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  #1  
Old 02-27-2004, 10:51 PM
commasense commasense is offline
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On Electric Blankets and timers

As Ogden Nash said, "Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."

The advance of technology has ended a habit I have enjoyed for at least 25 years and I am hoping I don't really have to give it up. So I'm asking my fellow Dopers for their advice.

Since sometime in the mid-1970s I have been using an electric blanket on my bed, connected to a timer that turned it on an hour or so before I went to bed and off around the time I usually awoke. Thus I had the luxury every night of getting into a bed that was already nice and warm. (Yes, I live alone.)

In my experience, electric blankets only last a couple of years before they fail, and they always fail the same way: the wiring inside the blanket near the electrical connection shorts out, and starts burning the blanket. Smell that burning smell, hear that crackling? Time to get a new blanket. This is how every one of at least ten blankets I've owned has died.

Anyway, a little more than a year ago, it was time to get a new blanket, and as I shopped for a replacement, I noticed that all of them now use a momentary contact on-off switch, instead of the rocker switches that previous models had had. Thus, they can't be used with my timer, since the button has to be pressed to turn the blanket on. You can't leave it switched on and have the timer control it.

After visiting many, many stores, I found the last of the old models with the rocker switches in my area. Then a month or two ago, it failed. (Sniff, sniff.) This was the first time one had failed on me in less than a year, so the manufacturer (Sunbeam) sent a new one. But even though I asked for an old-style one, they sent a new-style one.

So, my question is, does anyone have any ideas about how I can modify the controls or do some other workaround that will allow me to resume my blissful habit of the past quarter century? Please?

BTW, if you search on "electric blankets" and see some with a timer feature, don't be fooled. These only turn it off after about 10 hours. They don't automatically turn on. That's the crucial feature.

Thanks.
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  #2  
Old 02-27-2004, 11:06 PM
Boppy Boppy is offline
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Join Date: Jan 2004
Electric blankets

Quote:
Originally Posted by commasense
As Ogden Nash said, "Progress might have been all right once, but it has gone on too long."

The advance of technology has ended a habit I have enjoyed for at least 25 years and I am hoping I don't really have to give it up. So I'm asking my fellow Dopers for their advice.

Since sometime in the mid-1970s I have been using an electric blanket on my bed, connected to a timer that turned it on an hour or so before I went to bed and off around the time I usually awoke. Thus I had the luxury every night of getting into a bed that was already nice and warm. (Yes, I live alone.)

In my experience, electric blankets only last a couple of years before they fail, and they always fail the same way: the wiring inside the blanket near the electrical connection shorts out, and starts burning the blanket. Smell that burning smell, hear that crackling? Time to get a new blanket. This is how every one of at least ten blankets I've owned has died.

Anyway, a little more than a year ago, it was time to get a new blanket, and as I shopped for a replacement, I noticed that all of them now use a momentary contact on-off switch, instead of the rocker switches that previous models had had. Thus, they can't be used with my timer, since the button has to be pressed to turn the blanket on. You can't leave it switched on and have the timer control it.

After visiting many, many stores, I found the last of the old models with the rocker switches in my area. Then a month or two ago, it failed. (Sniff, sniff.) This was the first time one had failed on me in less than a year, so the manufacturer (Sunbeam) sent a new one. But even though I asked for an old-style one, they sent a new-style one.

So, my question is, does anyone have any ideas about how I can modify the controls or do some other workaround that will allow me to resume my blissful habit of the past quarter century? Please?

BTW, if you search on "electric blankets" and see some with a timer feature, don't be fooled. These only turn it off after about 10 hours. They don't automatically turn on. That's the crucial feature.

Thanks.
Can't you buy a timer that plugs into the wall and into which you plug the blanket? That's what I use to turn on the coffee machine so it's brewed when we wake up. People use them for lights, etc etc.

Otherwise, take the appliance to an electrician and ask him to attach your old "rocker plug" (not sure what that is) to the new one.
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  #3  
Old 02-28-2004, 12:25 AM
arteitle arteitle is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boppy
Can't you buy a timer that plugs into the wall and into which you plug the blanket? That's what I use to turn on the coffee machine so it's brewed when we wake up. People use them for lights, etc etc.

