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A Guide To Feather Down Fill Power, Ratings, Insulation, And Weight

By Edited Jan 1, 2016 0 0

If you’ve never spent any time researching or shopping for feather down bedding then you probably have little knowledge of care for down products or for the statistics that are used to measure down products. 

Down feathers refer to the feathers which are plucked from live birds when they are very young. Because of the process for obtaining down many activists dislike the practice and the cost of true down stuffed products like mattresses, pads, blankets, and pillows is much higher than it is for other similar products stuffed with alternative materials.

Down is however considered high end and luxurious and it has functional application too. The down feathers are extremely insulating and therefore they make an excellent material for stuffing products intended to keep you warm. Need a warm winter coat? A down stuffed coat is usually very warm… assuming of course the fill power or fill rating is high.

Fill Power – The First Clue To Down Feather Insulation Quality

What makes a down stuffed coat, bedspread, or mattress pad warm and heavily insulated is the amount of stuffing it has in it. If the down feathers are not of the highest quality or are not exactly down but possible a similar manufactured product then the item may not insulate as well no matter how well it’s stuffed. For actual down products however the fill power heavily influences insulation and warmth as well as thickness and fluffiness of the item in general.

When fill power is high for feather down you can basically assume that the item will be lighter and fluffier than a low fill power down item. For instance if you are looking at down comforters and you find a comforter with fill power of 450 and a second with a fill power of 750 you can assume the 750 fill power comforter is a higher quality down. It is likely softer to the touch, fluffier, and will keep you exceptionally warm.

Typically fill power and loft which is sometimes called “fluffiness” is misunderstood. When fill power is high that means the quality of the down feathers is higher and it takes less down feathers to achieve the same levels of warmth.  If you pack more high quality down into a comforter it will be thicker and provide better insulation than a thinner comforter with less loft.  In short the warmth of a down comforter will be based on the quality of the fill and the quantity of the fill.

A low quality down comforter will be just as warm as a high quality down comforter if the loft or the amount of fill is great enough. Vice-versa, I high quality down comforter can be poorly insulative if the loft or thickness of the fill is shallow enough.

So Based On Fill Power, Insulation & Weight Which Down Comforter Is Right For Me?

This is often the biggest question that many novice shoppers for down products have. What kind of warmth ratio and fill power is right for them? Based on price alone low quality down costs less so this may be best if money is tight however there are cheaper options than down bedding which can keep you warm or comfortable.

Usually down fill power is selected based on the preferences of the consumer and the use of the down.

If you want a throw pillow for your couch you are likely looking for a thicker bunch of down padding for support and less concerned with warmth or weight. If down is important to you as opposed to cheaper materials for pillows you could buy a low quality low fill power down stuffed pillow with a lot of loft or thickness.  If you were to buy higher quality down then the price would go up significantly for the same feel and support but you would reap no benefits from the warmth or weight of the down.

For comforters or mattress toppers personal preference comes into play. Some people like thin feeling blankets but still need warmth. This would require high fill power down in low quantity. A down comforter with a low fill power and loft level would probably feel thin as the consumer may want but it wouldn’t be nearly as warm.

Conversely if you like fluffiness but don’t want to overheat then you would buy a thick comforter (high loft) with a low fill power which would be less insulative and wouldn’t be quite so warm. Many warm weather climates sell down like this more often while cold weather or outdoorsman stores may sell down more often the other way.

Prices Of Down Products By Fill Power

Feather products by their very nature are high. Down is a natural product of geese primarily and the geese which provide feathers typically aren’t raised for this. They are usually harvested for meat and the down is a byproduct used in apparel, bedding, and related products that use down.

Most goosedown is on the lower end of the fill power spectrum. Its rating is lower and it’s price is more reasonable because it is available in greater quantity than high power, highly rated down feather. The high quality stuff is obtained from older birds which are far fewer in quantity. Because the supply of high quality down is lower the price for it is much higher.

For these reasons most budget stores stock and sell lower quality down and increase warmth ratings on their products by increasing the loft or quantity of down used in the products. High quality down comforters in the 750 fill power range typically sell for between $100 & $300 depending on the quality of the comforter itself and the thread count of the material. More affordable down comforters tend to be a bit thicker in quantity of down to increase warmth but can sell for much less ($50-$100) depending on the rest of the comforter construction.

As always make sure to read the feather down reviews from actual customers before you buy any expensive product. Past customers can shed light on features both good and bad about products that wouldn’t be known until after you make your purchase. I would also recommend not buying a comforter with high thread count because you will usually cover a down comforter in a duvet cover. If you want high thread count buy a good duvet cover instead.



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