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A Quick Tutorial On How To Buy A Digital Air Bed That Is Comfortable, Supportive, Built With Quality Components And Reasonably Priced- With No Buyer’s Remorse!

Unlike Other Kinds Of Mattresses, A Digital Air Bed Offers The Unique Ability For You To Select Your Level Of Comfort And Even Reposition Layers To Customize Your Mattress On The Fly..

I’m Eben Goresko, and I’m a piano tuner by day, and a mattress reviewer and blogger in my spare time. I got involved with reviewing mattresses after I had a bad shopping experience with my own mattress, and began to research and discover the tactics that mattress manufacturers use to market their beds.

I often find that mattresses in general are marked up far more than what I would consider reasonable, and I believe an educated buyer armed with the right information can make a logical decision about a mattress purchase. That’s not to say that it’s impossible to get a good deal on any particular mattress, but with an air bed for example, it pays to know what you are getting for your money.

When I began to really look under the hood of the modern day adjustable air bed, I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about. I knew little, if anything, about adjustable air beds, and realized that they had nothing in common with a typical camping style air bed, or even the quick “pop-up” type air beds they inflate with a plug-in air pump, instantly accommodating an overnight guest in a pinch. Those are easy to assess and to put a price on, but what about the more sophisticated air beds with air chambers, foam layers, remote controls, and a lot more bells and whistles? How do you know if you’re getting a good deal?

I had read reviews on a lot of other third party review sites, and a lot of models in the marketplace had high marks, even more so than conventional mattresses, like innerspring models, and even memory foam beds. Air beds are hugely popular because often couples cannot agree on one continuous sleep surface to share, and a two chambered or two sided adjustable air bed fills that market in a unique way.

I know plenty of couples who have very different body types, a variety of medical issues, unusual sleep habits, or other quirky characteristics that makes an air bed the perfect solution, but buying the right model with the right components is often very important.

Most of the ingredients used as support or comfort layers in an air bed are situated above the air chambers, and are in close proximity to the user. A variety of foam materials are available, including high density foams (similar to those used in home furnishings and in conventional mattresses as support layers), memory foam (used for pressure relief and weight distribution), and natural latex.

I also know that many people don’t know how to shop for an airbed because of their complexity, and are often overwhelmed when trying to decide which model to choose, or how to narrow down the vast number of internet dealers and retail bedding stores that sell them. This guide is designed to help you narrow down your options and make a comfortable decision so you don’t second guess yourself after the fact.

Of course, there are many brands to choose from. Many offer a wide variety of models., and some of these beds are very similar in design. You can do the research on your own, but it is often frustrating narrowing down the list when finding a digital air bed that works for you and your partner. Essentially, most air bed buyers are buying their air bed for two unique sleepers since you can control the range of softness vs. firmness, and alter the feel of the bed substantially.

The Key Ingredients Of A Digital Air Bed- A Quick Overview

The best way to approach buying an air bed that is right for you is to understand the main ingredients and the architecture of a well made digital air bed. There’s a few key considerations regarding the structural elements of a an air bed that will last, in my opinion. From the ground up, a typical air bed might be constructed in a layer cake fashion. The outer encasement or covering is usually made like a gift box, with a bottom “container” type of construction, and a top piece that either zips on or attached somehow to the top of the bottom piece.

The fabric used in the outer cover should be a breathable material, such as cotton or bamboo, though it’s ok to have a little rayon in the weave, I think, since that usually provides some stretch and give to the covering. Passive ventilation is important in an air bed, since a lot of foam layers are used, which can sleep warmer if the proper outer cover is not breathable.

Generally, a perimeter, or outer edge, of a firmer foam material is used to provide the “exoskeleton”, in which everything sits inside. This outer edge is also important, since you rely on it to provide support to get in and out of bed, put your shoes on, and for those with physical limitations, allows for easy transfer in and out of bed. A good digital air bed will often use at least a 2 lb. density foam rail system to provide the edge system.

Inside the edge system is where you fill typically find the air chambers, which when controlled by the pump, allow the bed to range in comfort levels from firm to soft, merely by adjusting the handheld controller.

Generally, above the air chambers, you will find a variety of foam layer options, each providing a unique asset for the bed. So, if you are seeking pressure point relief, you’d likely want to find an air bed using a memory foam layer, along with some supportive layers placed below or above this layer. In my opinion, I recommend finding memory foam that is at least 4lb density rather than 3 lb, since the 4lb variety is a bit more durable and tends to resist cracking and splitting, in my opinion.

If you are looking for an air bed that is uplifting and buoyantly supportive, a bit livelier and springier, definitely seek out a model with natural latex, or softer layers of supportive foam, like a high density (HD) foam , or an HR (high resiliency) foam layer, that has flex and a more elastic feel. I personally like the feel of natural latex, since it is springier, and it’s also completely chemical free and does not off gas fumes or odors.

Pump And Remote Controls- What Options Are There?

Basically, you can buy an air bed that has either hardwired remotes, or wireless. The considerations there are really personal choices, though with a wireless unit, you need to occasionally change batteries, and if you operate other media equipment like a TV, there may be remote hunting at night, as I often have that problem with my wandering remote controls. Many brands provide a hardwired remote, which you can trace back with the cord, and most models out there offer a readable LED screen, so you can punch in your desired setting, find it, and lock it in with a memory button, so you can reset it as required.

