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The Best Electric Blanket and Heated Mattress Pad

After 40 hours of research, including interviews with engineers and safety experts, we think most people will be happier with a heated mattress pad than an electric blanket. A pad is more efficient, since your body and bedding help to insulate the warmth. We recommend the Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad for its great cushioning and undetectable heating wires. The pad was the most cushioned we tried, and it’s one of the few pads with a breathable cotton top.

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Our pick
Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad
With 9 ounces of padding and an all-cotton top, this was the comfiest mattress pad we tested. It improved the feel of our mattress and got warm quickly.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $112.

Budget pick
Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad
This thinner polyester pad has only 5 ounces of padding but offers the same heating performance as the more expensive Premium Quilted.
If you’re willing to sacrifice some padding, the Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad has many of the same features as the Premium Quilted pad, but for about $50 less. Because it’s made of polyester, it doesn’t wick moisture (sweat) as effectively as our main pick. The 5 ounces of fill in this pad didn’t mask the heating wires all that well, but we still found it comfortable. And although the dial controls offer fewer settings, this pad has the same temperature range as the Premium Quilted.

Our pick
Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Blanket
This wasn’t the most comfortable blanket we tried, but it offers better controls, requires only a single outlet, and has a safety locking plug.
If you would rather get an electric blanket, we recommend the Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Blanket. Like our favorite mattress pad, it has the best digital controls we’ve seen, and it comes with Sunbeam’s safety locking plug to keep cords firmly attached. Made of a plush velour-like material, the Velvet Plush is softer than some of the other blankets we tested. Even though we felt the wires, they didn’t make us uncomfortable while sleeping. What swayed us most was that Sunbeam heated bedding overall had the fewest safety complaints among Amazon reviewers at the time we checked, and the Velvet Plush was the most comfortable of the Sunbeam electric blankets we tried.

Runner-up
Biddeford Comfort Knit Heated Blanket
This blanket has more flexible wires and softer fabric, but it requires two outlets for larger sizes and doesn’t have a safety lock for the cords.
If you can’t get the Sunbeam Velvet Plush, we also like the Biddeford Comfort Knit Heated Blanket, which has more flexible (and thus less noticeable) wires than the Sunbeam. This blanket was slightly more comfortable to use, but the dual controllers on the queen and king sizes are less ergonomic than Sunbeam’s and require two separate outlets. We also found slightly more safety complaints—such as reports of smoking wires or overheated controls (but not fires)—from Amazon customers about Biddeford blankets and pads. The number was very, very small (seven complaints out of 2,000 reviews), but it was still more than for heated bedding from Sunbeam.

Table of contents

Why you should trust us

To learn how heated bedding works, I spoke with Dick Zimmerer, a retired engineer and product manager who has worked for several heated-bedding manufacturers and now runs The Electric Blanket Institute, a website with heated-bedding information and reviews. (Disclosure: Zimmerer originated a patent for a component used in Perfect Fit’s Soft Heat heated bedding, which we tested for this guide.) I also spoke with representatives from Biddeford, ElectroWarmth, Perfect Fit, and Sunbeam to learn about the differences between the electric blankets and heated mattress pads currently available.

For information about heated-bedding safety and design, I interviewed John Drengenberg, consumer safety director at UL, the independent safety and certification company that develops standards for and safety-tests numerous electrical appliances, including electric blankets and heated mattress pads. For more data on electric-bedding safety, I emailed with representatives from the US Consumer Product Safety Commission and analyzed dozens of safety reports the agency had received about heated bedding over the past five years. I also spoke with Judy Comoletti, division manager for public education at the National Fire Protection Association, about guidelines for using heated bedding safely, and I read several of the NFPA’s reports on the causes of house fires. Finally, I scanned thousands of Amazon reviews for electric blankets and heated mattress pads, cataloguing those that related to safety concerns or fire hazards from operating the heated bedding we tested.

I’m the research editor for The Wirecutter and The Sweethome, assisting our writers and editors with product research and reporting for more than 100 guides to date. I’ve also written guides to white noise machines, learning toys, and air mattresses.

How to choose between a heated pad and a blanket

Our research and testing showed that in most cases you’re better off with a heated mattress pad rather than an electric blanket. Pads are better at masking the heating wires, and your body and the rest of your bedding insulate the warmth. They’re also easier to use safely, because they lie flat and won’t bunch or fold—as electric blankets can—which could cause overheating.

