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Blanket Coverage

I set the furnace thermostat lower at night, but my family complains it feels cold. Will using an electric blanket save energy overall? What are the most efficient ones and are there other tips for staying comfortable?—Sandi M.

Setting back the furnace thermostat a small amount at night can cut your utility bills during the winter.

However, note that your home will operate most efficiently without large temperature changes. Keep your thermostat set between 68 and 72 degrees through the day and night for the most cost-effective operation.

Everyone likes to be comfortably warm, especially as one relaxes before bedtime. If you can manage and properly control the temperature drop, your bedroom can be comfortable for sleeping. For people with sinus problems, sleeping in cooler room air is less drying to their sinuses.

Using an electric blanket or mattress pad is an excellent method to stay comfortable all night long. I have used an electric blanket for years with a lower house temperature. Recently, though, I have switched to a dual control (one for each side) electric mattress pad. I prefer feeling the warmth from beneath my body and less weight on top of me.

My queen-size mattress pad uses only 220 watts and it cycles on and off to maintain a steady temperature. The average electricity use is less than 100 watts, about as much as a standard light bulb uses.

The key differences among various brands and models of electric blankets and mattress pads are the controls and the heating wires. The best, but more expensive, models use digital ambient temperature controls. This circuitry senses as the room cools throughout the night and automatically increases the heat output to compensate for steady comfort. Better blankets also use longer-lasting fabrics.

Better controls have a preheat setting and also provide nearly silent operation. Cheaper electric controls make a quiet click when the internal thermostat switches them on and off throughout the night. If you cannot fall asleep easily, the clicking can become quite annoying.

Select a blanket or mattress pad with PTC (positive thermal coefficient) heating wire. Its resistance changes as the temperature changes. Where the blanket or pad is resting tightly over or under your body, and therefore warmer, its heating output decreases. This maintains a more constant sleeping temperature near your body.

Other tips to stay comfortable in a cooler bedroom are to increase the thermal mass in the bedroom with ceramic planters or other masonry items. When the thermostat is set back at night and the room air temperature starts to drop, the thermal mass transfers its heat content to the room. This will slow down the air temperature drop in the room. This is helpful if it takes time for someone to fall asleep.

If you have a ceiling fan or other penetrations in the bedroom ceiling, seal them well to minimize the loss of heated room air.

To get the children on board, consider using one of the new Story Blankets. These blankets have a two-minute battery-operated LED light and soundtrack built into them. There is also a sleep mode with a gradually fading light display at the end of the story.

The following companies offer electric blankets/mattress pads:

• Perfect Fit, (800) 299-1378, www.perfectfitindustries.com;
• Sunbeam, (800) 892-7684, www.sunbeam.com;
• West Point Home, (800) 533-8229, www.martex.com;
• and Story Blankets, Lulla Beds, (407) 423-0148, www.lullabeds.com.

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