Everything You Need to Know About Electric Blankets
What is an Electric Blanket?
It’s a bed covering which has a heating element built into it, in the form of wires. Electric blankets are very economical to run and many people prefer to heat their bed than heat their whole bedroom!
There are three main parts to an electric blanket. These are the outer fabric called the shell, insulated wires making up the heating element and a bedside control – usually integrated into the power cord.
The outer shell is usually made from a mix of specially formulated polyester and acrylic. The wire produces
heat and is also heat sensitive, which means that no thermostats are necessary. The wiring is completely encased in a special blend of plastic making an insulated jacket.
How do I Choose an Electric Blanket?
It depends what bed size and facilities you require. Electric blankets are available in every bed size.
Here are some features to help you find your perfect blanket.
This lies flat on the top of the mattress, underneath the bottom sheet. Some have long tie tapes that go
under the mattress to stop them sliding about. Others don’t need tapes, due to their design, like the next item.
Mattress Cover Style
This is easy to fit as it covers the entire top and all the sides of your mattress – like a mattress protector.
It is held firmly in place by elasticized corners or edges, just like a fitted sheet. It stays in place more
efficiently than an under blanket.
This can be used in place of a traditional blanket if you normally sleep with sheets and blankets.
Or it can be put inside a duvet cover.
If you’re likely to forget to turn the blanket on to warm the bed before you get in, this is the one for you.
It can be pre-set to come on and go off at times chosen by you.
Takes an hour to warm the bed to your chosen temperature.
Ultra Fast Pre-Heat
This will warm the bed to your required temperature in less than ten minutes.
Solve all those arguments about how cool or warm to have the bedroom. If your partner is a natural
furnace and you love to hibernate, invest in dual control. It allows each side of a double electric blanket
to be independently controlled and heated.
The electric blankets are not safe to put into the washing machine but you may sponge them down.
These have controls which may be detached so that you can safely machine wash your blanket.
Some blankets may be tumble dried. Check before you buy.
The more choices of heat levels there are, the more you can adapt the blanket to your requirements.
History of the Electric Blanket
The name ‘Electric Blanket’ wasn’t used until the 1950’s. Before that time, they were known as ‘warming pads’ or ‘heated quilts’.
The very first electric blanket was invented in the early 1900’s but it was big, bulky and dangerous. An improved version was developed by Dr Sidney Russell. He was an American Doctor and his heating pad used electrical wires, sheathed in insulating tape.
In 1921, a product similar to Russell’s was mass produced for Tuberculosis patients. The treatment for TB in the 1920’s was fresh air – and as much of it as possible. Contemporary photographs show rows of patients in beds, outdoors, with snow on their bed covers! The new electric heating pads kept them warm.
The Heat of Battle
During World War II, fighter pilots wore electrically heated jumpsuits. Research on the suits led to safety improvements being made and manufacturers were able to make thinner blankets that were easier to fold. This changed the public perception too. Electric blankets were no longer just for the sick – but were made using technology worn by heroes!
Sensing a Change
In 1936, the first electric blanket with a separate thermostat control was invented – turning the blanket on and off depending on the temperature of the room. As time went on, increasing numbers of thermostats were ‘wired into’ the blankets – four in the 1950’s and up to ten in the 1980’s.
The next big breakthrough wasn’t until 1984, when blankets without thermostats were developed. The wiring in the blanket was now able to sense room temperature and body temperature – and respond by altering the temperature of the blanket as necessary.
How do they Work?
The temperature controls of electric blankets are now very sophisticated. They can recognize a change in air temperature and a change in the skin temperature of the person sleeping on them – and adjust their own heat accordingly.
Some can even change the amount of heat delivered to different areas, for example, send out more heat to the foot area while keeping the head cooler.
The most advanced blankets may be pre-programmed so that they automatically come on at a certaintime to warm the bed and then shut off automatically.