Electric Blanket vs. Electric Mattress Pad

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Unless you really want to heat river stones in a fire, fill an antique metal bedwarmer, then slide the long-handled frying-pan-like object between your bedsheets, you may want to consider an electric blanket or electric mattress pad to add extra warmth to your bed during the cold months.

One really appealing feature of either an electric blanket or electric mattress pad is the money it will save on energy costs by letting you lower the thermostat at night. For every degree that you turn down the thermostat, you’ll save 1% on heating bills, according to the Department of Energy. Plus, a cool room is more conducive to sleep. (And don’t worry about the cost of running the electric blanket or pad: these devices consume very little electricity.)

Whether you choose an electric blanket or mattress pad is a matter of preference: Would you rather be heated from above (blanket) or below (pad)? There are other differences too. Here’s what you need to know.

Electric Blankets and Electric Mattress Pads: General Considerations

Safety is the number one consideration for any electric bedding, according to the Electric Blanket Institute. The institute recommends never purchasing an electric blanket or electric mattress pad that does not show the UL (Underwriters Laboratories) or ETL (Electrical Testing Laboratories) mark on it, indicating it has met rigorous safety standards.

Today’s electric blankets and pads don’t get as hot as older ones. Since the late 1980s, electric bedding in the U.S. has been designed to be used all night long at a low level of heat. This has prevented many of the fires that used to happen in this country, and still happen in countries that continue to use high-wattage bedding.

The second thing to pay special attention to is durability. The controls should function properly and the fabric should hold up well through repeated washings, with no exposure of wires or compromising of safety. Look for a minimum five-year warranty, although a good electric blanket or mattress pad can last longer.

Finally, consider how hard or easy the controls are to operate. Easy-to-turn knobs or digital pushbuttons may be important for those with limited grasping ability. Someone with poor eyesight may want a control with bright numbers on the setting dial. (Note that queen- and king-size electric blankets typically come with two separate controls.)

Electric Blankets vs. Electric Mattress Pads: What’s The Difference?

While they both keep you toasty, electric blankets and electric mattress pads have a few key differences. The main differences are in the way they heat, how safe they are, and what other blankets or comforters you can use them with.

  • Heat retention: An electric mattress pad is a more efficient heater than an electric blanket. With a pad, your body and bedding act as insulators, holding in the heat, whereas half the warmth generated by an electric blanket simply radiates upward. Electric mattress pads are also better at masking heating wires, as they are covered by sheets. Most electric mattress pads heat up quicker than blankets—five to 10 minutes versus up to an hour or longer.
  • Safety: Electric mattress pads are safer from overheating because they lie flat and don’t become balled up like a blanket, which can cause overheating and other potential problems.
  • Choice of top covers: You can use whatever type of sheet, blanket, comforter, or combination you prefer with a heated mattress pad, whereas you can’t have another cover over an electric blanket.

What To Look For In An Electric Blanket Or Electric Mattress Pad

Here are a few things to consider as you look at different electric blankets and electric mattress pads:

  • Heat control: Multiple temperature options come in handy because some nights are colder than others. Most blankets and pads have three to five settings, though some have up to 20. Blanket and pad temperatures are usually in the 80° to 100° range, but some have a slightly lower minimum temperature and some have a max temperature quite a bit higher than 100°. If you tend to have cold feet, you can find blankets that offer an additional zone of warmth at the bottom to quickly warm cold feet.
  • Dual heat levels: If you share the bed with a partner—particularly one who runs hotter or colder than you—dual heat levels may be important. Separate settings are available in most queen-size and larger electric blankets and electric mattress pads.
  • Pets: It is not a good idea to use an electric blanket if a pet sleeps in or on your bed. Instead, the Electric Blanket Institute recommends a low-voltage blanket or stain-proof low-voltage mattress pad for those whose slumber-time includes pets.
  • Comfort: The outer covering of an electric blanket can be made of cotton, polyester, fleece, or another material. Soft, plush polyester is the most common option. Hold it in your hands to be sure you can’t feel the wires—you shouldn’t be able to in most of the heated blankets made today. As for electric mattress pads, a polyester/cotton blend is ideal since cotton helps wick away moisture. (Polyester doesn’t absorb moisture as well as cotton, so a 100% polyester electric mattress pad may make you feel sweaty.) Make sure your electric mattress pad has some sort of internal fill, as this will mask the feel of the wires inside it.
  • Washability: Controls can be detached from the electric blanket or mattress pad so you can throw it in the washing machine.
  • Comforter or other blankets on top: The Electric Blanket Institute reports that most electric blankets or electric mattress pads designed for the U.S. market allow for other bedding—except another heated product.

