In the icy depths of winter, it always amazes me how a bed can look so cozy, only to give you a shivery surprise when you climb in.
So when the world outside is freezing over, heated bedding is an effective way to warm your bed to the exact temperature you need.
It can also help you save money on utility bills as it’s often more energy-efficient than heating the entire bedroom.
In this review, I’ll be looking at the most effective and comfortable heated bedding – particularly mattress pads. I’ll also cover a couple of interesting alternatives to traditional heated bedding.
Heated pad, blanket or bed heating system?
A heated mattress pad is arguably a better option than an electric blanket. Having the heat under you and the covers is more efficient, and just feels cozier in my experience.
I also like that the elastic skirting keeps a heated pad firmly in place on the bed. Blankets are more likely to bunch up (which isn’t ideal for safety reasons) and can slide around the bed, resulting in uneven heating.
Heated mattress pads come in a wide range of materials and prices, including some reasonable budget options, so you can usually find one that suits your needs.
The more high-tech bed heating systems I’ll cover later in this article are excellent at providing targeted warmth, with even more control over the temperature and timers. They also have the added bonus of doing cooling as well as heating.
However, they are significantly more expensive than heated mattress pads. So considering the current economic climate, I’ve left those two to the end. And if your budget is particularly tight right now, have a look at number two in the article as it’s currently the cheapest of the heated pads I recommend.
1. Sunbeam Premium Queen Quilted Heated Mattress Pad
Best heated mattress pad, with the right balance of heating, comfort, and safety
This is my favorite heated mattress pad overall for one key reason. It has more generous fill than any other I’ve tried, making the wires virtually undetectable and providing extra comfort.
It also helps that the fill is neatly boxed into small squares, rather than vertical seams, which helps keep the shape better. And it has a 250 thread count 100% cotton top which helps wick moisture.
With simple backlit dual controls, 10 heat settings for each side of the bed and a preheat function, it does the warming part very effectively. It has a solid locking mechanism to help keep the cables safely in place and a reassuring auto-off function. Conveniently, it only needs one outlet, even with dual controls.
If your feet reach right to the end of your bed, you might occasionally feel the small lump of the connector port. That’s often the case with heated bedding, and it’s only a minor criticism really. At the end of the day, the most important point is that this is a heated mattress pad that will reliably keep you snug and warm on even the coldest of winter nights.
2. Sunbeam Quilted Heated Mattress Pad
Best budget heated mattress pad
If you’d rather keep the cost of your heated bedding well under $100, it is possible. But you’ll need to sacrifice some comfort, how well the wires are disguised, and how stylish the control looks.
But for a considerably lower price than the premium Sunbeam pad, you’ll still get the same temperature range, 10 heat settings, an efficient pre-heat function, dual controls for larger sizes, and the auto-off safety feature.
What you won’t get though is so much padding (5 ounces rather than 9), meaning you’re more likely to feel the wires under you. It also has a polyester top rather than cotton, which is less breathable. And the control is little more than a simple dial, which is admittedly very easy to use.
On paper, it basically has the same features as my top-rated pad. So you just need to weigh up the balance between cost and comfortable padding.
Widest range of available sizes and a 30-night trial
The Electrowarmth is unique in that it’s available in an unusually wide range of sizes, including some that the other brands tend to ignore, like Olympic queen or double extra long.
It has 11 heat settings: low, 2 to 9, and high. There’s a rapid pre-heat function that initially heats on the highest setting, then drops to your temperature choice once it reaches it.
It has an auto-off feature after 10 hours, and a safety cut off if it overheats – both features that help reduce risk. And for larger sizes, you and your partner can have your own control to change the temperature on your own side.
The remote control isn’t exactly the most ergonomically enticing, but at least it’s easy to use and clear which setting you have it on. And the price is higher than average, so perhaps this is one for those who chose a rarer size mattress and are struggling to equip it.
4. Sunbeam water-resistant heated pad
Helps prevent spills from damaging your mattress
It’s first worth noting that all heated mattress pads need to have a reliable water-resistant casing for the wires to pass standard safety tests. So when a manufacturer specifically markets a pad as being water-resistant, it’s really to help prevent catastrophic levels of spillage from reaching your mattress underneath.
This pad from Sunbeam has a 200 thread count 100% cotton top, which gives it a comfy feel. And the water-resistant backing should give you the peace of mind to relax and enjoy that comfort.
Like most Sunbeams, you get the standard dual controls for queen size and larger, 10 heat settings and an auto-off safety feature. The heating works well and warms rapidly before you get into bed.
It has 6 ounces of fill, which is slightly better than the budget option, but not as much as the premium. So the wires might be slightly noticeable. If you need to give your mattress some extra protection from spills, this is a good option for a reasonable price.
Heated pad with a warm water system instead of wires
The ChiliPAD is a luxury product that takes a different approach to traditional heated bedding. Rather than heating using wires, it uses a system of silicone micro-tubes containing water that you can cool or heat as you choose.
The range of available temperatures is impressive, as you can set it from 55-115°F (13-46°C). So this is one you can use all year round, and even share with a partner as you can have dual-zone controls for larger bed sizes.
The actual padding is made from polyester and cotton, and is thick enough to disguise the tubes. It’s also designed to fit any bed and can be relatively easily cleaned.
My main criticism is that the system does make some noise as it pumps the water, so it’s not one for those who need silence to sleep. And being so expensive, you’ll arguably best get your money’s worth if you plan on using it for both heating and cooling.
6. Sunbeam Microplush heated blanket
Best electric blanket
As I mentioned above, my personal preference is for a heated mattress pad or one a heating system that doesn’t put wires in your bed at all. However, if you like electric blankets, the Sunbeam Microplush is a reasonable option.
