Heated Coat!

by Ben N on November 30, 2012

As I write this, winter is coming. It’s getting cold. Although we haven’t had a real snow-storm yet, there’s ice on the lakes.

I do NOT have a heated work-space for working on projects all winter, my electric car has an OK, but not great, heating system, and I’m really not looking forward to shoveling snow.

That is, unless I was a bit warmer.

A while back, I picked up a heated massaging seat cover from the thrift store for five dollars. These are the sort of thing that you put over a chair, and it gives you a nice back massage, including heat. I noticed that they all actually ran on 12V DC power, so they would be easy to modify and run in, say, a car! I started off by using it as a heated seat cover in my electric Geo Metro. It didn’t take long though to realize that while a back massage while driving down the road is rather nice, after sitting on it for ten minutes or so, the massage motors just become lumpy and uncomfortable!

My wife’s car also has a heated seat, but only the driver’s seat, not the passenger. By using the heating element out of the seat cover, and sewing it into my coat, I would have heat on the go, no matter which car I was in, or even just working outside!

I got to it by first removing the heating element from the seat cover. That meant unzipping the back, and peeling away foam to locate and remove the heating element. I also saved the DC power barrel connector and the AC to DC wall power adapter that came with it.

Next, it was a matter of deciding where in the coat I wanted the heater to go. I laid out my coat and put the heater in about the middle of the back, and made sure I would have enough wire to have the power plug come out the hem of the coat. I put pins into the coat on the corners of where the heater would go to mark the location. Next, I soldered the heating element wires to the power plug and shrink-wrapped them.

Then I cut a few inch long hole in the right-hand hem of the coat. I pushed the heater through, and up into it’s position between the lining and shell of the coat up to where I marked with the pins. I ran a few stitches through each of the four corners of the heater with a heavy-duty needle and thread. These stitched went through the lining, into the heater, and back out into the lining again. There aren’t any stitches showing through the back exterior of the coat.

Where the power plug came out the bottom of the coat, I did a heavy whip-stitch around the wire to pin it down, and then sewed the lining back up.

Now, all I have to do is plug in that short cord sticking out of my coat into any 12V power source. That could be the original 12V “wall-wort” power adapter, but it could also be a car cigarette-lighter power cord, or even a 12V rechargeable tool battery! I already had a Craftsman 12V Lithium battery for a cordless drill. It’s small and light enough to fit right in a pocket. I cut a piece of power cord off an old power adapter which had the right size connector to plug into the coat. I stripped the two wires and crimped on a pair of 1/4″ male spade connectors. Those go directly into the 12V battery, and the barrel connector end runs to the coat. Now, I have a PORTABLE energy source for the heated coat. Great for doing things like shoveling snow off the driveway! To recharge the battery, I pull out the two space connectors, and put the battery in its regular charger.

Total out of pocket costs for the project are just over five bucks – what I spent for the seat cover at the thrift store. I already had the coat and some assorted bits of wire, needle and thread, and crimp-on spade connectors and battery.

I’ve seen similar heated coats new in the store for $200. They look nice, but mine works just as well for five dollars and a little bit of DIY!

Stay warm, I know I will!

-Ben

PS: More photos at: http://ecoprojecteer.net/heated-coat/

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Casey Frennier December 2, 2012 at 2:01 pm

This is a great project. My brother has one of the Milwaukee coats. I live in the south where it’s warm but I’m sure I’ll have coat envy when I visit for Christmas. I wonder if adding some Mylar behind the heating element would reflect more heat back into the coat instead of having it radiate out away from your body? Then it may be possible to put the heat on a lower setting for added efficiency.

2 you-bob December 2, 2012 at 9:04 pm

how long does it stay powered up for ?

3 Ben N December 2, 2012 at 9:09 pm

Battery should run for a couple hours.

4 tantris December 2, 2012 at 10:13 pm

A toaster might also work. A 1000W toaster should have 10W at 12V.

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