But blankets are better if you already use a specific mattress topper with your bed or don’t want to add extra padding to your mattress. If you want to use heated bedding only occasionally, it’s easier to swap an electric blanket on and off the bed than it is to change the mattress pad.

If you have an old electric blanket or mattress pad, you might want to replace it. Heated bedding made since the late 1980s gets less hot and has more built-in safety features, according to UL. You should probably replace your bedding if it isn’t UL or Intertek (ETL) certified, if it hasn’t been stored appropriately, or if it isn’t in good working order. (Heated bedding shouldn’t show signs of wear, fraying, damage, or discoloration on the cords, controllers, connections, or outer material.)

How we picked and tested

All heated bedding follows a similar design: A system of insulated wires is encased in a blanket or mattress pad, and a power cord with one or two controllers attaches to an external port on the bedding. The wires heat up, and a series of safety mechanisms and thermostats regulate the temperature. We found that by and large each bedding company has a single heating system it uses in all of its offerings. That means all blankets and pads from a given manufacturer will reach similar temperatures—what differs from model to model is the outer textile and the control style (dial versus digital, number of heat settings).

We considered only UL- or ETL-certified models. Regardless of the model or manufacturer, customer reviews on Amazon and other sites indicate that the heated bedding category has a high rate of defective products. Generally, the reports we saw weren’t safety complaints (though those kinds of complaints were present in very small numbers) but rather reports of bedding that didn’t turn on out of the box or stopped heating after a short period of use. The majority of heated-bedding manufacturers offer five-year warranties on their models; we eliminated from consideration any pad or blanket that had a shorter warranty.

All the electric blankets we found were made from polyester—likely because polyester is less prone than cotton or wool to stretch or shrink when laundered, which could warp the wires. We found mattress pads made from polyester, cotton/polyester, and 100 percent cotton. As we note in our guide to the best sheets, cotton does a good job of wicking sweat and moisture away from the body, which makes the bedding feel more breathable. This effect is important for heated bedding, which may be more likely to cause you to sweat slightly from the warmth (though you should never keep your bedding so hot that it makes you sweat profusely). Polyester tends not to absorb moisture as well as cotton, so it may make you feel more sweaty.

We looked only at electric blankets meant for use on a bed. These blankets are designed to be used while lying flat, not wrapped around your body or bunched up (because too much heat can build up and ultimately cause safety issues). You should not use any of these blankets while lounging on the couch—for that purpose, many manufacturers sell smaller heated throws meant to go across your lap.

We eliminated mattress pads that had no internal padding (“fill”), because this feature is necessary to mask the feel of the wires.

Since we couldn’t dig up many comparative reviews of electric blankets or heated mattress pads, we made a list of every electric blanket and heated mattress pad we could find on the sites of Amazon, Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, and other retailers, ending up with 21 models from nine companies. We then focused on the most popular models with the highest customer reviews on Amazon and other retailer sites. Since many people opt for heated bedding to save on energy costs, we eliminated models that were extremely expensive (over $150 for a queen-size blanket or pad).

This process led us to three mattress pads and five electric blankets that we decided to test:

Heated mattress pads

Electric blankets

We tested each item on a queen-size bed with two sleepers for at least a single night, and in some cases over multiple nights. We used cotton sateen sheets and a midweight comforter. The bedroom temperature remained between 66 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit during testing.

For each blanket and mattress pad, we assessed the following:

  • How noticeable were the wires?
  • Did the bedding reach maximum temperature within approximately 20 minutes?
  • How comfortable was the bedding material?
  • Were the controls easy to see and adjust in the dark?

We didn’t measure the exact temperatures each blanket or pad reached, because the temperature would be affected by ambient room temperature (which we couldn’t control), how insulated the bedding was, and other factors. Instead, we subjectively assessed whether each blanket and pad achieved a toasty, sheets-fresh-out-of-the-dryer feel at the highest setting.

Finally, we laundered the winners according to their care instructions to confirm that they didn’t shed excessively, stretch, or shrink when washed.

Our pick: The best mattress pad

The Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad was the most cushioned mattress pad we tried and one of the only pads we found with a 100 percent cotton top.

The Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad was the most cushioned mattress pad we tried and one of the only pads we found with a 100 percent cotton top.

Our pick
Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad
With 9 ounces of padding and an all-cotton top, this was the comfiest mattress pad we tested. It improved the feel of our mattress and got warm quickly.

*At the time of publishing, the price was $112.

The Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad was the cushiest mattress pad we tested, with virtually undetectable heating wires. Its digital controls offer more temperature settings along with a useful preheat function, and it conveniently needs only one outlet even for queen and king pads with two controllers. It’s one of the only models we found with a moisture-wicking all-cotton top, and we think its quilting will help keep the fill from shifting (better than in other pads, at least). The Premium Quilted also has an extra safety feature we didn’t see on other pads that keeps the connector port securely attached at all times. And overall, we’ve found that Sunbeam heated bedding has fewer customer complaints about safety issues.

Ironically, of the three heated-bedding manufacturers whose items we tested, Sunbeam actually uses the thickest, stiffest wires (they’re about as thick as the cord of a USB charging cable). But the Premium Quilted’s 9 ounces of padding—the most of any mattress pad we found—made the internal heating wires virtually undetectable, and the soft, quilted top improved the feel of the mattress. The pad we tested from Perfect Fit also masked the wires well, but we encountered more customer complaints about safety issues with heated bedding from that brand. The Sunbeam Premium Quilted pad was also cushier than the Perfect Fit pad.

Nine ounces of padding helps mask the heating wires in the Premium Quilted pad. We didn’t feel the wires underneath.

Nine ounces of padding helps mask the heating wires in the Premium Quilted pad. We didn’t feel the wires underneath.

Among the pads we tried, the Premium Quilted’s digital controls had the most temperature settings, with 20 options. You probably don’t need that level of granularity—we doubt you’ll notice a real difference between heat settings “7” and “8,” for example. (None of the bedding items we tested allowed programming of exact temperatures; they offered only numerical settings.) The Premium Quilted was also the only mattress pad we tested that had a dedicated “preheat” option: After you choose your desired setting, the controller will kick up to the highest setting to warm the bed quickly and then drop back down to maintain the temperature you want. You can achieve the same effect by setting the controller to high and then manually adjusting later, but the preheat setting saves a step.

The queen- and king-size pads come with two controllers, so couples can control the heat on their respective sides of the pad.

The queen- and king-size pads come with two controllers, so couples can control the heat on their respective sides of the pad.

We also liked that the digital controls produced a soft, green backlit glow—controllers on other models had brighter lights. Though they were low-lit, an extremely nearsighted tester had no issues reading the numbers in the dark without his glasses. We also found the controls smaller and more ergonomic than those on other models, fitting easily in the palm.

All queen, king, and California-king mattress pads and blankets from the brands we tested have two controllers, allowing you to regulate each half of the pad separately. But Sunbeam’s design uses a single outlet for both controllers—Biddeford and Perfect Fit’s mattress pads and electric blankets both require two separate wall outlets for their dual-controller models.

electricblankets-lowres-7144The Premium Quilted was one of the few pads we found made of cotton (the rest were all polyester). We didn’t feel a significant difference in breathability between this pad and the polyester ones we tried, but this pad’s material could be a more important factor for someone who tends to sweat a lot at night. Its all-cotton topper is quilted vertically and horizontally in 6½-by-6½-inch squares, a design that will prevent the fill from shifting, better than vertical-only seams would. The Premium Quilted pad was one of the only models we found with this type of quilting.

We like the locking mechanism on the plug that fastens into the blanket’s port. It helped keep the plug from dislodging from the blanket (an issue with some other pads).

We like the locking mechanism on the plug that fastens into the blanket’s port. It helped keep the plug from dislodging from the blanket (an issue with some other pads).

Sunbeam’s heated bedding also includes a feature we didn’t see on the other manufacturers’ products: The plug that attaches the controllers and power supply to the bedding has a firm locking mechanism that hooks onto each side of the connection port. While plugging or unplugging the controllers takes a little more effort as a result, this design ensures that they won’t come loose or disconnect. This feature is useful both from a functional perspective (you won’t accidentally disconnect the plug and turn off your bedding’s heat if you kick it while sleeping) and as an extra safety feature (a loose connection port could cause overheating or sparking).

As we noted above, all the pads and blankets we considered and tested are UL- or ETL-certified models, meaning they are fully tested for fire hazards, overheating, and other safety concerns, and should perform safely when new. That said, we have seen fewer complaints for Sunbeam bedding overall. When we read through all the one-star reviews for 10 different Sunbeam heated-bedding products (out of a total of more than 8,000 reviews), we found only two that cited any sort of issue related to safety. This was the lowest number of safety complaints among the brands we considered for testing.

The Premium Quilted mattress pad warmed up about the same as the other pads. After 10 minutes at the highest setting, it made the bed comfortably warm; within 20 minutes it had reached its maximum temperature, which was toasty but not sweltering. The pad was responsive when we adjusted the temperature to a lower setting, and it cooled down quickly after we shut it off.

