Everything you need to know about Airbeds
In recent years, airbeds have become a popular alternative mattress choice. The support core construction is simple: a hollow chamber known as a bladder that contains the air and maintains consistent air pressure. The bladder may be constructed from a wide range of materials, such as PVC, nylon, urethane or rubber. Historically, the bladder has been limited to a single, undivided space. In recent years, however, some mattress manufacturers have introduced zoned bladders that feature several mini-chambers. The purpose of a zoned bladder is to support individual areas of high and low compression, resulting in a more customized and body-conforming fit. Additionally, tri-bed airbed designs feature three isolated chambers designed to independently support your legs, midsection and head.
Another key airbed component is the pump, which controls the firmness or softness of the mattress by taking in or letting out air. Traditional airbeds require manual pumping, but many of today’s mid- and high-range airbeds feature remote-controlled pumps. For ideal sleeping, the pump should be relatively quiet and operate efficiently.
While the novelty of an airbed will be appealing to some, these models cannot provide the same level of support as latex, innerspring or even HR polyfoam support cores. A common problem is sinking: because there is nothing material separating the comfort layer from the bladder, the mattress will often sag all the way to the support core. As a result, airbeds will not properly align your spine or provide pressure relief compared to a latex, innerspring or polyfoam mattress. Waterbeds (see below) are also considered superior to airbeds in terms of support.
The way airbeds are marketed and sold to the public has also led to customer complaints. Many airbeds are advertised with selling benefits that ostensibly drive up the price, such as zoned bladders or internal walls to minimize motion transfer. However, these features have not been proven to provide the same level of support as other mattress types. Nonetheless, ‘luxury’ airbeds will be quite expensive ? more than $3,000, in some cases.
Many airbed have lengthy trial periods (i.e., 90 days), but you must usually keep the bed for a certain amount of time before returning it. Airbed warranties have been criticized, as well; while many warranties extend 20 years or longer, the prorated coverage will typically kick in after two or three years, leaving the owner responsible for additional expenses down the road. For more information about the difference between nonprorated and prorated coverage, check out our mattress warranty guide.
An airbed could be the most suitable option for you, but we strongly suggest testing out a number of models before finalizing your purchase ? as well as other, non-airbed mattresses. Here are a few more considerations to make if you are interested in airbeds:
- How is the bladder constructed? Single-bladder airbeds offer the lowest amount of individual support, while zoned bladders and tri-bed models provide a more customized fit for your body.
- What kind of pump is included? Remote-controlled pumps are usually found in the most expensive airbeds, but most models available today will utilize mechanized pumps (as opposed to manual ones).
- What is the trial period, and what are the terms of the warranty? Don’t be fooled by lengthy trial periods and seemingly generous warranties, particularly in expensive airbeds. Instead, use durability and construction to help determine which airbeds are accurately priced ? and which ones are too expensive.