The trend in recent years has been toward soft-sided waterbeds otherwise known as hybrid waterbeds. The thick padding and foam frame construction of these hybrids had largely done away with the need for an electric heating system. A waterbed heater was an absolute requirement in the days when sleeping on a waterbed meant sleeping with the only thing between you and the vinyl water bladder was a bed sheet and possibly a sheet in combination with a mattress pad.
The water in bladder would never rise above the ambient temperature of the room and never close to the normal human body temperature of 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit. Before the introduction of electric heating systems, owners had to place a piece of foam directly over the vinyl bladder. Without a layer of insulation between the sleeper and the bladder, the sleeper would experience a mild case of what could only be described as hypothermia where body heat was drawn away leaving the sleeper quite chilly indeed.
With the introduction and widespread use of electric heating systems, the need for a layer of insulation was eliminated. The heating systems allowed the sleeper to control the temperature of the bed allowing for maximum sleeping comfort. Waterbed heating systems have been shown to have some therapeutic benefit for those people with achy joints and other mild medical maladies. For the rest of us the feel of a nice, warm bed is just plain comfortable.
Newer hybrid waterbeds have largely done away with the need for a heating system and the decision of whether or not to have a heater is strictly one of a personal preference and comfort. Hybrids take a page from the past history of waterbeds by using thick foam padding on top of the water-filled bladder or water cylinders. The addition of a heating system to a hybrid waterbed can help take away the chill of a winter night in the same way a heated blanket or heated bed pad can when used with a traditional flatbed.
Designed for traditional mattresses, electric blankets and heated mattress pads should never ever be used with any type of waterbed. Even if you own a hybrid waterbed, a leaky tube can spell disaster with the very real possibility of electrocution. When it comes to heaters and other electrical devices for your waterbed, use only those products that are specifically designed for your type of bed.
When assembling a soft sided water bed it is important to follow some basic safety rules. Always follow the instructions provided by the manufacturer with regard to the proper placement of the heater. Be certain that the power cord, temperature sensor and heater control cables are not kinked and properly placed.
The ability to buy products globally through the internet has many advantages. Along with those advantages comes a responsibility on the part of the consumer. Products can be purchased for what seems like a great price, but the money saved may not be worth it. Cyberspace is full of unscrupulous sellers who offer shabbily made goods that can be downright dangerous. The cardinal rule is always buyer beware. Another way to think of this rule is buyer be aware. If the price of something seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Organizations such as Underwriters Laboratories and the Canadian Standards Association rate the safety of many different types of products. Always look for the UL or CSA label on any electrical device you plan to use with your waterbed. This includes heaters, heater controls and lighting devices. Avoid any product that is not safety rated.