Is One Better Than the Other?

Choosing an electric blanket or an electric mattress pad is mostly going to come down to personal preference, your budget, and your décor preferences. Go over the comparison chart to see the differences, and then keep reading to find out more about each feature and benefit.

Electric Blankets

Electric Mattress Pads

 Saves on electric costs

Saves on electric costs

Sizes: Twin, Full, Queen, King

Sizes: Twin, Full, Queen, King

Variety of colors

Usually only comes in white

Machine washable & dryer safe

Machine washable & dryer safe

Extra features: preheat, auto-off, up to 20 heat levels

Extra features: preheat, auto-off, up to 10 heat levels

Long warranty

Long warranty

More of a fire hazard

Less of a fire hazard

Costs a little less

Costs a little more

Conclusion

Whether you choose an electric blanket or electric mattress pad, you’re likely to be warm enough throughout the winter season – at least in bed. Plus, you won’t rack up a huge electric bill, regardless of which you choose. The advantages of a heated blanket are that it comes in more sizes and can be used in areas other than your bed. It’s generally more affordable, and you can choose a color you like for your bedroom. However, an electric mattress pad is slightly more expensive, and it can only be used on your bed, but you can place other blankets on top of it safely, and it stays more secure, reducing potential fire hazards. Let us know if you have any questions by commenting or sharing below!

10 Frequently Asked Questions

1. Is It Safe To Use An Electric Blanket With A Memory Foam Mattress?

According to the Electric Blanket Institute, there is no safety problem using one with a good memory foam mattress (unlike cheap egg-crate type foams). But opinion is divided on using electric mattress pads with memory foam. Because memory foam softens in response to heat, some say that a memory foam mattress that’s too warm won’t properly support the body. Others say memory foam’s support and comfort are unaffected by the extra warmth. There is no safety issue, but with opinion divided on the subject, it’s up to you to decide whether you want to use an electric mattress pad on a memory foam mattress.

2. Which is better electric blanket vs mattress pad?

Pads are better at masking the heating wires, and your body and the rest of your bedding insulate the warmth. Mattress pads are also easier to use safely because they lie flat and don't bunch or fold—as electric blankets can—which could cause overheating.

3. Can you use an electric blanket as a mattress pad?

They sometimes will have a stretchy sewed seam the same as your fitted sheet for a secure fit that does not move during sleep. This style of electric blanket can also be known as a heated mattress pad but is not as thick as an actual heated mattress pad, which is a completely separate product.

4. Are electric mattress pads safe?

Yes, heated mattress pads, heated blankets and heating pads can safely be used over mattress protectors.

5. Can you leave a heated mattress pad on all night?

The number one risk with keeping it on for so long while you're in a compromised state is fires. The wires that run through the blanket are tiny filaments prone to damage. These can easily overheat and cause sparks and fire, which is why it's important to turn it off before bed and before you leave the house.

6. Do heated blankets cause cancer?

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Epidemiology, researchers concluded that using an electric blanket, even all night and for many years, did not increase the risk for developing breast cancer.

7. Where do you put electric blanket on bed?

Your electric blanket must be placed directly onto the mattress. If using a mattress protector, this goes over the electric blanket. IMPORTANT: Place the blanket onto the mattress with the controller connection/s at the HEAD END of the bed.

8. Do heated blankets use a lot of electricity?

Generally electric blankets, which disperse heat through built-in wires, consume little energy. On average, they cost about four cents an hour, while some space heaters can cost much more.

9. Are electric blankets waterproof?

Waterproof electric blankets are suitable for children. 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.

10. Are electric blankets good for arthritis?

For others, (especially those with arthritis), heated blankets can ease joint pain and help them sleep more soundly. And if used smartly, electric blankets can also assist with lowering heating costs.

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