shut Off Safety, Queen, Standard White
  • The mattress pad is available in full, queen, king, and California king
  • Made from 100 % natural cotton that is machine washable
  • Offers twenty heat levels with a pre-heating function
  • Ten-hour max auto shut-off setting
  • UL Certified
Sunbeam Heated Mattress Pad
Sunbeam Heated Mattress Pad | Quilted, 10 Heat Settings, White, Twin - MSU2KTS-V000-11A00
  • Available in twin (+XL), full, queen, king, and California king
  • Ten heat settings with a pre-heating function
  • Ten-hour auto shut-off function
  • ThermoFine® technology (auto-adjust for consistent heat)
  • Made from cotton and polyester and is machine washable

Non-Fitted Electric Blankets

In contrast to the proper fit of fitted blankets, non-fitted electric blankets have a cord that you need to tie around the bed to reduce shifting as you move in your sleep. You’ll need to ensure the cords are securely fastened because you want to prevent the blanket from folding over itself and causing too much heat on one spot.

The great thing about non-fitted electric blankets is that you can pick a smaller option if your partner doesn’t care for a warm bum. If you have a double or larger mattress (like a queen or king), you can buy a twin size instead of wasting money on a fitted heating pad where the one side is permanently off.

Two Of The Best Non-Fitted Electric Blankets On The Market

Biddeford Blankets
Biddeford Blankets Polyester Electric Heated Mattress Pad with Analog Controller, Twin, White
  • Available in twin, queen, and king
  • Ultra-thin heating wires
  • Auto-off function with ten heat settings
  • UL or ETK certified
  • Soft and comfortable woven fabric that is machine washable and dryer safe
  • Five years limited manufacturer’s warranty
Giantex Smart Electric Heated Mattress Pad
Giantex Smart Electric Heated Mattress Pad, Heating Bed Topper Blankets w/ Low-Voltage, Five Modes Temper Control and Timer, Fast Heating, Detachable Connector, Warmer Bed Toppers Twin Size
  • Available in twin size
  • Mode timing function can set different times on different heat settings
  • Low-voltage safe heat (takes one hour to reach 40°)
  • Five temperate settings
  • Detachable connecter to make cleaning easier and safer

Electric Pads For Pets

Cat sleeping on a bed with heating pad.

Virtually hairless cats like the Sphynx will be eternally grateful to their owners for spoiling them with one of these fancy warming pads to keep them nice and warm during ice-cold winters.

However, be mindful of inferior products.  Lower prices are not the way to go here; you’ll want to make you have the best possible quality to ensure your pet’s safety. If you can, look for waterproof warming pads just to avoid any potential risks.

Even if you feel guilty heading to work and subsequently leaving your pet without a warm body to snuggle to, never leave the heating pad plugged into the wall socket when you run out; this can be dangerous.

Two Of The Best Electric Pads For Pets On The Market

Toozy Pet Heating Pad
Toozey Pet Heating Pad, Temperature Adjustable Dog Cat Heating Pad with Timer, Waterproof Pet Heating Pads for Cats Dogs with Chew Resistant Cord, Electric Pads for Dogs Cats, Pet Heated Mat
  • The Toozy Pad comes in four sizes, small, medium, large, and extra-large
  • LED temperature controller with six heating levels
  • Timer with four auto shut-off settings from 4 to 24 hours
  • Built-in intelligent temperature sensor to prevent overheating
  • Seven-layer durable structure with an IP68 waterproof PVC sleeve
  • Easy to clean, the cover is machine washable, and pad wipes clean easily
  • Stainless steel chew resistant cord to protect pets from possible danger
Homello Pet Heating Pad
Pet Heating Pad for Cats Dogs, Homello Waterproof Electric Heating Mat Indoor, Adjustable Warming Mat, Pets Heated Bed with Chew Resistant Steel Cord (28.3 x 18.9)
  • The Homello Pad is available in three sizes, small, medium, and large
  • High/low settings for temperature control, heat up in ten minutes
  • Power-off temperature control to avoid overheating
  • Reinforced connecter port and chew-resistant cord with a replacement/refund policy
  • Waterproof and fireproof material with anti-electric shock

Types Of Electric Blankets: Over-Blankets

Close-up of gray heated blanket.

You probably already have some sort of clue about the difference between an over-blanket and an under-blanket. One goes under you, and the other covers you. When you love to snuggle on the couch watching movies when there is a blizzard raging outside, this is the blanket for you.

