Most waterbeds require a waterbed heater (also called a waterbed heating pad) to keep the water at a comfortable temperature. Without a waterbed heater the waterbed would sometimes feel too cold. However, not all waterbeds require a waterbed heater. Soft side waterbeds with a shallow fill, pillow top mattress could provide sufficient insulation which would make a waterbed heater is unnecessary. In some circumstances a thermal mattress pad may work, provided it was safe to use on the waterbed.
A waterbed heater should heat the waterbed to approximately 87 degrees, which is close to skin temperature. If you need to change the waterbed heater's temperature ensure you do so in small increments to allow the bed to properly adjust to the new temperature.
There are two main types of waterbed heaters available:
Standard cap and bulb waterbed heaters provide basic waterbed heating. These heaters have a copper wire filled with ethylene gas which is installed under the safety liner. The waterbed heater control is mounted to the side of bed frame. Standard bulb and cap waterbed heaters are not as accurate or energy efficient as solid-state waterbed heaters.
Solid state waterbed heaters use a computer chip to regulate temperature which results in highly accurate and energy efficient heating. The solid state waterbed heater usually includes a variable thermostat; which controls the on / off mode of the pad and regulates the water to maintain a pre-set temperature. Some solid state waterbed heaters have a tuck control design which allows the control to be hidden under the water mattress. In addition to a cleaner look the waterbed heater control is inaccessible to children.Heating a waterbed is not overly expensive, normally $4-6 per month. Of the two types of waterbeds (soft side and hard side), the soft side waterbed is more affordable to heat. A soft side waterbed uses a 125 watt heater. If you were to use the heater for 2000 hours per year (381 kilowatt hours) at a rate of $0.10/KWH, it would cost almost $40 a year ($3 per month) to heat a soft side waterbed. Heating a hard side water bed is a little more expensive, as it uses a 350-400 watt water heater (which requires more energy). Using the heater for 2000 hours per year (7000 kilowatt hours), at a rate of $0.10/KWH, it would cost $70 per year ($6 per month) to heat a hard side waterbed. The actual waterbed heater energy rate also depends on the depth of the waterbed mattress. Generally, the deeper the waterbed mattress the higher the energy bill will be.