It’s not as dramatic as Freddy vs. Jason or Alien vs. Predator, but the debate about whether an electric blanket or a space heater is better at keeping you warm can still be dramatic. This is especially true if you have warring factions in your household.
Even if you’ve got central heating or you only need to use these items a few times a year, the merits of an electric blanket vs. a space heater are worth exploring. There’s a lot to consider, including cost, convenience, appearance, and, most importantly, safety.
Overview – Electric Blankets vs. Space Heaters
The first thing to ask yourself is if you need either item at all! You could potentially save money by bundling up in extra layers to stay warm. You should also check your home’s weather stripping and insulation to make sure that you’re keeping as much heat as possible indoors.
However, there’s also something to be said for being encapsulated in a layer of warmth that goes beyond what an extra pair of socks of premium insulation can do. For example, when you go to bed, having a warm blanket to snuggle under is like no other feeling in the world!
A space heater is equally magical in that it can heat up an entire room quickly and relatively inexpensively.
Depending on what your goal is, you might decide to have both in your home and then use each one to suit your needs.
What Are Electric Blankets?
An electric blanket is a heated blanket. At first glance, it looks like a regular blanket, but inside, there are wires that heat up. There’s also a cord that plugs into the wall and a control dial.
Recent innovations have allowed for timers, which is an important safety feature. Another recent innovation is the advent of wireless units that are controlled with a remote and don’t need to be plugged into the wall.
If you get cold at night or want some extra heat for a movie night on the sofa, then these devices can keep your personal space warm even if the room temperature is freezing.
This invention first came about in 1912 by a doctor who was trying to keep his invalid patients warm. By the 1920s, the initial prototypes were improved and made commercially available to the masses.
The average blanket uses about 200 to 400 watts. Depending on the region of the country where you live, that would cost about 25 to 50 cents a night to use if you left it on the entire time you were asleep, which isn’t recommended for safety.
The inside of these units is fairly standard across the industry. There are wires making up the heating element that are evenly dispersed between the layers of fabric that heat up when the blanket is on. The outside material varies, often, it’s made of soft fleece, but you can also find them in acrylic, wool, and other fabrics.
These items are available in endless colors and patterns, and there are even multiple sizes to choose from, depending on what type of mattress you have. More recent models come with timers and automatic shut-off features, which save on energy costs and also improve safety.
- Energy efficient
- Provides uniform warmth
- Customizable: choose colors, fabrics, and sizes
- Some models have timers, automatic shut-off switches, and temperature controls.
- Create a personal heated cocoon without making everyone else in the room hot.
- Concerns about the harmful effects of electromagnetic fields, though there is limited evidence to support that they cause any biological damage.
- Outdated models are at risk of burning and fire.
- New models can also burn the user if the blanket is not used properly.
- Easily damaged by pets or improper care.
There are a few issues to evaluate when it comes to the safety of using a heated blanket.
The first has to do with fire hazards. It’s important to ensure that your blanket is in good working order without exposed or frayed wires.
The second has to do with your personal safety. It’s possible that you might not notice a blanket heating up excessively, especially if you’re asleep.
The final concern has to do with covering your entire body in a field of electricity. There’s conflicting evidence about the safety of this habit, and there’s nothing concrete that links diseases like cancer with the use of an electric blanket. There are certainly other electrical appliances in your home or office that could pose more of a hazard.
Heated blankets cost very little to use, and the small price you pay in electricity is well worth the tradeoff when it comes to being warm and cozy. They’re much less expensive to use than a space heater, gas fireplace, or central heating.
The price of a unit varies widely, depending on the material, size, features, brand, and overall quality. You can find them for under $30 or over $200, so shop around!
What Are Space Heaters?
They are portable heaters that provide warmth in concentrated areas in a room. Instead of having to heat the whole house, you can place one of these devices in a part of your home where you want extra warmth and enjoy the heat at a fraction of the cost.
There are several types and sizes available, from red coiled contraptions to streamlined and modern-looking appliances. Though more expensive than an electric blanket, they do have the advantage of being able to be used by an entire household instead of just one person or a couple.
The wattage varies from about 750 to 1500 watts, which is about two to four times the wattage of a heated blanket. Because of this, there can be a wide range in how much you may spend when you use a space heater in your home.
Again, this varies widely. There small portable devices about the size of a toaster and much larger units that can be a few feet tall. And then, of course, there’s everything in between. Some higher-end designs come with temperature controls, so they function as a thermostat that goes beyond “high, medium, and low” settings.
In addition to temperature controls, you can also opt for safety features like an automatic shut-off. This is especially important if there are concerns about the heater being knocked on its side or toppling over. If that happens, it should turn off, otherwise, the risk of fire is imminent.
