Brits have been warned to be cautious of their electric blankets this winter as the cold weather and high energy bills cause "perfect storm" for household appliance fires.

The warning follows new analysis of Government data which shows that accidental electric blanket fires have increased by 38% versus last year.

On top of this, more than 1 in 3 of these fires lead to either a casualty or fatality.

Experts have attributed this spike in electric blanket fires to the "perfect storm" created by high energy bills and cold weather.

While households try to stay warm this winter, old, damaged or faulty blankets and heaters could lead to more of these fires over the winter.

“Nobody should ever be put in danger just because they want to stay warm,” Luke Osborne, Deputy Technical Director of Electrical Safety First, commented.

“Whilst all fires can be life threatening, ones that start in your bed can be particularly devastating.

"It’s not uncommon for those involved in these fires to suffer from smoke inhalation, severe burns or, in some cases, sadly even lose their life.”

The charity's analysis also reports that 29 accidental electric blanket fires occurred in the year 2022/2023 which was up from 21 in 2021/2022.

Due to the nature of these fires when they occur and the proximity to the person involved, they can risk serious injury, the experts have warned.

Oxford Mail: Pictures released by Essex Fire & Rescue Service show smoke billowing from a house caused by a halogen heater fire from an incident last winter. The fire was believed to have been caused when the heater set alight to furniture or other items nearby. (Essex County Fire and Rescue Service)Pictures released by Essex Fire & Rescue Service show smoke billowing from a house caused by a halogen heater fire from an incident last winter. The fire was believed to have been caused when the heater set alight to furniture or other items nearby. (Essex County Fire and Rescue Service) (Image: Essex County Fire and Rescue Service)

Additionally, a shocking 82% of the 29 electric blanket fires recorded in the latest year were linked to faults.

The charity said that this raises concerns that older blankets may be going unchecked after years of use where they are prone to wear and tear.

“Your electric blankets can become damaged over time when folded and stored,” Luke Osborne of Electrical Safety First adds.

 “Wires inside the device are prone to fraying or breaking after years of being folded and stored away which can risk the buildup of heat.

"With energy bills still sky high for many, and sub-zero temperature gripping the country, many are seeking to heat the body rather than the home, meaning more of these devices are likely to be in use.

"They can be great ways to stay warm but if they are not used correctly or not checked for some time the fires they cause can be utterly devastating.”

To help Brits stay safe and warm this winter, Electrical Safety First (ESF) has shared some expert advice including when you should replace an electric blanket and how to use a portable heater safely.

When should I replace an electric blanket?

ESF urges owners of electric blankets that are 10 years old to consider replacing their device.

The charity notes that blankets are prone to wear and tear after years of folding and storage which can leave them damaged and increase the risk of fire.

The experts add: "It is important to regularly inspect your blanket for scorch marks or frayed wires and if in doubt to have it inspected by a professional to ensure it is not faulty".

You should also change your electrical blanket if:

The fabric is worn or frayed.

  • Scorch marks or discoloration areas are visible on the fabric.
  • Wires are visible or poking through the fabric.
  • There is damage to the flexible cord between the supply plug and the control and/or the control to the blanket.
  • The control is making a buzzing sound when switched on and/or is giving off a smell.
  • The connector fitted to the blanket is damaged or over-heating.

Electric blanket users have also been urged to always turn their electric blankets off before getting in bed in the instance it does not come with a timer.

The charity notes that newer blankets often come with a timer switch to ensure users do not fall asleep with their blanket still on.

Recommended reading

How to use your portable heater safely

ESF has also shared these top tips to help you use a portable heater safely this winter:

  • Put your heater on a level surface, well away from anything or anyone that could knock it over.
  • Make sure your heater is at least well away from combustible materials, such as paper, furniture or curtains.
  • Never use it to dry your clothes!
  • Never leave your heater unattended for long periods whilst in use, or while you are asleep.
  • Avoid powering a heater from an extension lead – they can easily be overloaded and cause fires.
  • Ensure you have a working smoke alarm on every floor in your home and test them regularly, it could save your life.

ESF has also raised concerns that the continuously high energy bills will lead Brits to leave portable heaters on overnight or position them too close to furniture or fabrics.

Previous research by Electrical Safety First in the winter of 2022 showed an 8% increase year-on-year in those planning to use electric heaters last winter to heat a single room in their home. That is the equivalent of 4.3 million people across the UK.