Remember that it is normal for a digital air bed to lose a few points of pressure during the day and the purpose of the memory setting is so that you can tap it, and bring the bed right back to your comfort zone.

Shipping And Assembly Of Your Digital Air Bed System

Typically, most air beds are shipped to you either partially assembled, or fully assembled, generally depending upon the vendor. In fact, a digital air bed is highly modular, which is an asset, I think. Down the road, if you are out of warranty and need a replacement layer of foam, you only need to replace that one component, and you’re not stuck with replacing an entire mattress.

Also, assembling an air bed gets you highly familiar with the working components, which I like. Unlike conventional innerspring mattresses, a digital air bed system allows you to handle and understand the structure of the bed, making it easy for you to go back in when required, should you ever need to troubleshoot a problem.

Generally, however, digital air beds are fairly bulletproof, and most suppliers have worked out the kinks with components and can deliver a bed that offers comfort elements that are durable, long lasting and have been used in the bedding industry for many other kinds of mattresses.

Pricepoints- What Should You Pay For A Decent Air Bed System?

A decent air bed can vary widely in price, from around $1000 for a basic, entry level model, to over $6,000 for a more sophisticated model, with top of the line components and a luxurious outer covering. The top of the line model might feature a layer of memory foam, and some other support foam layers that are designed to add some cushion and aesthetic qualities to the bed.

Also, I think a decent air bed should offer a moderately quilted top, without too much filler, otherwise you’re again separating yourself too far from the functional abilities of the air chambers beneath you. Too much piling on of material above the air chambers, and you begin to lose the ability to detect subtle changes in softness and firmness.

I recommend a thin layer of spun wool, or products, such as Hollofil® or Fiberfil®, two proprietary synthetic materials that are made from a coil shaped fiber that springs back and will offer a long lifespan. And again I seem to prefer Bamboo fabric used in the outer covering because of its extreme breathability, and reputation for not sleeping hot.

Also, ideally, you want to purchase an air bed that allows you to swap positions of the various support layers, so that you can “customize” your sleep surface. Be wary of any air bed that is sewn shut so that you can’t get inside of it. A zippered, removable outer covering allows you to remove and replace internal parts, or the outer covering itself, should you ever need to do so. The more “modular” you can make your air bed, the better off you will be during the long haul.

I’d say, after reviewing many different air bed companies, that a reasonably priced air bed system will run anywhere from $1400-$3000, depending upon the ingredients. If you want two premium layers such as memory foam and natural latex, expect to pay around $2800-$3000. If you’re paying $4,000-$5,000, understand what it is you are paying for by researching the individual support layers and the outer covering. Obviously, if you want a cashmere fabric on top, it’s going to cost you more.

Recommendations- Who I Like As An Air Bed Retailer..

Air beds are pretty complex, I admit, and with all the different components and options to choose from, it can get pretty confusing. So if you are interested in an adjustable air bed, it is really important to educate yourself first so you get the comfort and quality you are looking for. Also, I have found that with any kind of mattress, the fewer options to choose from, the easier it will be for you to make a sound decision.

One company we found, called Habitat Furnishings, really provides a lot of in-depth information on air beds -- the most detailed information I have ever run across on the internet. The guy who owns the company is a nut case about researching all of the materials used in his beds, and seeks each ingredient out separately. I’ve seen him take two years to develop a new mattress for his web site, and that is not an exaggeration. He breaks apart every pump he gets to evaluate them, and is a bit of an obsessive tinkerer.

Their team (they work with a Water Bed company, that’s been in business for 30 years and he hired them to help design his three models) have put together a couple of really nice videos that go into detail on the components of an air bed, and why they chose certain materials vs. others.

As far as the three air beds they offer, they spent a great deal of time putting together three unique designs that offer, in my opinion, high quality components, using a very simple design.

If you are really interested in an adjustable digital air bed, I hope you will check them out -- Habitat Furnishings Air Beds . They also offer a great warranty and a full year, that’s 365 days- no questions asked trial period, something I have not seen before. And, if you want to return it within the full year trial, you can do so for whatever reason, and they use a removal service to come and pick up the bed, so I would say the risk factor is pretty low.

Or, if you prefer talking with someone, they do offer live phone customer service 9AM to 5PM Eastern Time, Monday - Friday, at 800-313-2591. All their staff apparently have years of industry experience and an in-depth knowledge of digital air beds, and they can help you see if an air bed may be a solution for your particular sleep needs. I have found that not all companies selling digital air beds even offer phone support!

Thanks for taking the time to read my article. I hope that if you buy an air bed, you do your research, and don’t be afraid to ask, “What’s inside this thing?!” – Eben

Disclaimer: In the spirit of full disclosure, I have asked Habitat Furnishings to contribute to the costs of maintaining my site, and they pay a monthly fixed fee to sponsor me, but do not pay me any proceeds from the sale of their products. They are not the only company selling digital air beds, and the opinions I have expressed are strictly my own.