I hate the cold. Let me rephrase that – I really, really hate the cold. I mope around much of winter complaining about it. When I first heard about global warming years ago, like many others, I thought this to be an excellent prospect. Of course, after learning a little more about climate change related to global warming, I quickly changed my mind.
It’s still a little brisk here of an evening, but with the northern hemsiphere heading into the colder months, I thought it time to look at the topic of electric blankets in relation to the environment. If you’re considering buying/replacing an electric blanket this year, hold that thought for a moment.
I was a little surprised by the electricity consumption of these blankets. Under normal use, they consume somewhere between 60 watts an hour for a single and 100 watts an hour for a double on average.
It mightn’t sound like much, but let’s do a a couple of quick calculations to get an idea of the carbon dioxide emissions impact created by a coal fired power plant in order to generate the electricity for a blanket over a season:
100 watts x 8 hours = 800 watts
800 watts x 90 days = 72 kilowatts
72 x 1.5 pounds of carbon emissions per kw = 108 pounds
So, around 108 pounds or 49 kilograms of carbon dioxide associated with the use of each electric blanket over the coldest months of the year; each year. Now multiply that by the millions of people who use them and the amount becomes really substantial.
Added to the greenhouse gas emissions associated with electric blanket use, there’s also these points to consider.
– The plastic coated wiring and other components that are used
– They are often made with synthetic fibers
– There’s some debate as to health issues relating to electromagnetic fields
– The initial cost and then ongoing costs of electricity
– Fire/burn/shock risk
Aside from environmental issues, the fire and burn risk is really disturbing. It’s estimated around 5,000 fires are caused by electric blankets in the UK alone annually. Electric blankets also present burn risks for the elderly and very young and others who may have problems registering pain or reacting to it.
When you dispose of your electric blanket, and for safety reasons that should be every 10 years maximum, many of its components will be around for generations to come; particularly the plastics.
I guess that in some areas of the world, electric blankets have their place and it’s more earth friendly to use a blanket than to use room heating – but for many of us there are more environmentally friendly options to consider.
In our house we use a feather-down quilt and a crocheted top blanket that my partner made – that’s it. Her creation made a huge difference.
Don’t let the “holes” in a crocheted blanket fool you :). This has kept us warm and toasty through the winter, even when temperatures approached freezing. It’s still a bit nippy when first diving under the covers, but that’s only for a minute or two.
The blanket took a while to make, but you can buy these online from many places. Look for crocheted blankets that are made from wool, recycled cotton or perhaps even recycled nylon.
Costing a few hundred bucks for a queen size, these blankets and good quality down quilts are a little expensive, but view it as an item that will be long lasting and over time you’ll probably save money through not having the ongoing electricity and replacement costs. A well made blanket like the one my partner made can be a family heirloom!
If you’re not quite ready to give up your electric blanket, some folks simply turn their electric blanket on around 30 minutes before snooze time and then switch it off once in bed. You could also consider using a timer so the blanket switches on only during the coldest parts of the night.
You don’t necessarily have to sacrifice comfort in order to live a greener life, but these small choices we make collectively do make a huge difference to our impact on the environment.