Sunbeam also makes a waterproof heated mattress pad that is very similar to the Premium Quilted, with an all-cotton top and digital controls, but a bit less padding. All heated bedding nowadays has insulated wires and electronics that are protected from getting wet; the waterproofing on this Sunbeam pad is intended to prevent a large amount of liquid from reaching your mattress. So if you also need a pad for protecting your mattress from spills, this model might be a better option than the Premium Quilted.

Flaws but not dealbreakers

All the heated bedding products we considered had a sizable number of negative Amazon reviews—about 10 to 15 percent of all reviews—citing defective products. At the time we checked, the Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad had the highest Amazon customer rating of the pads we tried (4.4 stars out of five overall, across 253 reviews) but also had its share of negative reviews. These complaints included reports of mattress pads that didn’t work out of the box, stopped heating on one side after a few uses, or stopped working within the warranty period (as noted above, Sunbeam’s products had virtually no complaints regarding failures that caused safety concerns).

After washing and drying the Premium Quilted pad, I noticed that a segment of the seam attaching the mattress pad top to the elastic skirting had unraveled. But this damage may have been caused by the lint trap in my dryer ripping the pad. I also dried the pad for longer than the washing instructions specify.

Like all the manufacturers of the heated bedding we tested, Sunbeam offers a five-year warranty. I called the warranty line about the ripped seam. After a few frustrating sessions of being told “We are experiencing unusually high call volume” followed by a hang-up, I got through. A rep told me Sunbeam would send me a shipping label to mail the mattress pad to a service center, and the company would either repair or replace the pad within two to three weeks at no cost. I also used Sunbeam’s online warranty form, but the company took five days to respond.

Some reviewers also complain that their feet brush against the port at the base of the mattress pad, where the controllers attach. The top of the port is about 6 inches from the lower edge of the mattress, so your feet would come in contact with it only if they reach almost to the end of your bed.

A good budget mattress pad

The Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad isn’t as cushioned as our main pick (so you might feel the heating wires), but it will keep your bed warm, and it’s roughly $50 cheaper.

The Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad isn’t as cushioned as our main pick (so you might feel the heating wires), but it will keep your bed warm, and it’s roughly $50 cheaper.

Budget pick
Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad
This thinner polyester pad has only 5 ounces of padding but offers the same heating performance as the more expensive Premium Quilted.

If you don’t mind sacrificing some cushioning, an all-cotton top, and digital controls, the Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad offers the same benefits as our top pick but costs about $50 less. It’s a good option if you think you’ll use a heated pad only during the coldest weeks of winter and you don’t mind possibly feeling the wires within.

Containing only 5 ounces of fill, Sunbeam’s Quilted pad has less padding than our top pick but offers the most of any of the under-$100 models we looked at. In our tests this pad was comfortable overall, but we could feel the wires when we ran our hands over the top, and the wires were slightly noticeable when our testers were lying on the pad, especially when sleeping on their sides (though the wires weren’t jab-in-the-rib uncomfortable). Thicker flannel sheets helped mask the feel of the wires better than thinner sateen sheets did.

This pad has only vertical quilting, in contrast to the square quilting on our main pick.

This pad has only vertical quilting, in contrast to the square quilting on our main pick.

Sunbeam’s Quilted pad has vertical quilting seams spaced 7 inches apart, a design that doesn’t contain the padding as much as in the Premium Quilted. This pad also doesn’t offer cushioning beyond concealing the wires, so it won’t make your bed feel much softer than it already does. In addition, it’s made of polyester, so it won’t wick moisture like the cotton top on the Premium Quilted.

The Quilted Heated Mattress Pad did heat as quickly as our top pick, reaching its maximum temperature within 20 minutes. Like the Premium Quilted pad, it requires a single outlet, features the same locking mechanism on the connection port for added security, and carries a five-year warranty. The queen- and king-size pads come with dual-sided controls. The simple dial-based controls offer just 10 temperature settings, so you sacrifice some precision, but we doubt this is a big deal for most people. This pad doesn’t have a preheat function, so if you want to warm your bed you’ll need to set the pad to high before getting in and then turn down the temperature later.

Our pick: A good electric blanket

Sunbeam’s Velvet Plush is a pretty comfortable blanket—although you can feel the wires through the fabric.

Sunbeam’s Velvet Plush is a pretty comfortable blanket—although you can feel the wires in the fabric.

