Electric blankets

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Can a cheap one do the trick?

Don’t put your life in the hands of an old electric blanket.

From our test

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Choosing a blanket

We found minimal difference in heating performance between the most expensive and cheapest blankets. So the question is why anyone would spend more than $100 on an electric blanket? The answer is extra features. Models costing upwards of $200 generally offer all-night and timer settings, which automatically switch off the blanket after a set period (from 1 to 12 hours depending on the model), and they often feature a wool fleece cover. We recommend against leaving an electric blanket on all night, but if you do ensure you use the timer and an all-night setting.

Many high-end blankets also offer warm-foot zones to keep your feet extra toasty. We recommend checking whether the zone is able to be switched off or is independently adjustable, especially if you’d like your feet to be cooler than the rest of you.

Antibacterial refers to the fact that this blanket’s polyester is treated with an anti-bacterial coating, which claims to provide a more hygienic blanket by limiting the growth of bacteria and mould. We haven’t tested these claims.

But if you don’t want all these bells and whistles, then there’s no reason to shell out more than $100 for an electric blanket. Our cheaper models are also great options for replacing an aging blanket in guest rooms.

Our new test

We measure how long each blanket takes to reach a 40°C, then record the final temperature each blanket reaches, which ranged from 41°C to 58°C. Our ease-of-use assessment looks at the ease of using controls, how easy the blankets are to clean, and the ease of fitting them on the bed.

Our safety assessment uses a custom rig to simulate 5000 cycles of the blanket’s cord flexing under a 1kg weight. Then we look for any damage to the cord or controller, before checking their internal electrical safety. We also conduct an anchorage test, which involves yanking the cord 25 times with a force equivalent to 10kg, and applying a rotational force for one minute. We then check again for any internal or external damage.

Safe use

According to a Fire Service spokesperson, electric blankets caused 11 fires between July 2015 and June 2016. They said the most common cause was electrical failure or malfunction, which emphasises the importance of getting a blanket checked by a qualified electrician if you have any doubts over its safety, or if it’s more than five years old. We think any blanket older than five years should be tested or replaced.

Before fitting the blanket:

  • Check your blanket for damage, especially wear to the power cord around the controller.
  • Replace your blanket if it’s got kinks or had anything spilt on it.
  • Run your hand over the blanket after it’s warmed up. If there are any areas that are noticeably hotter than others, replace the blanket.
  • Have it tested by a qualified electrician if you’re doubtful about its safety. Each night before turning in:
  • Make sure it’s turned off before you get into bed. If you really need to leave it on, use an “all-night” setting.
  • Don’t place heavy objects or piles of clothing on the bed while the blanket’s on.
  • Make sure the cord isn’t twisted and the controller isn’t wedged between the mattress and base.
  • Make sure the blanket is tightly secured and laid flat on the bed.

When spring arrives:

  • Store the blanket rolled up, not folded.

Pregnant women, babies or young children should not use electric blankets due to their higher levels of heat sensitivity.

Sunbeam recall

In 2012, six Sunbeam models were recalled after their controllers were found to be unreliable and a fire hazard. Thousands of blankets were affected, and we were inundated with so many complaints about the reliability of controllers that we removed our recommendations from all electric blankets.

We were shaken by the extent of the recalls. When you’re sleeping on a thin piece of fabric packed with electrified heating elements, one bit of faulty wiring is all that stands between you and disaster. That’s why we redesigned our test to include a rigorous assessment of the safety and durability of the controller and power supply.

The following Sunbeam electric blankets sold between 2010 and 2012 are affected:

  • Sunbeam Regency electric blankets, model numbers BA442R, BA445R and BA447R. Sold at Farmers stores from 2010 to 2012.
  • Sunbeam Ralta electric blankets, model numbers BA201, BA203 and BA208. Sold through retailers nationwide from 2010 to 2012. Affected models can be also be identified by the part number BL0215 moulded on the back of the detachable controller.


Our 2017 appliance reliability survey found that overall, 93% of electric blankets had never needed repair.

  • Above average: Breville, Zip
  • Below-average: Sunbeam
  • Total number surveyed: 2285

Almost half of electric blankets reported are from Sunbeam. In 2012, it had a major safety problem with controllers, which resulted in a large recall due to fire risk. This is reflected in our results.

But controller failures are reported for Sunbeam blankets of all vintages — bought between 2007 and 2017. These faults weren’t subject to a safety recall. However, despite the controller problems, Sunbeam blanket owners are satisfied: 72% said “excellent” (more than for any other brand).

We asked our members how they use their electric blankets. Of people who remove their blankets during summer (36% of respondents), those who roll it up for storage experience fewer blanket faults than those who fold it. We advise always rolling, not folding, your blanket when storing.

We also found one in five of us leave our blanket on all night during colder nights, and more than half never use a timer. Homemaker blanket owners were more likely to leave them on all night, and Sunbeam owners were more likely to use the timer. Perhaps unsurprisingly after the recall, Sunbeam owners (one in 10) were more likely to get their blanket checked annually by an electrician. However, the vast majority of electric blanket owners don’t bother.

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