Some models also come with a fan feature. This innovation is life-changing because instead of having a molten lava area within 10 inches of the heater and an igloo-like environment across the room, a blower fan within the unit can help distribute heat more evenly throughout the room.
- Somewhat energy efficient
- Can be used by multiple people at once
- Alternative to central heat
- Higher risk of a fire hazard
- More expensive to run
- Difficult to get even heating in a room
- Cannot leave unattended without concern, especially around young children
There are some scary statistics about space heaters. In the case of home fires with fatalities, the culprit was one of these innocuous household items a whopping 79% of the time. This speaks to the fact that people leave them on and unattended, especially when sleeping.
Fortunately, this number should drop as more people are replacing outdated units with upgrades that shut off automatically when they topple over or after they’ve been on for a specified length of time.
To better increase safety, make sure that the unit is at least three feet away from anything flammable, including clothing, drapes, furniture, and bedding.
The units themselves are inexpensive and start at about $20. Higher-end units can cost a hundred dollars or more. The key consideration should be electricity usage.
The label may specify an energy efficiency rating and even estimate how much it will cost to use the heater. A modern unit should be less expensive than a built-in wall heater or central heating.
Which One is Better?
The answer to this question depends on your preference. If you like the idea of bundling up and not making everyone else around you hot (or heating an entire room unnecessarily), then an electric blanket is probably your best bet.
But, if you want to heat an entire room and not have to wrap yourself in a blanket to feel comfortable, then you may want to use a space heater.
There’s no right or wrong answer to this question; it’s purely a matter of preference. During particularly cold months, you’re likely to want to use both!
An ideal setup would be to have a heated blanket in bed with you. Then when it’s morning and time to leave the cocoon of your cozy bed and strip down for a shower in a frigidly cold bathroom, then you will likely appreciate a space heater!
Frequently Asked Questions
Does an electric blanket use too much electricity?
An electric blanket is probably the most energy efficient heating mechanism you can use other than jogging around your house or bundling up in five layers. It costs just pennies to use per hour, and it is one of the most affordable ways you can stay warm.
Which is easier to use?
Both are relatively simple, but a space heater wins this battle. All you have to do is turn it on and enjoy the heat. An electric blanket requires contact with your body, and if it has a cord, then you’re restricted to a specific area.
Are electric blankets safe to leave on all night?
There are millions of people who survived the eighties, leaving their electric blankets on all night. However, it’s not recommended to leave them on while you sleep. Instead, turn it off before you drift off, and then turn it back on in the morning to warm up for a few minutes before you get out of bed.
The risks of leaving it on all night include burning your skin and potentially even starting a house fire.
What are other alternatives?
There’s more than one way to heat your house! Here are nine alternatives to a space heater or electric blanket:
- Wall heater: it’s attached to the wall as a permanent fixture. It’s probably more powerful, and also dramatically more expensive.
- Ceiling heater: Ah, these divine inventions heat your room from the top down. They’re similar to a wall heater; they’re just mounted on the ceiling.
- Heated footrest: If your feet and toes get cold, especially in a chilly office that has banned portable heaters because your coworker's office caught on fire that one time, then a footrest that packs some warmth could get you through the day.
- Heated shoe insoles: What will they think of next, right? These should keep your feet warm, and no one has to know!
- Hot water bottles: They do double duty for menstrual cramps and keeping you warm!
- Hand warmers: These are similar to the idea of warming your feet, but they work on your hands instead. Place them in your pocket to stay cozy on chilly days.
- Fireplace: Choose from electric, gas, or a good old wood-burning stove.
- Heated flooring: This is probably the most decadent invention on the planet, and totally worth it!
- Added layers: Yes, it’s obvious, but it’s worth mentioning. If you’re feeling chilly and you’re on a budget, then pile on layers of clothes or blankets to stay toasty.
How do space heaters cause fires?
The main reason that they cause fires has to do with the proximity of flammable objects to the heater. Remember to keep anything that can catch on fire at least three feet away from the unit. This includes clothing, furniture, drapes, bedding, and mattresses.
Another issue is if the heater gets knocked over and it lacks a safety mechanism that would automatically turn it off.
Almost no one enjoys being cold! However, not everyone in a home can agree on a comfortable temperature. If you like to feel cozy and warm and your family members or partner are sweating bullets when you crank up the thermostat, then perhaps you need to carry along a blanket, similar to Linus from Charlie Brown.
On the other hand, if your family is also feeling the chill, then the most efficient way to warm the household is with one or more strategically placed space heaters.