Our pick
Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Blanket
This wasn’t the most comfortable blanket we tried, but it offers better controls, requires only a single outlet, and has a safety locking plug.

All of the electric blankets we tried had varying issues ranging from unpleasant fabric to particularly noticeable wires. In our test group, the Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Blanket was the best, as its overall combination of softness, performance, controls, and safety features helped it edge out the competition.

Made of 100 percent polyester, the Velvet Plush has a very soft, brushed texture that feels like a thick velour. Of the Sunbeam blankets we tested, it had by far the most pleasant texture, with a velvety-soft feel. (We found the texture of our runner-up from Biddeford more pleasing against the skin, but we also encountered slightly more customer reviews mentioning a safety concern with that company’s heated bedding.) On its own, the Velvet Plush is a midweight blanket, and it didn’t feel heavy or stiff on top of our testers.

electricblankets-lowres-7193

The Velvet Plush blanket has the same type of controllers as our favorite mattress pad. The queen and king sizes come with two so that couples can adjust the heat on their respective sides of the blanket.

In our tests the Velvet Plush got hot and toasty within 20 minutes, similar to the other blankets we tried. It has the same digital controller style as Sunbeam’s Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad, with 20 heat settings, more than most of the other tested blankets provide. Sunbeam is also the only brand that offers a preheat function, and the Velvet Plush has that setting (the blanket rapidly warms to the highest setting and then drops to your desired level).

Like all Sunbeam heated bedding items, this blanket requires a single outlet even for the dual-controller versions. Tested blankets from other manufacturers required two separate outlets. It also has the safety latched plug for the port at the base of the blanket (another feature exclusive to Sunbeam bedding).

What ultimately helped the Sunbeam Velvet Plush edge out blankets from other manufacturers was the overall lack of any customer reviews citing safety issues with a Sunbeam heated bedding product. As noted above, we read all the one-star reviews out of a total of more than 8,000 reviews of Sunbeam heated bedding products (including this blanket), and only two mentioned an issue that could be construed as a safety problem. (One review says that after the owner ran their Sunbeam blanket on high for 10 hours, the heating wires melted to the outer blanket material. The second review we found says that a child woke up with a small, blistered burn after sleeping under the blanket.) All the bedding we considered and tested is UL- or ETL-certified and thoroughly tested for safety, but we gave extra weight to the fact that Sunbeam bedding items have so few safety-related negative reviews on Amazon.

You can feel the wires in this blanket—but we could feel the wires in all the blankets among our top contenders, and the Velvet Plush’s wires were relatively less noticeable than those of some other models. Once the Velvet Plush was on the bed, sandwiched between a comforter and top sheet, the wires were much less bothersome but still noticeable (particularly around our toes). Even so, we still slept comfortably. Since the blanket lies on top of you instead of under you, the wires don’t have the potential to create pressure points or dig into your body.

The blanket’s soft, velvety texture was somewhat slippery, and it shifted a bit when we paired it with sateen sheets. This was not an issue when we used flannel sheets, which gripped the blanket better, and it would likely be less of a problem with percale sheets.

We think the wires in this blanket might shift more over time than those in other blankets (like the Biddeford we tried). The channels sewn into the Sunbeam design are wider, which can allow the wires to shift from side to side, possibly leading to hot and cold spots.

Besides that, the Velvet Plush has the same flaws as all Sunbeam blankets, and all electric blankets in general, as we saw a sizable number of owner complaints citing products that didn’t work out of the box, stopped working a short time after purchase, or heated only on one side.

A softer blanket that needs two outlets

Biddeford’s Comfort Knit blanket is actually a little more comfortable and padded than our top pick, but we didn’t like the controls as much.

Biddeford’s Comfort Knit blanket is actually a little more comfortable and padded than our top pick, but we didn’t like the controls as much.

Runner-up
Biddeford Comfort Knit Heated Blanket
This blanket has more flexible wires and softer fabric, but it requires two outlets for larger sizes and doesn’t have a safety lock for the cords.

In many ways we preferred the feel of the Biddeford Comfort Knit Heated Blanket. Next to Sunbeam’s offerings, though, Biddeford’s controls were more awkward, and at the time we checked, this company’s heated bedding had a few more customer reviews mentioning a safety concern.

Biddeford’s dual-controller blankets (queen size and larger) require two separate outlets and plug into two ports at the bottom of the blanket. This design makes for a lot of cords in the bed area. Also, we found the ports at the base of the blanket easier to loosen or disconnect accidentally since they don’t have an extra locking mechanism like the Sunbeam connector.