While the over-blanket provides you with a soothing warm weight, it should be treated the same way as an under-blanket, don’t fold or let the blanket overlap. If you wake up wrapped like a burrito most mornings, you might want to reconsider this option as you can damage the wiring inside if you sleep on top or roll inside an over-blanket.

Types Of Over-Blankets: Throws/Quilts

Over-blankets have a lot of names, but they all are inherently the same; the real difference between electric heated throws, quilts, and blankets is the materials used. It will surely be a matter of what you prefer in terms of fabric.

The Best Electric Throws/Quilts On The Market

Sunbeam Heated Blanket
Sunbeam Heated Blanket | 5 Heat Settings, Quilted Fleece, Newport Blue, Twin - BSF9GTS-R595-13A00
  • 100% Polyester, extra soft Fleece, and machine washable and dryer friendly
  • Available in twin, full, queen, and king
  • ThermoFine® wiring
  • Five heat settings
Bedsure Heated Electric Throw
Bedsure Heated Blanket Electric Throw - Soft Electric Blanket for Couch, 5 Heat Settings Fleece Blanket with 3hrs Timer Auto Shut Off, Machine Washable Sherpa Heating Blanket Throw (50×60, Grey)
  • Available in two sized 50×60″ or 62×84″ and various colors; grey, beige, blue, chocolate, navy, and red
  • Five heat settings with a three-hour auto shut-off function, overheating protection
  • Machine washable
Homde Heated Electric Throw
Homde Heated Electric Throw 50 Inch x 60 Inch Flannel Washable Blanket with 3-Heat Setting Auto-Off Controller for Bed or Couch (Double-Side Blue)
  • Available in one size of 50×60″ and in blue or brown
  • Made from Sherpa and flannel that is machine washable and dryer safe
  • ETL Certified
  • Three heat levels, auto shut-off after four hours, and overheat protection
  • Suitable for indoor and outdoor use
  • Ten feet power cable
  • Two-year guarantee

Rechargeable/Battery Operated Electric Blankets

Unfortunately, the winter cannot be avoided entirely, and sometimes we just have to brave the cold and do what needs to be done. However, your winter camping trips got a whole lot better with some innovative thinking that created a portable heat source you can take along for the adventure.

Two of The Best Portable Electric Blankets On The Market

Sojoy iHealthComfort 2V Electric Heated Travel Blanket
Sojoy iHealthComfort 12V Electric Heated Travel Blanket with Intelligent High Medium Low Temp 30/45/60mins Auto-Off Timer Controller(60"x 40")
  • Available in one size of 60×40″
  • High, medium, and low-temperature settings with 30/45/60 min auto-shutoff functions
  • Thermostat for constant heat
  • 12V socket makes it great for road trips and camping
  • Quick heating
  • High-quality fleece
Eddie Bauer Portable Heated Electric Throw Blanket
Eddie Bauer | Portable Heated Electric Throw Blanket-Rechargeable Lithium Battery with USB Port-Water Resistant Weather Smart Fleece for Travel, Camping, and Outdoor Use, 40" x 50", Black/Black
  • Available in one size 40×50″ in black, green & black, khaki & black, and many more
  • Rechargeable lithium battery with built-in USB port
  • Three settings with two to four-hour heat
  • Water-resistant
  • Made from polyester and nylon, and is machine washable and dryer safe
  • Five heat settings

FAQ: Can I Use Both Under And Over Electric Blankets?

Suppose you are closer to a lizard than a human, and you think it might be a good idea to use an under-blanket and an over-blanket simultaneously. In that case, Columbia University strongly suggests that you reconsider.

Not only can this be a high fire risk, but you will have to be very careful to avoid heat exhaustion or burns if you are a heavy sleeper. So, pick one that works best for you and stick to only that option.

The Ask Alice segment on the University’s website also mentions that electric blanket manufacturers tend to caution consumers against using under electric blankets on waterbeds, sofas, bunk beds, or mechanical beds; it can be dangerous in combination with the materials used.

FAQ: How To Pick The Best Electric Blanket

In association with the National Sleep provided great tips on how to pick the best electric blanket that is safe, reliable, and most of all warm and comfortable.

  • Look at the fabric

The material won’t be much of an issue for under-blankets since you’ll cover the blanket with a fitted sheet anyway. For over-blankets, you’ll be more concerned with the texture and softness of the blanket to ensure maximum comfort.

Another thing you want to look out for is whether the material used is machine washable. Make sure the manufacturer has clear instructions on how you should wash the blanket to avoid any possible damage.

  • Scrutinize the features

If you are likely to wake up during the night sweating and on the verge of overheating, look for a blanket that comes with a timer; this way, you don’t have to wake up to switch the blanket off. 

