The Key To A Comfortable and Long Lasting Air Bed
Undoubtedly, the biggest complaint about airbeds is that they quickly lose their 'frailty' and become flat, lifeless and sometimes hard very quickly. This is confirmed by the fact that some leading brands have a return rate of up to 23% for inflatable beds, as we have been told by an inside source. This means that around a quarter of customers are so unhappy with their purchase that they're willing to go through the hassle of dismantling, repacking and shipping back their mattress!
So are inflatable beds inherently uncomfortable? I have spent a lot of time researching this and testing different airbeds at trade shows and my experience is that while many are not very comfortable, some are really comfortable. The difference? To be honest, most inflatable beds use fairly low-grade components and these don't feel as comfortable in a short period of time.
But the few that do use higher quality components (vulcanised rubber airbags rather than cheaper PVC or nylon airbags, higher grade foam rather than fairly cheap low density foam etc.) are really much more comfortable than the standard inflatable beds you find - including most of those from the 'leading brands'. Rather than be confused by all the 'extras' that can really drive up the cost of an airbed. In our opinion, the best inflatable beds are those with a fairly simple mattress design and are made from quality components that are built to last.
Keeping the air chamber basic
In our year-long survey of inflatable beds, we began by researching the inflatable beds currently on the market, looking at the various airbag options. We were amazed at how sophisticated retailers could be for the average consumer. We felt the best way to understand the best materials to use for inflatable bed airbags was to talk to senior industry retailers and manufacturers who have been in the trenches using a variety of materials and methods to produce air chambers for both institutional beds (medical etc) and residential or domestic use. Should air chambers be made from rubber, PVC, polyurethane, nylon or other materials? Is it really necessary to have multiple chambers, zones, and baffles? How complex should the air chamber be before you pay for unnecessary materials and options?
The answer is surprisingly simple and boils down to the function of using fewer moving parts, thus reducing the amount of adhesive used in the construction of the air chamber and thus minimising the likelihood of problems throughout the life of the airbed. The materials selected for the advanced airbed components were evaluated in an effort to reduce or eliminate puncture problems, leaks and to increase the longevity and durability of the materials as they are in constant daily use with a large pressure differential two people in a typical bed with a relatively large load. Over the last few years air beds have become very popular, mainly because of the adjustability factor, and the industry seems to be reinventing itself as they improve the technology and materials used.
There are many powerful materials that can be used to create high quality air chambers for today's complex air beds. There is PVC (polyvinyl chloride, a plastic), nylon, polyurethane (synthetic rubber) and vulcanised natural rubber, to name but a few. PVC and polyurethane are considered highly desirable because these materials are largely inert and do not deteriorate, are reasonably elastic and can be supported with specialised polymer fabrics, making them essentially as strong as steel.
However, the trade-off is often comfortable when dealing with synthetic materials. PVC, nylon and polyurethane tend to feel stiffer and do not seem to offer the flexibility and elasticity that natural vulcanised rubber airbags have. They do not seem to be as widely flexible, especially when inflated to higher pressures. They tend to be less responsive than natural rubber, yield poorly and do not fit as well as natural rubber into the base layer of the air bed, which should provide the highest possible comfort level. We have found fabric-backed vulcanised rubber airbags to be the best choice, providing good flexibility across the full range of motion from soft to hard, without either bottoming out or becoming as hard as a concrete slab. Advances in safer, less toxic adhesives that
The fabric-backed vulcanised rubber air chambers will last for decades and it is not possible to 'pop' the air bed airbag due to the pressure limiting function of the pump system used with the air bed. Obviously, any material used in the construction of an airbag should be kept away from sharp objects. Most importantly, when looking closely at the internal structure of an inflatable bed, avoid the use of high-tech materials. In terms of overall considerations, natural rubber is unbeatable.
We have also concluded that too many baffles and inner walls should have provided motion damping properties to the airbed, but this is a lot of marketing hype and although some baffles and corner gussets are needed to keep the airbag in shape, it is important to remember that our experts tell us that manufacturing an airbag for an inflatable bed is a labour intensive job and many of the prices you pay include these cost factors. We will discuss more of the conference room issues below.
Too many corner gussets, baffles and chambers won't actually provide any additional benefits, not least because you can't really feel the difference in the other comfort layers on top of the airbag. In addition, we have determined that the ideal thickness of an airbag should be 5-7 inches thick, thick enough to accommodate larger people without bottoming out, especially in softer environments.
A relatively recent addition to the high-end air bed scene has been multiple chambered air beds, most commonly so-called tri-zone air beds. All basic air beds these days offer independent chambers for each sleeper (for example, two chambers in a queen air bed so that each sleeper has their own independently controllable air chamber).
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