Otherwise, take the appliance to an electrician and ask him to attach your old "rocker plug" (not sure what that is) to the new one.
I think the whole point of the original post was that this kind of timer won't work, since the power switch on the blanket's controller isn't an actual power switch, but a momentary switch that signals the controller to latch the power on or off. When the power is disconnected and reconnected, it defaults to "off".

My only advice would be to see if any of the old controllers (if you still have them) can be plugged into the new blanket.
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  #4  
Old 02-28-2004, 01:03 AM
Starving Artist Starving Artist is offline
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It seems to me you're going to a lot of trouble for nothing unless you come home from work or something and want to hop right into bed. Couldn't you just go into your bedroom an hour or two before you go to bed and switch it on, like during a bathroom break or a trip to the fridge?

I have one of the ten-hour shut off types and that's what I do. If for some reason I don't make it to bed within one or two hours, I just hit the reset button when I do get to bed and I'm good for up to ten more hours.
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  #5  
Old 10-07-2012, 01:49 PM
alanauer alanauer is offline
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I agree, comma. I wanted to defeat the built-in timer but that wouldn't work since you have to manually reset to turn it on. I think there must be a new regulation requiring a cutoff after 10 hrs, lest you fry yourself. Not very sleep-inducing.

You'd think one company would offer an integral adjustable timer, but maybe that would contravene the regs because someone could set it to last too long, and to defeat that might cost too much.

The most popular brand around here is Sunbeam. I have a Sunbeam electric frypan dating from the 1950s that still works fine, but I think the current Sunbeam is a different company.l

Anyway, glad to know I'm not alone.
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  #6  
Old 10-07-2012, 03:48 PM
Ethilrist Ethilrist is offline
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Is the push-button switch built into the power cable, separate from the blanket itself? If so, you should be able to remove it and wire in your own rocker switch.
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  #7  
Old 10-07-2012, 04:32 PM
OttoDaFe OttoDaFe is offline
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Not exactly the answer you were looking for, but Amazon shows several Biddeford blankets that use a controller similar to the Cannon mattress pad I use (and which works admirably with a timer). You might also try searching the brands to see what pops up.
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  #8  
Old 10-07-2012, 04:45 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ethilrist View Post
Is the push-button switch built into the power cable, separate from the blanket itself? If so, you should be able to remove it and wire in your own rocker switch.
I was going to suggest doing the same thing to bypass the controller, but this would prevent the blanket from regulating its temperature (those controllers aren't just on/off buttons, they also regulate the temperature); it would run at 100% full power all the time. You could also add a diode in series to halve the power but then it might not be warm enough. Of course, you could use a light dimmer instead to adjust the heat, which is probably what the older non-electronic controllers used.

ETA: Not another zombie thread! Although at least alanauer may find this information useful if he is handy with electrical stuff.

Last edited by Michael63129; 10-07-2012 at 04:47 PM..
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  #9  
Old 10-07-2012, 09:16 PM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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zombie or no

start the blanket with the timer in the 'on' cycle. have it shut off when you want.
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  #10  
Old 10-08-2012, 03:33 AM
Dereknocue67 Dereknocue67 is offline
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I have two solutions.

1. Cut the wire on each side of the controller and throw it away. Attach a toggle power switch on the plug side of the wire and attach a spare wire coming out of the toggle switch. Attach a rheostat to that wire and then attach the wire leading to the blanket to the other end of the rheostat. You then have the set up you seek giving total control over the "on/off" feature as well as power regulation to control the degree of heat the blanket provides.

2. 1 hour before bedtime, turn on the blanket. When you wake in the a.m., turn off the blanket.
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  #11  
Old 10-08-2012, 05:42 AM
pullin pullin is offline
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Odd that this zombie appeared today.

I use electric blankets for a different purpose. In the winter, I wrap my boat engine with one, and set it to low. It keeps the water from freezing* inside the engine, and is much less dangerous than the traditional method of mounting light bulbs inside the compartment.

As luck would have it, the old blanket I've used for years has failed. A thorough search of the department stores yesterday revealed they've all been "improved" by adding a shutoff timer. There don't seem to be any models that will run continously as I need them. I'm now trying to find an alternate source of heat.


