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February 05, 2018
If you are of a certain age, you may remember being handed an electric blanket on a cold winter night as a way to fend off chilly drafts in your bedroom. Maybe you loved the idea of plugging in your blanket to get toasty warm. Or, maybe the thought of having electricity and heating coils on your bed terrified you. But one thing’s for sure: Electric blankets seem to have fallen off the bedroom decor radar since their heyday in the 1970s and 80s.
But guess what? You can still find electric blankets, and they’re typically safer and more comfortable than the ones you remember from your childhood. Here’s what you should know before plugging one in on your own bed.
The first electric blanket was invented in 1912 by an American inventor named Samuel Irwin Russell, but it was used under the bed instead of on top. The first electric blanket that you could actually snuggle under wasn’t available until the 1930s, and they didn’t really take off until after World War II, when Americans had money for extras like blankets you plug into a wall. At its heart, an electric blanket is actually a bit more like a quilt, and two layers of fabric sandwich a length of cable that’s coiled inside. Low-voltage electricity runs through the cable to provide the heat, and over the years electric blankets underwent many improvements, including the addition of thermostats and automatic shutoff sensors to prevent overheating.
You may have heard a horror story or two about electric blankets shorting out and causing fires. While this is a possibility, following the directions for proper use cuts down on the risk. To reduce the odds of your blanket overheating, make sure it’s spread flat and that the cords aren’t pinched between your mattress and foundation. You should also make sure that electric blankets are only used by healthy adults. Diabetics should avoid them as a general lack of nerve sensitivity can lead to serious burns. You should also check your blankets regularly for tears or scorch marks, which indicate that it’s past its prime and should be discarded.
Believe it or not, electric blankets are making a comeback. These days they’re available in scores of designer colors and ultra plush microfiber that make them unbeatable for comfort. They can also be a surprisingly eco-friendly way to stay warm at night. Newer, low-voltage models don’t use much electricity, and you can really save if you turn down your home’s heat at night and let the blanket do the heavy lifting. After all, this supplies heat exactly where you want it, without wasting it on all the other rooms in your house. If you combine an electric blanket with a programmable thermostat, you could potentially see some big savings on your utility bills.
At the end of the day, it’s a personal choice as to whether you think an electric blanket is a hot new commodity or something that’s best left in the past. For a great night’s sleep, most experts recommend that your bedroom be on the cool side, typically between 60 and 67 degrees. To keep from feeling overheated under your electric blanket, you may want to use it more like a bed-warmer instead: Try turning it before you get in, but turn it off for sleeping. Sweet dreams!