Digital Air Bed Review- The Basics, The Bullet Points And Where To Buy...Without Getting Taken!


We'll even tell you about an air bed system that is rated #1 in customer satisfaction by, and it isn't who you think it is!

One of the hottest segments of the bedding marketplace today is digital air beds. The unique ability to adjust the amount of pressure inside of a supportive air chamber is pretty old technology, but today's top of the line air beds are vastly different from the blow up camping beds we grew up with. Today's beds offer a remote control to take your bed from soft to firm and everywhere in between, with a readout that provides a frame of reference that you can employ in a memory setting on the remote. After all, our bodies need firm support one day, and a little more "cush" factor, the next.

A really nice digital air bed typically makes use of a few key ingredients, and is not as complex as you might think. The entire apparatus is contained within an exterior outer covering usually made with a zippered encasement, since in most cases, when you purchase an air bed, you will be buying it in modular kit form, following some simple instructions and assembling it piece by piece. You'll likely have a set of stiff foam side rails which form the perimeter of the interior, inside of which are placed the air chambers that are adjustable, with hoses that snake to the outside, and attach either to an exterior pump unit, or a pump unit that is concealed inside of the bed. The remote controls attach to the pump if they are hard wired, or can be wireless, in which case they communicate with the pump unit.

Above the air chambers and stiff side rails and head and foot rails, there may be one or more foam support layers, made of a variety of materials, or there may be no layers, depending upon the model and the cost. Higher end digital air bed systems will often include a layer of memory foam, pure latex rubber, or other proprietary high density foam layers given unique names by the manufacturer, usually to conceal the fact that it is a pretty common or readily available material, but they simply don't want other manufacturers to copy their product.

 Anatomy Of A Typical Air Bed System

Anatomy Of A Typical Air Bed System

Higher end air beds offer many other luxurious features, including advanced memory settings, massage options, snore reduction technology, even warming units (Sleep Number has a model with a foot warming option that is awesome, we've tried it), and they can even be used on adjustable beds, now becoming extremely popular. You can program an air bed so that is communicates with an app on your phone, it can track your sleep performance and auto-adjust if you're a tosser and turner, and basically coach you into better sleep patterns. Pretty amazing.

The foam layer options also are quickly becoming more advanced, with the advent of gel foam materials, graphite (charcoal) infused foam that disperse body heat, and advanced fiber materials that wick away moisture and heat from the outer covering. Even natural materials like bamboo or organic cotton is readily available in the marketplace.

The upside with air bed shopping is that there are far fewer options to choose from the hybrid, coil, and other mattress choices. This makes it easier to evaluate and shop for an air bed. Often over priced, even the larger brands now offer price point models that are reasonably priced, under $1,000, putting them in the same accessible price ranges an the most popular mattresses out there. 

The reason that there are only a handful of air bed retailers online, (there is only one brand that actually has a retail store chain offering only their models) is because they are fairly complex, primarily due to the pneumatic pump and air chamber system.

The most confusing part about shopping for an air bed of this kind is to figure out what exactly is the difference between each model, understanding the support foam layers that are found inside of each model, and trying to determine if you are getting a good deal or not. We've studied reviews of digital air beds 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 under $1000 for a basic, entry level model, to over $6,000 for a more sophisticated model from the most popular brands, with top of the line components and a luxurious outer covering. The top of the line model might feature a layer of memory foam or as other layers as we mentioned at the top of this article, 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.

trial periods, warranties and return policies

Make sure you get a decent trial period, at least 90 nights, with a no questions asked return policy. Air beds, though often made with foam layers that can be moved around allowing you to change the feel of the beds, involve some assembly, and if you are moving to an air bed from another kind of mattress, there may be a slight adjustment period. You need to give some time, say two weeks, to allow your body to adapt to the unique floating and buoyant sensation that only an air bed can deliver.

This means that you should be able to get a full refund, with a minimal return ship charge of around $100 to get the mattress back to the manufacturer. Look for sales, as digital air beds tend to be on sale more frequently that other categories of mattresses. 

A decent warranty should cover any defective parts with free replacement for at least a couple of years, and have a good lifespan on the pro-rated side, lets say another 15-18 years.