Hunt

Mary Hunt

Until a couple of years ago, I didn't know heated mattress pads even existed. Makes sense, I suppose, considering I'd lived in Southern California for most of my life, where it is mostly warm all year round. Once I relocated to Colorado a couple of years ago, where the seasons are more pronounced, I had a lot to learn about winter, including how to heat a house without going broke.

That first winter, our heating bills shot to the moon because we were heating the entire house to a comfortable temperature at night, even though only one room was occupied. We saw a pretty dramatic reduction in the heating bill when we decided to lower the thermostat to 60 degrees F at night and use a Bionaire Silent Micathermic Heater in our bedroom, but that wasn't altogether successful. My husband and I have different internal thermostats, I guess. He would be cold, while I'd be turning the space heater down a notch or two.

That's when I set out to find a way we could enjoy a warm and cozy sleeping environment without paying a fortune. We tried going the electric blanket route. We got this fairly highly rated Biddeford model with dual controls. That sounded like a great idea -- until we used it for a couple of nights. While the cords and wires are advertised to be flexible, we could still feel them, and they felt stiff and bulky. Another problem is the dual controls require separate outlets. But worse, even at the lowest setting, I felt like I was trapped under a layer of heat, and it didn't feel good.

A friend suggested that a heated mattress pad might be the solution. The idea sent me into research mode, but I was skeptical. My first thought? How do I keep it clean? That was quickly followed by: What if there's a short and it catches on fire? I'll bet you were thinking the same things. Well, we can both relax. Let me tell you what I have discovered.

There are several brands of heated mattress pads that use the Safe and Warm patented nonhazardous low-voltage technology. It's safer than others on the market; it saves energy because it is low voltage; and it produces sleep better in a cooler room. Several brands of heated mattress pads now use the Save and Warm technology, including Serta and Soft Heat.

I ordered the Serta Luxurious Plush Top Low-Voltage Electric Heated California King Mattress pad (it cost about $99). What a great piece of technology. The best way I can describe it is it produces very subtle warmth. The difference between the warmth coming from underneath and on top is huge. It's absolutely remarkable.

As for how it looks and works, think of a very nice fitted sheet. It has deep pockets for a thick mattress and elastic all the way around.

I place the heated mattress pad on top of our regular mattress pad, and then I put the fitted sheet on top of it. All sizes except for twin come with dual controls, which attach at the top, making them very handy but out of the way.

This heated mattress pad makes the sheets warm, and that's what makes it feel so cozy to crawl into bed when it's cold outside. The wires are so thin I cannot feel them at all. And the most amazing thing: To clean, it goes right in the washer and dryer, and I just follow the printed instructions. Easy!

Our heated mattress pad has made all the difference in great winter sleep, but it has also significantly reduced our cost of heating. We set our programmable thermostat to 55 degrees F for nighttime and 68 degrees F in the early morning hours so we wake to a warm house. The pad more than paid for itself in the first month!

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Here are my picks for best inexpensive heated mattresses pad with Safe and Warm technology (links available at www.everydaycheapskate/heatedmattress):

--Serta Luxurious Plush Top Low-Voltage Electric Heated Mattress Pad. California king size costs about $99.

--Soft Heat Micro-Plus Electric Heated Mattress Pad Twin. Queen size costs about $120; king costs about $85.

Mary invites questions, comments and tips at mary@everydaycheapskate.com, or c/o Everyday Cheapskate, 12340 Seal Beach Blvd., Suite B-416, Seal Beach, CA 90740. This column will answer questions of general interest, but letters cannot be answered individually.

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