Electric blankets (or ‘heating pads’) can offer true comfort and are a mainstream modern convenience. However, because they are designed to create heat from electricity, they are prone to issues that can cause an injury or a fire. Ting has identified many defective blankets, so we’ve provided tips here for buying, using, and inspecting your electric blanket to keep you or a loved one comfortable and safe.
Faulty electric blankets can present a serious safety issue
An electric blanket that is damaged or not used properly can easily become an ignition source for a fire. Ting regularly sees and identifies faulty electric blankets. Hazards found in faulty heating pads/blankets are not insignificant; upon inspection, the arcing activity is normally due either to poor component quality (even in newer blankets) or to general wear and age.
October 9, 2022
Faulty heating pad identified by Ting
I was alerted by [Ting] that I had a problem. Since I have had an electrical house fire about 20 years ago. I wanted to find out what the problem was. I called. [Ting] indicated there was a spike from 10:30pm to 12am nighty. I knew what this was. A heating pad on a smart plug to come on and off at those time. I can not thank you enough for all the help and the concern you seemed to show. Since having a house fire in the past I can not tell you I’m so happy to know someone is watching out for me. I would recommend this to everyone. Thank you.Connie, in Missouri
To remain as safe as possible, keep these tips in mind if you or someone you care for regularly uses an electric blanket:
Buy your electric blanket with care
- Do your research – seek out legitimate online reviews by reputable outfits.
- Only purchase electric blankets certified by nationally recognized testing agencies such as UL (Underwriters Laboratories).
- Most people don’t ‘register’ their blanket purchase with the manufacturer; if this is the case for your purchase, be sure to periodically check online for any safety recalls.
Power your electric blanket smartly
- If your blanket feels damp or has been exposed to liquids, don’t plug it in.
- Always plug the cord directly into a wall outlet.
- Don’t plug into an extension cord, power strip, or outlet extender.
- Don’t overload the outlet – avoid plugging into an outlet already taxed with other devices.
- Do not use more than one electric blanket at a time.
Use your electric blanket properly
- Naturally, follow the manufacturer’s guidance on usage, cleaning, and storing your electric blanket.
- Never leave your electric blanket plugged in unattended.
- Don’t leave it plugged in for extended periods or overnight*; utilize a timer if your blanket has one.
- Try to keep the blanket flat when in use; avoid folding it, rolling it up, or otherwise ‘balling’ it up while in use.
- Avoid ‘smothering’ your blanket under pillows, cushions, and mattresses; avoid placing items on top of the blanket. Don’t sit or lay on it, as it can damage the internal heating coils.
- Take extra care if your bed can elevate or be adjusted. The blanket or cord could be ‘caught’ or bunched up by accident when operating the bed.
- Don’t keep your blanket on one area of the body for too long, as this could pose a burn threat.
- Keep the above in mind if you are caring for an individual using a blanket; burns can occur more easily for anyone who might have difficulty sensing temperature extremes or is physically unable to move the blanket themselves if it gets too hot.
- When you are finished using it, it is always best to store your blanket flat, and if you can’t, gently roll it up; don’t fold it, as this can damage the internal heating coil.
*Fire safety and healthcare professionals generally do not recommend using a heating pad or electric blanket overnight for several reasons. To warm your bed, a best practice is to turn your blanket on shortly before going to bed and turn it off after you get into bed. As with any electric heating device it is always better to unplug your blanket or heating pad when it is not in use; however, if this is not practical due to physical limitations, at the very least check to make sure the controller is not left in a spot where it could be turned on by accident (especially during sleep), and always check that the plug is snug in the outlet before using it.
Inspect your electric blanket often
- Give your blanket a quick but thorough check before each use.
- Normal wear and tear can cause wiring and other components to become less flexible, fray, break, or otherwise damaged and susceptible to malfunction.
- Wear can be accelerated and useful life reduced if the blanket is improperly handled or subject to prolonged or unsupervised use; this is more likely to occur in situations with small children, elderly persons, or anyone with physical handicaps.
- Regularly check the cord where it connects to the blanket and to the controller for compromised insulation or for loose connections.
- Heat should be evenly distributed across the blanket. Periodically check for “hot spots”, that is, where one section of the blanket feels much hotter than others.
- While rare, mistakes during manufacturing or assembly can be missed during quality inspections; these wiring errors or faulty control units can reveal signs of an issue such as a burnt ‘electronic’ smell or discoloration such as ‘yellowing’.
Replace your electric blanket when it makes sense
- If you are not sure about the age of an electric blanket, and it looks old, it is likely worth replacing. Older blankets may not have automatic temperature control to shut them off if it gets too hot.
- If your heating blanket is older than 10 years, consider replacing it, especially if it has seen a lot of use.
- Replace sooner if there are signs of material stress, discoloration, or odd odors.
- If you learn that it has been recalled, stop using it immediately.
We hope you found this helpful! For a complete list of winter season safety measures, please see our other safety tips:
Safety Tips: Staying Warm with Electric Heating Devices
Winter Season Home Safety – 6 Essential Tips