For the queen- and king-size versions of the Biddeford blanket, which come with two controllers, you’ll have to plug the controllers into separate outlets. We found this design annoying compared with blankets that have only one plug and need just one outlet.

For the queen- and king-size versions of the Biddeford blanket, which come with two controllers, you’ll have to plug the controllers into separate outlets. We found this design annoying compared with blankets that have only one plug and need just one outlet.

Biddeford products are all UL-certified, and they should meet all safety requirements when new and in good working condition. But we did find relatively more Amazon reviews citing safety failures with Biddeford blankets and mattress pads, namely incidents involving smoking or overheated controls (but no fires). The total number we found was quite small—only seven out of some 2,000 total reviews—but it was more than Sunbeam’s. Given that people tend to have fire safety concerns about electric bedding, we think most shoppers will value the lower complaints number for Sunbeam’s bedding.

The vertical channels in the Biddeford blanket help keep all the wires securely in place, so you don’t end up with the bag-full-of-wires effect.

The vertical channels in the Biddeford blanket help keep all the wires securely in place, so you don’t end up with the bag-full-of-wires effect.

Overall, the Biddeford Comfort Knit is more comfortable than the Sunbeam Velvet Plush. It’s made from a soft, slightly stretchy polyester fleece that felt nicer against our skin and gripped our sateen sheets. The wires were less noticeable and held in place with more channeling seams. We didn’t notice any significant difference between the Sunbeam and Biddeford blankets in how quickly they warmed up, how warm they got, or how well they maintained the temperature.

Like Sunbeam, Biddeford offers a five-year warranty on its heated bedding items. We found a similar amount of general complaints citing dead-on-arrival products and blankets that stopped working after a short period of time.

Safety of electrical bedding

The combination of electricity and bedding naturally makes some people nervous. But engineering and fire safety experts told us that today’s heated bedding is very safe when certified by an independent testing lab (UL or ETL), kept in good working condition, and used correctly.

Heated bedding is “way down there” on the list of common causes of household fires, said John Drengenberg, the consumer safety director at UL. According to 2011 estimates (PDF) from the National Fire Protection Association, which compiles data from fire departments around the US, electric blankets caused 2 percent of fires originating in bed from 2005 through 2009 (a total estimate of 250 fires per year).

The US Consumer Product Safety Commission, which collects statistics from hospitals, told us the number of injuries and deaths each year attributed to heated bedding was too low to use to estimate national prevalence. The CPSC hasn’t recalled a heated bedding product since 2007, and that recall involved a heated throw (lap blanket) made by a company no longer in business. Two of the three manufacturers whose items we tested had bedding recalled, just one time each, in the past two decades: Biddeford in 2001 and Perfect Fit in 2003.

“The most important thing is that the blanket or pad is listed by an independent testing laboratory, such as UL,” Judy Comoletti of the NFPA told us. UL has developed safety standards for heated bedding, and both UL and ETL test products to ensure they meet them. John Drengenberg told me that UL-certified heated bedding goes through a battery of tests to verify, among other things, that the inner heating wires don’t sustain damage during normal wear and tear (a special machine simulates “elbows and knees”), that the electrical components remain sealed from water during washing, that the outer material doesn’t burn too quickly in case of fire, and that the bedding doesn’t get too hot. Drengenberg told me that advances in the construction of heating wires and thermostats, which now require fewer connections (and thus have fewer failure points), have also led to safer products.

You do still need to take some precautions when using heated bedding. Our experts gave some general guidelines that you can follow to prevent damage to the textile casing, wires, cords, and ports in your bedding:

  • Keep pets off the bed when you’re using heated bedding (they could scratch or chew the bedding and damage the wires).
  • Don’t fold, bunch up, or pinch your heated bedding while you’re using it. That could cause excessive heat to build up, damaging the wires or even causing a fire if other safety mechanisms fail.
  • Don’t wrap electric blankets around your body or use extremely heavy blankets or comforters on top of the heated bedding. Doing so can cause excessive heat buildup.
  • Don’t use a heated mattress pad and electric blanket simultaneously, which can also produce too much heat.
  • Don’t use extension cords with heated bedding.
  • Don’t run electrical bedding when you’re aren’t nearby.
  • If the heated bedding gives off a strange smell, don’t turn it on.
  • If the bedding doesn’t perform as it should, stop using it immediately.
  • Never use heated bedding in a bed with infants, young children, people with reduced sensitivity to heat (since they may not be able to feel if they or the blanket are overheating), or anyone who wouldn’t be able to remove the bedding, switch it off, and leave the area immediately in case of a problem.
  • If the bedding gets wet, shut it off immediately. UL-certified heated bedding has insulation to protect the wires and electronics from damage or danger from liquid. Wash and dry the bedding if necessary, and make sure it’s fully dry before using it again.

