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Many people use electric blankets when they want to keep warm and cozy during the colder months of the year. While it can be tempting to huddle up and use them for a few hours, is it safe to do so? Can the wiring present in these blankets not pose a fire hazard?
Electric blankets can catch fire if they are old, damaged, or otherwise improperly used. However, using a newer blanket and following guidelines for proper care and use will minimize this risk.
The rest of this article will elaborate on a few related topics in detail, such as why electric blankets catch fire, the real numbers behind fires caused due to electric blankets, and safety guidelines to follow while using them.
Why Do Electric Blankets Catch Fire?
Damaged Electrical Wiring
The wires and other parts in the blanket are susceptible to wear and tear over time like any other electrical component. Additionally, bending and storing the blanket incorrectly can damage the wiring, which can cause short circuits.
Faulty Temperature Control Components
Make sure to check that the temperature control in your blanket is working properly. This is a concern, especially with older models, as they don’t have automatic cut-offs built-in. If you notice any burning smell or droning sound from the blanket, turn it off immediately.
Faulty Product Quality
Not all electric blankets are created equally – make sure to look at the product tag and see if the blanket has been checked and certified by renowned testing agencies like UL.
Use in Unsuitable Temperatures
Electric blankets are designed for use in regular room temperatures. Using them in a colder environment can cause the blanket to overheat to generate more heat. This can result in thermal burns and fires.
Non-Compliance With Manufacturer Instructions
All models of electric blankets differ from one another. The instructions for cleaning, storing, and layering electric blankets with other bedding vary between different models. Make sure to follow the specific instructions provided by the manufacturer for your particular product.
Electric Blanket Fire Safety Statistics
Despite the concerns regarding them being a fire hazard, electric blankets represented only 0.4% of the approximately 360,000 house fires that take place every year, according to the National Fire Protection Association.
The elderly should take extra precautions while using electric blankets as they are more susceptible to some of the risks they pose. It is estimated that 89% of fatalities due to electric blanket-related accidents were among the elderly.
Fires and thermal burns are not the only risks that electric blankets pose. 60% of injuries due to electric blankets happen due to smoke inhalation compared to 39% due to burns. Users of electric blankets should be aware of this potential hazard and take measures to ensure they can avoid it.
Electric Blanket Fire Safety Guidelines
Turn Off the Blanket Whenever It Is Not in Use
Always switch it off when the blanket is not being used. Excessive usage can lead to overheating and short-circuiting of the electrical parts.
Look Out for Any Damage or Wear and Tear
Check the blanket when you first take it out for the winter. Any lumps, burnt areas, broken wiring, or other concerns can be signs that the blanket is damaged and should be disposed of.
Don’t Tuck or Pin Down the Edges of the Blanket
Electric blankets are not like regular blankets in that they can be tucked into the bed or pinned down somehow. Doing so can cause some serious damage as the wires could snap or get compressed.
Take Care of the Wires and Plug
Try to avoid sticking the wires to the walls or any other surfaces or stretching them out under any furniture. This can destroy both the wire sheath and internal filament and result in some sparking or overheating.
Avoid Folding Up the Blanket
Folding the blanket can create lumps and pinch the wiring, which can cause it to overheat. Instead of folding the blanket, roll it up when you are putting it away in storage as this does not compress the wires.
Buy a New Blanket Instead of a Second-Hand One
Second-hand blankets may have some internal damage that you may not be aware of. This can be a potential fire hazard, and it is better to avoid this situation by purchasing an independently tested and approved new electric blanket.
Use a Blanket That Has Automatic Temperature Control
Try to buy a blanket that has in-built temperature controls with automatic cut-off. Falling asleep with an electric blanket on is a common problem as the user does not notice the blanket overheating, sometimes even after a fire starts. This can be prevented by temperature controls as the blanket automatically turns off after reaching a particular temperature.
Don’t Let Pets or Children ‘Nest’ in the Blanket
Avoid letting younger children or pets use the blanket without supervision. They have a tendency to curl up and lie down, which can put pressure on the wiring and cause a short circuit. Pets may also dig in their claws or teeth into the blanket, which can damage it.
Use an Electric Blanket by Itself
Don’t use an electric blanket along with other heating products like heating pads, other electric blankets, or hot water bottles. Too much heat can cause severe thermal burns and other injuries.
Don’t Dry Clean Your Electric Blanket
Never dry clean your electric blanket as the harsh chemicals used can harm the wire sheath and cause sparking when the blanket is used.
Potential Issues for Pregnant Women, the Elderly and Other At-Risk Groups
Pregnant women, the elderly, and those with medical conditions like diabetes, poor circulation, and nerve damage are discouraged from using electric blankets due to the potential impact of overheating.
Let the Blanket Dry Out Completely Before Using It
Make sure that the blanket is still not wet when you turn it on. Any dampness causes the wires to spark or short circuit, which can be a major fire hazard.
Get Rid of Old Blankets
If your electric blanket is over 10 years old, it poses a significant risk to your safety and well-being. It should ideally be disposed of and replaced with a new blanket. Make sure to follow any local laws pertaining to the safe disposal of electrical appliances while doing so.
In conclusion, electric blankets do pose a risk and can catch fire. The primary reasons for this are improper usage of blankets or continued usage of damaged and old products.
The elderly are especially at risk from electric blanket related accidents and should be careful to ensure that they do not suffer from any injuries due to usage. In addition to fire hazards, electric blankets also pose a smoke inhalation risk, and overuse should be avoided to prevent this from occurring.
Following all manufacturer guidelines, taking proper care of the blanket, and frequently checking for any signs of damage will ensure that you can safely use your electric blanket for a long time. By doing so, the risk of fire damage is significantly mitigated, if not minimized.