Get Cozy With Electric Blankets, But Stay Safe

It's hard to fall asleep in an uncomfortably cold bedroom, but it's tempting to turn the thermostat down at night to save on utility bills. Homeowners who seek the best of both worlds can use electric blankets to enjoy a cozy bedtime routine while conserving energy and reducing expenses.

But like any appliance or device that generates heat, electric blankets pose some risks when they're damaged or misused. If you start using them in your own bed, it's important to observe safety practices and use these blankets in a deliberate way.

All Night Long?

One of the most common questions about electric blankets is whether it's safe to leave them on overnight. While a modern, well-maintained electric blanket is unlikely to cause problems with proper use, overnight use is not recommended.

Instead, it's helpful to use electric blankets to warm up your bed before you get in, and to turn them off before you fall asleep. The most sophisticated models have timers that give you the luxury of falling asleep in a bed that's still warming up, but those with manual switches can usually provide enough warmth to keep you comfortable even if you deactivate them before drifting off.

When you use an electric blanket in this way, consider heating the sheet-covered mattress with the blankets pulled down. After several minutes, pull up the covers and lay down the electric blanket as the top layer. The blankets will trap the heat in the mattress so that the entire bed will feel warm when you get in. Even after you turn the heat off, you may feel the warmth for up to an hour, giving you plenty of time to fall asleep.

Inspect Before Use

Most electric blankets feature a similar design -- a long, heat-producing wire is stitched throughout the innermost layer. Because these wires must be thin to keep the blanket soft and flexible, they are fairly susceptible to damage. So the first step to electric blanket maintenance is to handle them with care.

Even if you've been gentle, it's important to inspect your blanket carefully before plugging it in. Look for tears, exposed wires or scorch marks, and discard the blanket if you see any signs of damage. It's usually not worth the risk of using an electric blanket that has been patched up.

When storing one of these blankets, don't fold it, because the creases may cause the wires to break. Instead, loosely roll it.

You should also check the documentation that comes with any new electric blanket to verify its expected lifespan. These are only guidelines and some blankets may provide safe service for years beyond this estimate, but it's a good idea to replace electric blankets at recommended intervals to minimize the risk of fire or electrical shock.

Used properly, electric blankets can be among the most effective tools in your winter HVAC efficiency strategy. If you're looking for other ways to keep your home heating bills low, contact your local HVAC technicians to inquire about inspections, tune-ups, home energy audits and more.

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