By Courtney Schley
This post was done in partnership with The Sweethome, a buyer’s guide to the best homewares. When readers choose to buy The Sweethome’s independently chosen editorial picks, it may earn affiliate commissions that support its work. Read the full article here.
After 40 hours of research, including interviews with engineers and safety experts, we think most people will be happier with a heated mattress pad than an electric blanket. A pad is more efficient, because your body and bedding help to insulate the warmth. We recommend the Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad for its great cushioning and undetectable heating wires. The pad was the most cushioned we tried, and it’s one of the few pads with a breathable cotton top.
How to choose between a heated pad and a blanket
Our research and testing showed that in most cases you’re better off with a heated mattress pad rather than an electric blanket. Pads are better at masking the heating wires, and your body and the rest of your bedding insulate the warmth. They’re also easier to use safely, because they lie flat and won’t bunch or fold—as electric blankets can—which could cause overheating. But blankets are better if you already use a specific mattress topper with your bed or don’t want to add extra padding to your mattress.
You should probably replace your bedding if it isn’t UL or Intertek (ETL) certified, if it wasn’t stored appropriately, or if it isn’t in good working order. (Heated bedding shouldn’t show signs of wear, fraying, damage, or discoloration on the cords, controllers, connections, or outer material.)
How we picked and tested
All heated bedding follows a similar design: A system of insulated wires is encased in a blanket or mattress pad, and a power cord with one or two controllers attaches to an external port on the bedding. The wires heat up, and a series of safety mechanisms and thermostats regulate the temperature. What differs from model to model is the outer textile and the control style (dial versus digital, number of heat settings).
We considered only UL- or ETL-certified models. Most heated-bedding manufacturers offer five-year warranties on their models; we eliminated bedding with shorter warranties.
We eliminated mattress pads that had no internal padding (“fill”), because this feature is necessary to mask the feel of the wires.
We made a list of every electric blanket and heated mattress pad we could find on Amazon and the sites of Bed Bath & Beyond, Macy’s, and other retailers, ending up with 21 models from nine companies. We then focused on the most popular models with the highest customer reviews on Amazon and other retailer sites, and eliminated models that were extremely expensive (over $150 for queen-size).
We decided to test three mattress pads and five electric blankets on a queen-size bed with two sleepers for at least a single night, and in some cases over multiple nights. We used cotton sateen sheets and a midweight comforter, with the bedroom temperature between 66 and 68 degrees Fahrenheit.
We didn’t measure the exact temperatures each blanket or pad reached, because the temperature would be affected by ambient room temperature and other factors. Instead, we subjectively assessed whether each blanket and pad achieved a toasty, sheets-fresh-out-of-the-dryer feel at the highest setting.
Finally, we laundered the winners according to their care instructions to confirm that they didn’t shed excessively, stretch, or shrink when washed.
Our pick: The best mattress pad
The Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad was the most cushioned mattress pad we tried and one of the only pads we found with a 100 percent cotton top. Photo: Michael Hession
The Sunbeam Premium Quilted Heated Mattress Pad was the cushiest mattress pad we tested, with virtually undetectable heating wires. Its digital controls offer more temperature settings along with a useful preheat function, and it conveniently needs only one outlet even for queen and king pads with two controllers. It’s one of the only models we found with a moisture-wicking all-cotton top, and we think its quilting will help keep the fill from shifting (better than in other pads, at least). The Premium Quilted also has an extra safety feature that keeps the connector port securely attached at all times. And overall, we’ve found that Sunbeam heated bedding has fewer customer complaints about safety issues. For more on how we assessed safety complaints and why heated bedding is generally extremely safe, see our full guide.
Ironically, of the three heated-bedding manufacturers whose items we tested, Sunbeam actually uses the thickest, stiffest wires (they’re about as thick as the cord of a USB charging cable). But the Premium Quilted’s 9 ounces of padding—the most of any mattress pad we found—made the internal heating wires virtually undetectable.
A good budget mattress pad
The Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad isn’t as cushioned as our main pick (so you might feel the heating wires), but it will keep your bed warm, and it’s roughly $50 cheaper. Photo: Michael Hession
If you don’t mind sacrificing some cushioning, an all-cotton top, and digital controls, the Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad offers the same benefits as our top pick but currently costs about $50 less. It’s a good option if you think you’ll use a heated pad only during the coldest weeks of winter and you don’t mind possibly feeling the wires within.
Containing only 5 ounces of fill, Sunbeam’s Quilted pad has less padding than our top pick but offers the most of any of the under-$100 models we looked at. In our tests this pad was comfortable overall, but we could feel the wires when we ran our hands over the top, and the wires were slightly noticeable when our testers were lying on the pad, especially when sleeping on their sides (though the wires weren’t jab-in-the-rib uncomfortable).
Our pick: A good electric blanket
Sunbeam’s Velvet Plush is a pretty comfortable blanket—although you can feel the wires in the fabric. Photo: Michael Hession
All of the electric blankets we tried had varying issues ranging from unpleasant fabric to particularly noticeable wires. In our test group, the Sunbeam Velvet Plush Heated Blanket was the best, as its overall combination of softness, performance, controls, and safety features helped it edge out the competition.
Made of 100 percent polyester, the Velvet Plush has a very soft, brushed texture that feels like a thick velour. Of the Sunbeam blankets we tested, it had by far the most pleasant texture, with a velvety-soft feel. (We found the texture of our runner-up from Biddeford more pleasing against the skin, but we also encountered slightly more customer reviews mentioning a safety concern with that company’s heated bedding.)
A softer blanket that needs two outlets
Biddeford’s Comfort Knit blanket is actually a little more comfortable and padded than our top pick, but we didn’t like the controls as much. Photo: Michael Hession
In many ways we preferred the feel of the Biddeford Comfort Knit Heated Blanket. Next to Sunbeam’s offerings, though, Biddeford’s controls were more awkward, and at the time we checked, this company’s heated bedding had a few more customer reviews mentioning a safety concern.
Biddeford’s dual-controller blankets (queen-size and larger) require two separate outlets and plug into two ports at the bottom of the blanket. This design makes for a lot of cords in the bed area.
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