*Not trying to be a pedant, but for those unfamiliar; Boats use water directly from the lake/ocean as coolant. Since this has no antifreeze like a car, the remaining water in the engine will freeze during the winter (with dire consequences) if not removed or warmed. Removing all the water (winterizing) is a complicated process and heating is the only convenient option if one wishes to boat through the winter months.
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  #12  
Old 10-08-2012, 06:51 AM
Colophon Colophon is offline
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Swicthes like the one described in the (zombie) OP are very annoying. My tumble drier has a switch like that, which means I can't plug it into a timer so it comes on overnight when the electricity is cheaper.
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  #13  
Old 10-08-2012, 08:06 AM
gotpasswords gotpasswords is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by pullin
I use electric blankets for a different purpose. In the winter, I wrap my boat engine with one, and set it to low.
A couple of ideas for you, depending on how many watts you need. You can get reptile heaters at the pet shop - some of these are self-adhesive so they can be permanently attached to the glass bottom of a tank or to a rock. Shouldn't be too hard to stick one or more to the engine's oil pan. A "large" is about 25 watts and about 5x15" (with some variation among manufacturers).

There are also very similar items for keeping car and truck batteries warm - about 60 watts for these, but no attachment means - they're meant to be held down by the battery.

Or you can install an engine block heater. The best option here may depend on your specific engine as some engines have ports ready-made to accept heaters, and there are generic heaters that bolt on or attach with magnets. Power range for these is 200-2,000 watts.

None of these things have any controls - just plug them in and they warm up - so you can put them on timers, thermostat switches or just leave them on through the season.
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  #14  
Old 10-08-2012, 10:00 AM
johnpost johnpost is offline
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zombie or no some more

i would caution against modification of controls by unskilled persons. you are dealing with putting lethal voltages next to your body. these things meet approval of some safety agency to prevent death, injury and fire. there are very small details and in some control mechanisms that are not obvious to the electrically/electronic unskilled person.
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  #15  
Old 10-08-2012, 03:29 PM
Michael63129 Michael63129 is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dereknocue67 View Post
I have two solutions.

1. Cut the wire on each side of the controller and throw it away. Attach a toggle power switch on the plug side of the wire and attach a spare wire coming out of the toggle switch. Attach a rheostat to that wire and then attach the wire leading to the blanket to the other end of the rheostat. You then have the set up you seek giving total control over the "on/off" feature as well as power regulation to control the degree of heat the blanket provides.

2. 1 hour before bedtime, turn on the blanket. When you wake in the a.m., turn off the blanket.
Just a nitpick: when you say "rheostat", you are probably referring to a light dimmer (a solution I suggested), which uses an electronic circuit to switch current on and off; a real rheostat (essentially a variable resistor) would have to dissipate up to half the load power and thus would be too big and bulky (and hot) for practical uses (although I'm told they still use them in some cases in industrial settings, but probably only because they haven't been replaced yet).
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  #16  
Old 10-08-2012, 04:40 PM
commasense commasense is offline
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Wow, the resurrection of this zombie has gotten more replies than the original post did before its death.

However since then, I've gotten married, and I no longer use, or need, an electric blanket. When winter comes, we occasionally use an electric mattress pad, but I no longer worry about having to get into a cold bed, since my wife and I can warm it up together pretty well.

That said, the answer to Starving Artist's 8-1/2-year-old question:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Starving Artist View Post
Couldn't you just go into your bedroom an hour or two before you go to bed and switch it on, like during a bathroom break or a trip to the fridge?.
is that, having gotten used to the timer, I usually forgot to turn it on manually. I'd plop down in front of the TV for a few hours after dinner, and when it was time to go to bed, "D'oh!"

Ultimately, I think I did just get into the habit of doing it, after it became clear that no simple way to return to the good old days was available.

Thanks, all, for the advice. But I agree with johnpost. Don't muck around with these things unless you really know what you are doing.
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  #17  
Old 10-09-2012, 01:05 PM
core_dump core_dump is offline
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Two things:

1. You guys are damn lucky to get 10-hour blankets. My Sunbeam blanket turns off after about 2-3 hours. Kitty is not happy.

2. I would like to see a cite that all modern blankets monitor temperature with a thermostat at a spooky distance. Mine's got 2 wires leading into the control (hot+neutral) and 3 leading out to the blanket. With 3 wires you can do low/medium/high by simply choosing which loops to energize.
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