Electric blanket safety tips and running costs

July 20th, 2015

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One great way to deal with the winter chill is to dig the old electric blanket out of the linen cupboard.

But because we don’t typically use these blankets all year round, it’s usually worthwhile refreshing our memories of how electric blankets work, how to reduce their safety risks, and what their running costs are:

How do electric blankets work?

Imagine a pretty normal underblanket, designed to be fitted to your bed so that you can lie down on top of it.

Dimplex QB Quilted Electric Blanket DHEBPTQDimplex QB Quilted Electric Blanket DHEBPTQ

Now, imagine one of these with electrical wires running through the midst of its fabric layers.

When powered up, these insulated wires or heating elements will warm up to a temperature of your choice, allowing you to remain comfortable in your bed, even during the darkest depths of the Norse Fimbulwinter.

Are electric blankets dangerous?

Short answer: No more than any other electrical appliance.

Sunbeam Wool Fleece Single Electric Blanket BL5621Sunbeam Wool Fleece Single Electric Blanket BL5621

Longer answer: There are always risks involved when using electrical appliances, and electric blankets are no exception.

But just like other appliances, these risks can be minimised though proper care and maintenance, as well as exercising some basic precautions:

  • The main dangers to look out for when using an electric blanket are fire and electrocution. To reduce these risks, always check your electric blanket for frayed, worn or damaged cords, which can potentially lead to shocks or sparks.
  • When storing your electric blanket, always roll it up into a cylinder rather than folding it into rectangles, as sharper folds can bend and damage the blanket’s internal wires.
  • Water plus electricity equals Having A Bad Time, so don’t use a hot water bottle at the same time as your electric blanket, just in case it leaks. You should also keep your electric blanket well away from your waterbed.
  • If your electric blanket gets dirty, don’t toss it into the wash with the rest of your laundry, as rougher washing machine cycles can cause wear and tear. Instead, use a damp sponge to clean the blanket by hand, and lay it out flat to dry, using towels to absorb the moisture, or drape the electric blanket over your clothesline (don’t use pegs as these can pinch the wires). If the manufacturer states that the electric blanket is machine-washable, remove the controls first, then use a short, delicate cycle with a mild detergent, and dry with a  delicate low-temperature cycle in your dryer. Regardless of the methods you use, make sure that the electric blanket is COMPLETELY dry before using it again!
  • Is your electric blanket a bit on the old side? The Department of Fire and Emergency Services recommends replacing your electric blanket after 10 years. Plus, a number of electric blankets have been recalled in the last few years – check the Australian government’s Product Safety and Recalls websites to confirm whether yours is on the list.
  • Sleeping all night with an electric blanket running may sound luxurious, but it comes with the risk of problems arising while you’re fast asleep and unable to respond. A safer option would be to just run your blanket in the evening to warm your bed, and then switch it off before you go to sleep. Some electric blankets include a timer, so they can automatically switch themselves off after a few hours, allowing you to comfortably drift off to sleep without leaving the blanket running all night.
  • Electric blankets aren’t really safe for babies or pets, as as they can’t shut the blankets off themselves if they become uncomfortable. However, normal use of an electric blanket should not be risky for pregnant women.
  • While electric blankets do emit Extra-Low Frequency Electromagnetic Fields (ELF EMF), just like televisions, hair-dryers and computers, everyday exposure to these fields should not increase your risk of cancer. Contact the Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency for more information on ELF EMF safety.

What’s the running cost of an electric blanket? Are they cheaper to use than a heater?

According to the South Australian government, an electric blanket costs approximately 4 cents per hour to run, though this cost will vary depending on energy tariffs in your area.

Sunbeam Waterproof King Single Electric Blanket BL5231Sunbeam Waterproof King Single Electric Blanket BL5231

Running a small reverse cycle air conditioner costs approximately 3 to 4 times as much per hour as an electric blanket, and running a portable electric heater costs around 10 times as much per hour than an electric blanket.

That said, an electric blanket will only warm one surface rather than an entire room – always choose the best heat source for your home’s unique needs!

Mark joined Appliances Online in November 2011 and has since learned more than he ever expected to know about appliances. He enjoys looking for new and unusual ways for to solve everyday problems using typical household appliances. When he’s not toiling at the desks of Appliances Online and Big Brown Box, he tries to find time to write the next big bestseller and draw satirical cartoons, but is too easily distracted by TV, music and video games. Mark’s favourite appliance is the Dyson Groom Tool, as he loves the concept of vacuuming your dog. Google+

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