The material itself feels lovely and soft, which makes up for the fact that you can just about feel the wires if you lay your arm on top of the blanket.
It has 10 heat settings and a pre-heat, so you’ll be able to find just the right temperature to keep you feeling cozy. And like most Sunbeams, it has the 10-hour auto shut-off as a standard safety feature.
The controllers at the time of writing are the larger versions Sunbeam use, with the digital display. And for queen size or larger, you’ll get two controllers so one person won’t be sweating at night while the other is enjoying their fabric tropical cocoon.
One issue is the potential for it to slide around or even off the bed because of the slippery fabric, which can create uneven heating. Be careful not to let it bunch up, and machine wash it exactly as per the instructions to limit the risk of any damage occurring.
7. BedJet 3
Best bed heating system: warm air instead of heated bedding
If you’re looking to heat your bed, but feel concerned about the safety implications of sleeping on a mesh of wires that heat up, the best alternative I’ve found is the BedJet 3.
If money is no object, I would recommend it above any heated mattress pad; it really is incredibly effective in the bleak depths of winter. But since this review was primarily about heated pads, I thought I’d save this surprise to the end.
Essentially, it works by heating air in a unit next to your bed and then either blowing it between your existing sheets or into a special boxed sheet so you feel the warmth but not the air.
It’s a joy to use, especially if you hate getting into a chilly bed. One key point is that it also does cooling, and even lets one person heat their side while their partner cools the other.
With an advanced remote control that makes heated bedding controls look like 1990s games console joysticks, this is one for those with a bigger budget and a love of tech, or just understandable anxiety about their safety while sleeping.
Heated bedding buying guide
If you’re confused by all the options out there or have a question about using heated bedding, hopefully you’ll find this section useful.
The heating element
Five of the seven products in this article heat using wires encased in fabric bedding, which is standard for pads and blankets.
It’s good to find ones that have thinner wires and/or a more generous amount of fill that stops you from feeling them. This is one of the key points I looked at when researching for this review. There’s a big difference between zero, five and nine ounces of fill, for example.
In the case of the ChiliPad, there are tubes buried in the mattress pad that carry heated water instead of using wires. The BedJet pumps warm air out of a tube on the side of your bed, so there are no wires or tubes at all under your covers.
All heated pads and blankets come with an attached controller, typically on the end of a cable. The bed heating systems are operated with a remote control or an accompanying smartphone App.
The controllers vary in their design, though often look a little dated and ugly in my opinion! They are usually very simple – either a turn dial with numbers or a small screen saying little more than the number it’s set on.
For queen size and up, there are usually two controllers so you and your partner can dictate your side of the bed’s temperature. This usually works well, though the middle of the bed can end up being a little harder to keep under control due to the build up of heat from the pad and your bodies.
Cover material and fill
The cover is usually made from cotton, polyester or a blend. Cotton is my preference as it’s more breathable, which helps deal with sweat/moisture building up in the heated nest.
Polyester is more stretchy and might feel softer, especially when in microfiber form. Many electric blankets go for the soft feel and are marketed with appealing words like ‘plush’ or ‘velvet plush’.
The fill is arguably more important. In many cases, the fill will feel lacking and you can feel the wires through the pad or blanket. I believe there’s a limit to how much they can pad them out to maintain safety and let the heat flow. But it’s worth checking to see how much fill there is in the product description. Try to find more than 5 ounces if possible on a queen or above.
When investigating heated pads and blankets, it would appear that there’s a global cookie-cutter set of features that manufacturers stick to in most cases. 10 heat settings seems to be the standard, along with a pre-heat function.
You’ll sometimes find 11 or 20, but I don’t think it really makes much difference; 10 is more than enough. It’s useful to have that pre-heat function, though you can achieve the same just by turning the heated bedding on earlier.
All of the heated pads and blankets in this review are either UL or ETL certified, meaning they have been tested as safe by an independent body. Always look out for one of these if you’re shopping in the United States.
Manufacturers are obviously concerned that their products are both safe, and perceived as safe by consumers, so they make sure they include reassuring safety features. It’s common to find an auto-off feature, which is typically set at 10 hours. Some also sense overheating and shut off if they do.
My advice would be to skim through the bad reviews on customer sites like Amazon. You’ll find most people give one star just because it stopped working at some point. But if you do find complaints about electrical defaults, I would avoid it!
And in terms of looking after your heated bedding yourself, make sure you’re careful to check it for defects when you first buy it. Clean it exactly according to the manufacturer’s instructions. Store it carefully off-season so it doesn’t bunch up. And if you have any suspicion that there might be a default, use the warranty to get it checked out.
For more about safety, the Wireirecutter website has a useful section about this, including an interview with a UL safety testing director. Interestingly, they also have a good test of the cost of running heated bedding, which shows how it’s more efficient than whole room heating.
Many heated pads can be machine washed, and even dried. This is preferable to spot cleaning in my experience. However, they normally require a special cycle and shouldn’t be washed any more than is really necessary.
You’ll find the recommended cycle is usually a short, cold wash – don’t throw it in with your normal washing settings activated! Then the drying will either be very short and cooler, or air-dried only.
As well as following the instructions, I’d be careful that your machine does what it says it does too. Our latest dryer, for example, heats too high even on settings that are supposed to be cooler, which could damage the wiring.
All the products I’ve discussed here have a warranty of at least one year. Some have up to five years. I think this is an important point, so I highly recommend checking yours has a good warranty.
It’s also great if a trial period is offered, ideally with a no questions asked returns policy so you can check it meets your expectations before fully committing so spending your money on it.