When temperatures drop, thoughts turn to hot drinks, woollen socks and an electric blanket to ready your bed for a warm and cosy night's sleep. Depending on how much you want to spend, you can get a simple electric blanket from major chain stores, but there are also options with a few more bells and whistles.
This senses abnormal temperature variations and switches the blanket off if it gets too hot.
Ease of fitting the blanket
A fitted blanket with elastic all around is easer to put on and take off, and stays flat and taut on the mattress. Ones that tie down or have elasticated straps are more fiddly to use.
If your feet get particularly cold, look for a blanket with extra warm foot zone controls.
Raised markings or lights
If you change your blanket's settings during the night, look for a control with raised markings so you can identify the settings in the dark. Alternatively look for a light which will indicate the blanket is switched on. An illuminated LCD screen also makes it easier to see settings in the dark.
Assess how thick the material is, and how much the heating elements stick out if you lie on them. Some blankets can be uncomfortable when you're sleeping on your side, at the bit where the controller plugs into the element.
These are generally available on queen- and king-sized blankets and let you control the temperature on your side of the bed independently (which is handy as many couples have different warmth preferences!).
These allow you to preset a maximum heat setting at a particular time. Some also have timers (for one, three or five hours, for example). A few models even have smartphone apps and work with smart home hubs like Alexa or Google so you can turn your blanket on or off with a voice command.
Much of an electric blanket's cost is down to its composition. A woollen fleece blanket gives extra comfort and will cost more than a thin mattress topper. Some are waterproof, quilted or have anti-bacterial claims.
Generally electric blankets can be put in your washing machine on a delicates cycle (once the controllers are removed). Some have handy removable covers which make them easier to clean. Most need to be line-dried, but some are suitable for tumble drying on a cold setting (consult the manual for your specific model to make sure).
Electric blankets cover all conventional bed sizes and typically cost between $45 and $469, depending on their features and composition.
How much do electric blankets cost to run?
Most electric blankets have a wattage of around 100–150W. Based on our measurements, you shouldn't expect to pay more than $46 per season to run a single bed electric blanket (with many costing a lot less than this). This includes pre-heating and leaving it on overnight, every night, for three months. Our electric blanket reviews list running costs for each model.
To be on the safe side, we advise against all-night use, even if the blanket has an all-night mode, so running costs should be even less (some blankets we've tested specifically advise against all-night use, so we only calculate pre-heating costs for those models).
A number of electric blanket and throw recalls have been issued over the years, typically due to problems with controller durability which have caused electric blanket fires. This has led to CHOICE placing a greater emphasis on testing for durability and electrical safety. Our tests have shown modern electric blankets are safe, but where electricity is involved there's always a small risk, and accidents can happen.
- All electric blankets must carry AS/NZS 60335.2.17:2012, so look for this when shopping.
- Read the instructions and follow the manufacturer's recommendations for use and care.
- Fire and Rescue NSW recommends people test their electric blankets before using them.
- Never use an electric blanket with an extension cord as it could overload.
Checking your blanket
To test an electric blanket, lay it flat on top of the bed and switch it on for five minutes. Visually inspect and feel the wires – check that they're operating correctly and are undamaged. Make sure there are no hot spots. Manufacturers such as Sunbeam recommend you get your blanket checked by a qualified professional every couple of years once the warranty period expires.
Fitting your blanket
Make sure your blanket isn't wider than the mattress – the heating elements should remain on the top of the mattress. Be careful, too, with pointed or sharp objects that could damage the heating elements. Consult the instructions, as some models can't be used on futons, rubber or foam mattresses, water beds or under mattress protectors. Only turn the blanket on once it's flat and secure on the mattress.
Make sure there's nothing on the blanket that could lead to localised overheating (such as books, clothing, a folded blanket, pillows or a pet).
The electric cord and switch should be outside the bedding and near the head end. When the appliance is not in use, turn the power off and remove the plug.
Safety tip: Don't use an electric blanket for an infant, an immobile person or someone insensitive to heat, and don't use it with a hot water bottle or when it's wet.
Storing your blanket
If you want to take your blanket off the bed in summer, fold it very loosely (not tightly as this could damage the elements), or roll it around a cylinder, and store it in a dry place. Alternatively if it's a really comfortable fleecy blanket, the controllers can be removed and it can stay on your bed as an underblanket!
Stock images: Getty, unless otherwise stated.