Heated Mattress Pads and Electric Blankets
How Do They Really Work?

You may have read articles in newspapers or on the internet that all electric blankets operate at 120V, that modern electric blankets use carbon fiber wires, that electric blankets must be checked by an electrician or the manufacturer every three years, that their heater wires are connected to a thermostat which monitors the heat level, that some have wire-free designs utilizing conductive tape, that some advanced heated blankets can be programmed to come on at a certain time. You won’t see or hear any of those statements at the Electric Blanket Institute because NONE of them is true. Some were at least partially accurate years ago but no longer.

The basic principle of warming blankets or warming mattress pads is that an electric current passing through a resistive wire generates heat. All electric bedding contains a long length of resistive wire heating element fastened in a serpentine pattern throughout the pad or blanket (or in the case of Dual Control models, throughout each half of the product).

Of course, for the blanket or pad to be safe, comfortable, even-heating, long lasting and convenient to care for, a whole lot more technology is required. Manufacturers accomplish their various features (e.g. overheat protection, variable heat output, auto-shutoff, etc.) in different ways and this technology plus the fabric used is what makes some products more expensive or more reliable than others. You can be assured your blanket or pad is safe if it is marked as complying with UL 964 which is the Underwriters Laboratories’ safety standard for these devices – see our Safety page for more information -- AND it is used properly -- see the particular instructions that come with all UL conforming automatic bedding sold in the USA.

A Heated Mattress Pad ConnectorWhy does my electric blanket or heated mattress pad have those big plug-in connectors?

ALL electric blankets and mattress pads designed for use in the United States have connectors which allow their controls and cords to be disconnected so that the blanket or pad itself may be put into an automatic washer (see Washing and Drying information). On electric blankets, the connector must always be located at the foot of the bed. Warming mattress pads are mostly the same but one brand has its connector located at the head (the pillow end) of the bed allowing the controller wiring to be confined to the head end of the bed (no controller wires running on the floor under the bed). One brand even has the connector strategically placed on the vertical skirt area where your body parts can never bump into it.

How an Electric Blanket or Mattress Pad Should Be Installed?

Electric mattress pads and blankets are not as simple as some think. You should carefully follow the manufacturer’s instructions when setting up your product. A few minutes reading the User Manual is time very well spent. Based upon our decades of experience, we will bet that 99 out of 100 User Manual readers will learn of an unknown feature or learn something that may prevent a problem with their new product. You should be especially careful to read the Safety Instructions which must be inserted with your product in order to pass UL’s stringent regulations. They are very important and generalized safety instructions based on UL’s can be read at our 10 Safety Rules page.


You Buy

Things You MUST
Know When Buying
Electric Bedding.

Click Here

Choosing the Best Electric Bedding For YOU

1. Before You Buy – A MUST Review: the Lead Page of the Buyer's Guide offering:

  1. Major considerations before your purchase; and,
  2. Links to all of our Reviews and Ratings sections

2. Ready to Buy? If you want to see a list of retailers carrying each of the major brands of Heated MATTRESS PADS this year, click Heated Mattress Pad Retailers OR for Heated BLANKETS, click Stores Selling Electric Blankets.

The Electric Blanket Institute’s Consumer Guide and Blog text is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike 3.0 United States License.  For any reuse or distribution you must make clear to others the license terms of this work. The best way to do this is with a link to this web page. This information has been developed over many years of testing and is presented freely for educational use only and without any warranty of any kind. It is not a substitute for the safe usage practices of your individual product. See our Policies Page for other information including advertising and affiliate linkage. Sorry, all information presented applies only to products sold in the United States. We cannot help with other products.