Heated bedding and energy use

Many people use heated bedding during the winter months to save on heating costs (by heating the bed instead of the room or the entire home). As reported by The Washington Post, the US Department of Energy says you can save up to 1 percent of your bill for every degree you set your thermostat back for at least eight hours. For example, lowering your thermostat from 68 to 58 overnight during the winter could reduce your heating bill by 10 percent. Exactly how much you save depends on how you heat your home and your actual heating costs (check your 2015–2016 bills). Calculating based on national estimates of heating expenditures from the US Energy Information Administration, those savings could range from $63 (natural gas) to $148 (propane) for this winter.

To find out how much electricity heated bedding consumes, we measured the power draw from each of our four picks using a Kill A Watt meter. We ran each pad or blanket on its medium setting on an empty bed, with flannel sheets and a midweight down comforter, for four hours. We doubled the result to estimate how many kilowatt-hours the blankets and pads use over an eight-hour night, and then multiplied it by the average US electricity rate. (To find your actual rate, check your utility bill, or the EIA’s statewide averages.)

Brand and model

Heat level

Est. kilowatt-hours used over 8 hours

Est. nightly cost ($0.13 per kWh)

Total cost for 16 weeks of winter

Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad 10 (of 20) 0.35 $0.05 $5.10
Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad 5 (of 10) 0.36 $0.05 $5.24
Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Blanket 10 (of 20) 0.41 $0.05 $5.97
Biddeford Comfort Knit Heated Blanket 5 (of 10) 0.22 $0.03 $3.20

Our tests showed that our picks consumed just 3¢ to 5¢ worth of electricity per night, and might use around $3.20 to $6 total if run every night for 16 weeks between November and March. Your results will vary based on your bedding’s settings, the insulation of your bedding, and your own body temperature, but overall our picks consume fairly little electricity.

Care and maintenance

Electric blankets and heated mattress pads can tolerate machine washing and drying, but they require special handling. These aren’t “throw in the weekly wash” items. Don’t launder your heated bedding more than absolutely necessary.

Regardless of the model, disconnect all the controllers and cords from the port before laundering. You should wash and dry only one item at a time. Never dry clean, iron, or use bleach on heated bedding.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for washing and drying; in general, they’ll tell you to wash the bedding on a short, cold cycle and machine dry for only five to 10 minutes on low, and to hang dry to finish. Long or too hot drying cycles could damage the wiring; in particular, manufacturers don’t recommend using commercial dryers, which are often hotter than residential dryers.

When storing heated bedding, disconnect and carefully wrap the controller cords. You should roll or gently fold the bedding to avoid pressing, bending, or warping the wires. For this reason, you shouldn’t store heated bedding in compression bags, vacuum-seal it, or keep it underneath heavy items.

The competition

Heated mattress pads

Perfect Fit Soft Heat Micro-Plush Heated Mattress Pad: We wanted to love this pad. Perfect Fit’s Soft Heat line of bedding uses wires so fine, they are basically undetectable, and in our tests the slightly textured topper was comfy though not cushy. Soft Heat bedding uses low-voltage DC power instead of AC power, which the company says makes the bedding safer. According to UL’s John Drengenberg, that low voltage (18 volts) means you can’t get shocked (a very small risk with heated bedding in general), but it doesn’t on its own eliminate fire risk. Each controller, however, has a 4½-by-2-by-1½-inch box that converts the power supply from AC to DC—on queen-size pads and up, this means two boxes and two separate outlets.

The real concern for us was a series of Soft Heat blanket and mattress pad Amazon reviews claiming that the connector ports—where the controllers attach to the bedding—overheated, scorched, browned, or melted. In at least one case, a reviewer says they got minor burns on their skin from coming in contact with the overheated port. We found 60 reviews (out of more than 7,000 total reviews for Soft Heat bedding) that cited these kinds of problems. That’s less than 1 percent overall, but the consistency of the reports raised concerns for us, indicating the possibility of a quality-control issue or design flaw. John Roth, Perfect Fit’s CEO, told us the browning, melting, and overheating were likely caused by a poor connection due to broken or pulled wiring, or a pinched or folded connector. He said this damage could create increased resistance and overheating, leading to scorching, but would never cause a fire.

Sunbeam Waterproof Heated Mattress Pad: This pad is similar to our top pick but has only 6 ounces of fill and features waterproofing meant to protect your mattress from spills or other accidents. (As we note in the safety section above, all heated bedding has insulation that protects the wires and electronics from moisture—the waterproofing in this pad prevents liquid from reaching your mattress.) We didn’t test the Waterproof Heated Mattress Pad for this guide, but Wirecutter writer Mark Smirniotis has been using it and finds it comfortable. Of the 6 ounces of fill, he said: “It isn’t luxurious, but it’s definitely fine. I thought I felt the wires when I first slid into bed, but didn’t really notice once I got comfortable.” Some people opt for this pad because they have pets that sleep on their beds, an arrangement that safety experts don’t recommend because claws and scratching could damage the wires.

Sunbeam Therapeutic Heated Mattress Pad: This all-cotton pad has wireless controls and three customizable “heat zones” per side, letting you select different heat levels for your head and shoulders, your back, and your legs. We decided not to test it because we don’t think that customization is a feature most people need; this model also has less padding than our main pick, and it comes with only a three-year warranty.

Biddeford Electric Heated Mattress Pad: This was the cheapest heated mattress pad we came across, but we didn’t test it because it has no internal padding.

Biddeford Quilted Skirt Electric Heated Mattress Pad: This polyester pad has 5 ounces of padding, the same amount as our budget pick. But it had lower customer review scores than our budget pick at the time we checked, and it requires two separate outlets, so we didn’t test it.

Eight Sleep Tracker: A new, “smart” heated mattress pad, the smartphone-controlled Eight Sleep Tracker not only warms your bed but also logs data about how you sleep, lets you set wake-up alarms, and more. It’s the only heated mattress pad we found that lets you program it to heat up at a set time each night. But at $350 for a queen, it’s definitely not for most people, and the sleep tracking and other features take it way outside the scope of a heated mattress pad. It has only a one-year warranty, too.

Electric blankets

Perfect Fit Soft Heat Micro-Fleece Electric Blanket: We liked this blanket overall, as its fine wires were undetectable, and the soft, fuzzy outer material made it the most comfortable blanket in our tests. The slightly textured topper was comfy though not cushy. But we eliminated it for the same reasons as we did the Soft Heat Micro-Plush Heated Mattress Pad, cited above.

Sunbeam LoftTec Heated Blanket: This is Sunbeam’s thickest electric blanket, so we thought it might perform the best at concealing the heating wires. But the material was so heavy, it tented easily when we used it between the sheets, and the shaggy texture reminded us of Muppet fur.

Sunbeam Quilted Fleece Heated Blanket: The outer material of this blanket reminded us of the thin, scratchy blankets you get on airplanes. The cheap-feeling, flimsy material did nothing to mask the inner wires, so lying under it felt like sleeping under a pile of cords.

Shavel Home Products Thermee Electric Blanket: We skipped this blanket because it had few customer reviews and was significantly more expensive than the competition.

BioSmart Low-Voltage Infrared Electric Heated Blanket: BioSmart Solutions claims that its blanket uses low-voltage DC power and produces “infrared heat” that “warms the body from the inside out” and allows the body to “re-generate and repair itself.” We didn’t test this blanket, because in addition to the pseudo-scientific claims, at nearly $300 for a queen, it’s extremely expensive.

(Photos by Michael Hession.)

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Sources

  1. Ben Evarts, Home Structure Fires That Began With Mattresses and Bedding (PDF), National Fire Protection Association, October 2011
  2. Ann Matturro Gault, Electric Blankets Are Cozy, But Are They Safe?, SafeBee from UL, January 27, 2015
  3. UL 964 Standard for Electrically Heated Bedding, UL, August 2011
  4. Steven T. Corneliussen, Electromagnetic fields generate a quarter-century of health worries, Physics Today, July 11, 2014
  5. Paul Brodeur, The Hazards of Electromagnetic Fields III--Video-Display Terminals, The New Yorker, June 26, 1989
  6. Chris Mooney, Americans could save a fortune this winter--if they only understood their thermostats, The Washington Post, November 21, 2014
  7. US Energy Information Administration, Electric Power Monthly, October 2016
  8. US Energy Information Administration, Winter heating bills likely to increase, but still remain below recent winters, October 13, 2016

Originally published: January 10, 2017

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