If you answered "nothing!", you're right. When temperatures drop, thoughts turn to hot drinks, woollen socks and an electric blanket to ready your bed for a cosy night's sleep.
Depending on the amount 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.
OK, so what do I need to know?
- Overheat protection senses abnormal temperature variations and switches the blanket off if it gets too hot.
- A fitted blanket is easier to put on and take off, and stays flat and taut on the mattress.
- If your feet get particularly cold, look for a blanket with an extra-warm foot zone.
- 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), or a light, which will also indicate the blanket is switched on.
- If you're willing to pay a little more, an illuminated LCD screen makes it even easier to see your settings in the dark.
- Before you purchase an electric blanket, feel how thick the material is. Ideally it will be thick enough so you can't feel the heating elements. A fleecy, synthetic electric blanket is more comfortable to lie on.
- Dual controls allow you to control the temperature on your side of the bed independently.
- Programmable settings allow you to pre-set a maximum heat setting at a particular time - say, 10 minutes before you go to bed.
- Waterproof electric blankets are suitable for children. They contain a waterproof membrane that stops spills reaching the heating wires.
- Removable controls mean you can safely wash your electric blanket.
- Wool-pile cover gives extra comfort, and can be used as an underlay during the warmer months.
Based on our measurements, you shouldn't expect to pay more than $15 per season to run a single bed electric blanket, which includes pre-heating and leaving it on overnight, every night, for three months. 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.
Are electric blankets safe?
A large number of electric blanket recalls have been issued over the years, leading 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 Australian Standard 3350.2.17:2000, so look for this when shopping.
- Recalled models typically have problems with controller durability and in recent years, a number of electric blanket fires have occurred.
- 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.
How to check 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; make sure they're operating correctly and are undamaged. Other tips to ensure you use the blanket safely are:
- Turn the power off and remove the plug when the appliance is not in use.
- Make sure your blanket isn't wider than the mattress.
- Don't leave electric blankets switched on all night.
- Don't switch the blanket on while it's folded or when there's something on the bed (such as books, clothing, a folded blanket, pillows or a pet). Any of these may lead to localised overheating.
- Place the blanket flat on the mattress with the switches at the pillow end, and secure it well.
- Keep the electric cord and switch outside the bedding.
- Be careful with pointed or sharp objects that could damage the heating element.
- Some models can't be used on futons, rubber or foam mattresses, a water bed or under a mattress protector. Check this before you buy.
- Don't use an electric blanket for an infant, an immobile person or someone insensitive to heat.
- Don't use it together with a hot water bottle (which may leak) or when it's wet.
- Have your blanket checked by a qualified professional every three years. Manufacturers usually recommend you take it to one of their service agents – check their website.
- Don't wash an electric blanket unless the manufacturer specifically recommends it.
- If you want to take your blanket off the bed in summer, fold it neatly but not tightly, or roll it around a cylinder, and store it in a dry place.
Electric blankets cover all conventional bed sizes and cost between $50 and $400 depending on features.