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.

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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.

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.

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.

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.


We received information on 2285 electric blankets in our 2017 appliance reliability survey.

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