Some fancy models have two sides with separate controls, where couples can easily select the best temperature to keep them comfortable during the night. Others have innovative features that can detect where the heat should be distributed.

Look for electric blankets that have undergone various safety checks and testing through third-party quality and safety institutions like the NSF International or ETL (Electrical Test Lab). 

FAQ: Possible Dangers Connected To Electric Blankets

Regardless of the reason behind your choice, whether the freedom of an under-blanket or the comforting weight of an over-blanket, there are possible dangers attached to using old or broken electric blankets.

If the wiring in electric blankets is damaged, there are high risks for electrocution, burns, and even fires. Always consult the manufacturing guidelines before you use any product that uses electricity. And remember, inferior products that don’t have safety guarantees can be dangerous.

Tips On Using An Electric Blanket Safely

Heating pads over a blue blanket.

As with all electrical components, we can never use too much caution. Medical News Today shared some valuable tips on keeping yourself and your loved ones safe and warm while using an electric blanket.

To get the best experience from your electric blanket, consult the guide below:

  • Never fold or bend electric blankets; instead, gently roll up the blanket without pressing down.
  • Never store anything on top of electric blankets; instead, keep it upright in a designated place.
  • Never drink liquids in bed when the blanket is switched on, but avoid taking liquids to bed or remove the cord from the socket.
  • Never sit or lie down on over-blankets, but only use it to cover your body without wrapping it around you.
  • Never buy second-hand electric blankets, but buy a new blanket that comes with safety approval.
  • Never keep an electric blanket for more than ten years, but replace them before the ten-year mark arrives.
  • Never use the under-blankets on a sofa or sleeper couch but use an over-blanket for lounging or mechanical beds.
  • Never use electric blankets that were stored without checking for any damage, and make a habit of routinely inspecting the blankets for damage.
  • Never leave the blanket on when you are not home but switch the blanket off every time you leave the bed.
  • Never use a wet or even slightly damp electric blanket; make sure the blanket is entirely dry before switching it on.
  • Never use an electric blanket if you have any medical conditions; consult with your doctor and use alternative heating methods (see below).

FAQ: Are Electric Blankets Bad For Your Health?

According to MedicineNet and Healthline, there are some risk factors associated with the use of electric blankets that individuals with specific conditions should look out for, especially pregnant women, people with diabetes, nerve disorders, or poor blood circulation.

Potential Health Issues Related to Electric Blankets

  • Infants and the elderly

A leaky diaper and electricity are not such a great combination. Also, an infant cannot get up and switch the blanket off when they are too hot; there is a high risk of heat exhaustion in this scenario. The same goes for sick and older people. You can use alternative measures like hot water bottles where the heat will not be constant.

  • Pregnant women

Healthline warns that pregnant women can be subjected to complications due to undesired environmental conditions; in addition, pregnant women should avoid other heating methods such as saunas and hot tubs.

  • People with diabetes, nerve disorders, or poor blood circulation

These conditions may cause insensitivity to heat; this means that when you have diabetes, nerve disorders, or poor blood circulation, you might not be aware that the blanket is too hot, resulting in burns or heat exhaustion.

Does Electric Blankets Cause Cancer?

Woman holding an electric blanket on her stomach.

On the highly controversial topic of modern inventions and their potential risk to cause cancer, you might wonder if an electric blanket has popped up during research or debate.

At the moment, research indicates no conclusive connection between cancer and the use of electric blankets. The article states that “electric blankets are a source for extremely low frequency electric and magnetic fields (ELF-EMFs).” Visit Healthline to learn more about EMFs.

FAQ: No Power Alternatives to Electric Blankets

Even though the old-timey heating pans didn’t stay warm for a long time, people could still use the crafty invention without electricity. Because electric blankets actually need electricity to produce heat, you are kind of left out in the cold when there is no power.

So, here are a few substitutions you can use when the power is out:

  • Hot water bottles or rechargeable heating pads

Of course, this can only work if you have a gas stove and kettle or a fire and a camping kettle. As an alternative to hot water bottles, you can consider rechargeable heating pads.

  • Portable warming blankets

Instead of only buying corded blankets, you can invest in a few portable wireless options, especially if your area experiences regular power outages during winter storms.

  • Layering with flannel, wool, or fleece

Flannel, wool, and fleece will do the best job of keeping the cold out. Whether you invest in a few pairs of flannel pajamas in different sizes or a couple of wool – or fleece blankets – these fabrics are considered the warmest.