My Electric Blanket

A “blankie” for a grown woman?

Back in the winter of 1977, when I was 15 years old, my family relocated from northern New Jersey to Long Island, NY. We went from an old house built in 1901 to a much more modern home built in the late 1960s. But best of all, for the first time in my life, I had my own room.

Our arrival in Long Island was about a year before the energy crisis that would strike the country. To save energy (and money) — the house was heated with an oil furnace — my stepdad fitted the house with set-back thermostats that would automatically drop the heat to 62°F at night. To make sure we were all warm and comfy at night, my sister, brother, and I were issued electric blankets.

Clash of the Technologies

Clash of the technologies: the control for my 32-year-old electric blanket seems slightly out of place in this digital world.

If you’re not familiar with electric blankets, here’s how they work — or at least my understanding of them. They’re made with two layers of a synthetic fabric with a series of wires running up and down between the two layers. I assume the wires have some kind of heat emitting properties. At the bottom end is a socket for a plug. A control device plugs into the socket with a long wire — the idea is to put the control on your bedside table, so the wire is at least as long as a bed. Another wire plugs into a wall outlet. When you get into bed, you turn the blanket on and use the control to dial in a setting.

It must have worked, because I don’t recall being uncomfortable on cold winter nights — except, of course, those nights after an ice storm knocked out power for 11 days.

A few years later, when I moved onto my college campus, I brought the blanket with me. And I brought it with me when I got my first apartment. And when I moved into a new apartment with my future husband. And when we moved into our first house. And when we moved into our second house. And when I began spending summers in an RV in Central Washington State.

The blanket, which is now 32 years old, is with me on this trip. And I’m glad to have it.

When I first arrive in Quincy Washington at the end of May, it’s downright cold at night. RVs have three problems when it comes to heat:

  • They are generally poorly insulated so they can’t hold heat well. This RV is much better than my previous one, which had two tent walls.
  • Their heaters are unbelievably loud, consisting of a gas furnace and a loud blower that attempts to shoot hot air throughout the space.
  • Their heaters don’t evenly heat the space. Face it: what heater does?

The first season I was here in my old RV, I slept under a pile of blankets. No exaggeration — my first few weeks were spent on flannel sheets under every single blanket I’d brought with me. It was like sleeping between two mattresses. I still had to wear flannel pajama pants to keep warm.

I got a case of the smarts the next year and brought the old electric blanket with me. That made all the difference in the world.

Now all the instructions that come with these blankets tell you to make the blanket the top layer. But I usually sandwich the blanket between my top sheet and a lightweight comforter. As a result, I can set the blanket to “1” or “2” (on dial that goes to 10) and keep very warm.

The blanket is for a twin size bed and my bed in the RV is a queen. But the blanket covers the top pretty well. It makes for very cozy sleeping.

My big problem now is getting out of that nice warm bed in the morning.

4 thoughts on “My Electric Blanket

  1. Maria,
    It is time to upgrade that blanket!! It must be a giant safety hazard at this point!
    I cannot recommend any brand as we live in the tropics and have no use for them.
    But this would be an opportunity to do one of your great evaluations of things.
    Find a good one so you don’t have to worry about turning into ashes in the middle of the night in the RV.
    Aloha, A Hui Hou

    • S: I’m not worried about it. It’s working fine; I take good care of it. Besides, I’m the person who woke up in the middle of the night smelling smoke only to discover in the morning that a building 13 blocks away had burned down. The chances of anything catching fire right under my nose without me noticing is very slim indeed.

  2. Wow, electric blankets sure are different in the US! Here in Australia they have one cord, with in-line controls about 5 inches from the blanket. We usually turn them on beforehand, so the bed’s warm when we get in, and I’ve NEVER heard of anyone having them on top—here they’re ALWAYS placed under the sheets (and often, due to their bumpy nature, between the mattress and mattress protector).

    32 years is certainly old for an electric blanket, but provided it’s in good order there’s no reason to stop using it. In any case, it’s good to check them for kinks, etc. when you get them out of storage each year.

    • Calrion: What you describe might also apply here in the US for a more modern electric blanket. I haven’t seen one any newer than mine. But as far as I know, they’re all used as blankets to go on top of the bed occupant.

What do you think?