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If you’ve ever thought about buying an air mattress (also known as an air bed or inflatable mattress) you have probably wondered about the benefits and drawbacks of owning one.
Although they aren’t as big or (mostly only available up to Queen size) expensive as a comparatively sized conventional type such as latex or spring, they still certainly have high owner satisfaction, and unlike the former two an air bed can be used in many scenarios. Some of the uses could be as a permanently fixed bed, a temporary guest bed, or taken on backpacking and camping trips. Whichever your requirement it’s great to understand their pros and cons. Here we discuss them in further detail below:
One of the main advantages of having an air bed, especially when it’s used in-home as a permanent or main bed, is that it allows for custom firmness. You can set as firm or soft as you please. Add more air for a firm finish, or reduce for a plush and soft surface. This is great, mainly when used for guests because everyone likes their sleep surface slightly differently.
Although an inflatable one is not necessarily considered the undisputed mattress for back issues, the fact that you can adjust the firmness is a huge benefit for people who have back problems and other types of body or joint pains. This is because some nights the bed may be too soft, so with the press of a button you can quickly add some air for a firmer surface, which will offer better pain relief and better body contouring. Other nights the bed may be too firm, so likewise you can simply deflate a little with one touch and soften the surface.
Sharing a Bed
Still, on the subject of adjustable firmness, almost every full size and above have two separate inner chambers, which means you can have one side firmer or softer than the other depending on you or your partner’s preference. No more disputes as to whether it’s too firm or soft simply set however you like best.
Because of the PVC material used to manufacture them, there are no nasty off-gassing odors like you may find when a memory foam mattress is new.
Sagging is when the surface tends to give way slowly after years of usage, thus creating a crater-like effect where the person sleeps. When sagging occurs, it usually means time to start thinking about a replacement. A conventional full-size memory foam mattress or some innerspring versions will sag after years of usage, but with an air bed, this isn’t the case as you simply inflate with more air, which eliminates the sag.
The hard-wearing PVC and ability to counter sagging issues increases the lifespan tremendously over innerspring, latex, or foam. The average conventional type such as latex or spring will last between 7-10 years depending on quality, whereas an air bed can easily last 15 years. More often, if it’s an air mattress with a built-in pump that you have, the pump will fail before the bed will, but these can be replaced easily at a low cost.
Depending on the quality of the pump, an air bed can be inflated to full size within minutes, for example, a raised twin size can be inflated fully in approximately 5 minutes. A non-raised slightly smaller camping mattress can be inflated in about 3 minutes.
Well known brands such as Coleman and Intex have managed to bring their prices right down. For example, a twin air mattress can be purchased for as little as $30 online, whereas a twin memory foam mattress can easily cost $300 for a decent quality one.
Depending on its size, an inflatable mattress can be used indoors or outdoors. For example, a twin size low profile option can be taken on camping trips, or, it can be rolled up and left aside as a guest bed for the occasional visitors which you’d easily assemble on the living room floor. Likewise, some people also lay them across their back seat during road trips, which is much more comfortable than sleeping in the car seat.
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A larger permanent/fixed usage inflatable mattress can take anything between 30 – 60 minutes to assemble and may require two people. However, once it’s assembled the only thing you’ll need to worry about is whether to increase or decrease air based on your preference.
Some owners complain of noisy pumps, but these are usually only in budget brands. Also considering pumps are only ever used to inflate or deflate, it’s probably not very often you’ll be using it.
Because of the mechanical nature and reliance upon the built-in pump, if it becomes faulty, you’ll need it repaired either by way of cost or warranty. If your inflatable mattress requires an external pump instead, simply buy a new one from Amazon which should cost no more than $15.
Warranties are generally shorter than that of latex and innerspring, so if the PVC bed structure or pump develops a fault you may need to pay towards it. However, nowadays the cost of a new one will usually be the same as a repair, so you’re better off looking for a new replacement rather than paying towards a fix.
Well, hopefully, this post makes things a little clearer now and will aid in your decision making. For further information please also check our air mattress reviews.
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Lindsay is a contributor and the senior editor of all content posted on this site. She is in this role due to her somewhat unrivaled expertise through previous retail experience in the mattress and bedding industry.