When used properly and safely, electric blankets and other heating devices can help keep you toasty during cold winter months. Here are a few safety tips for electric blankets and heating pads to keep in mind:
- Purchase items only if they have been approved by an independent testing facility, such as Underwriters Laboratories (UL).
- Inspect all cords and connections for cracks and frayed edges, which are a huge fire and injury hazard. Replace blankets or heating pads with faulty cords.
- Discard your blanket or heating pad if you see dark or charred spots on the surface.
- Do not put another cover on top of an electric blanket unless the safety instructions included in the packaging specifically state it’s safe to do so. Some newer models protect against overheating.
- Once your electric blanket or heating pad is switched on, keep it flat—a folded device can cause a fire, as can a blanket that has been tucked in, bending wires.
- Never use heated bedding while asleep—look for a model with a timer that switches off automatically.
If you choose to use a space heater to supplement your home’s heating system, some of the same rules of thumb apply, including purchasing a safety-certified model and reading the included safety instructions. Here are some more tips for space heaters:
- Keep units three feet away from combustible materials such as bedding, drapes, clothes, and rugs.
- Space heaters also have parts that can spark, so avoid using them in areas where you store flammable liquids like kerosene and gasoline.
- In general, plugging space heaters directly into a wall outlet is best. If you must use an extension cord, make sure it’s the correct type and boasts the right wire gauge size for your particular space heater. Otherwise, use a wall socket that can handle the load.
- Check safety instructions before using a space heater around water—some models are not intended for use in bathrooms.
- Be sure children are supervised around space heaters. Curious exploration can lead to electrical shock and burns.
- Finally, unplug and store the space heater in a safe place when you’re not using it.
Sources: Electrical Safety Foundation International, U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission