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ChiliPad Warms, Cools Bed From Below

By Jim Bray
December 3, 2009

Welcome to the world of the "smart" mattress pad.

It's the ChiliPad, which you could also think of as something like an electric blanket that also cools, but which does its work from under you rather than on top of you. If your bed is too cold, it'll warm it. If it's too warm, it'll cool it, the manufacturer says, and I can certainly vouch for the warming part.

I have to admit I haven't tried cooling the bed yet; it's COLD as I write this, winter having arrived with a vengeance here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains, so the last thing I need right now is cooling. The ChiliPad has been warming our bed very well, though, each night before we head up the wooden hill. I don't think I'd want to be without it.

Our bedroom gets a tad, well, "Chili" at this time of year, causing my lovely wife and I to use an electric blanket to warm our mattress in the days before the ChiliPad. I never liked the electric blanket, though, especially since we have three "very kneady" cats with full sets of claws.

The ChiliPad spreads out on top of the mattress, though, so you lie on it rather than spreading it over you. I was still a bit worried about the cats before we tried it, though; the product sends water through soft coils in the mattress pad and I didn't want to wind up accused of wetting the bed thanks to the antics of a pussycat.

All has been well, though. The worries seemed unfounded.

ChiliPad uses the water that flows like blood through the pad's soft plastic veins to control its temperature, the water being heated or cooled inside the control unit to anywhere from 46 to 118 degrees Fahrenheit before streaming through the pad.

We installed the thing over our Tempur-Pedic mattress, which chills alarmingly during the winter but which warms up very quickly once it discovers there's body heat to be sucked out. Those initial minutes can be quite frosty, so I hoped the ChiliPad would work well enough to let us retire the electric blanket.

It does. It took a couple of weeks for me to find the right temperature for my side of the ChiliPad; my wife seemed to zero in on hers like flies on, well, whatever flies zero in on. I was surprised to find that my wife, who generally feels quite cold compared to me, keeps her side lower than I keep mine. Thanks to the two separate zones and controllers of the queen size ChiliPad we're using, though, we have the luxury of our own preferred setting.

The control unit looks like it should be carried by an astronaut boarding a space capsule, which is kind of cool, and it not only controls the ChiliPad, it holds the reservoir into which you pour the water. It connects to the ChiliPad's pad (how much Chili could a ChiliPad pad if a ChiliPad could pad Chili?) by a couple of small hoses that, as Murphy's Law would dictate, are just a couple of inches too short to let me mount the unit out of the way nicely.

ChiliPadInstead, they sit on top of our bookcase-type headboard. And that's too bad. They're certainly handy there but, despite the manufacturer's claim that the units are virtually silent, their sound while operating is actually quite conspicuous and it would be nice to move that noise away from where it is now, just above our heads.

On the plus side, since we only use the ChiliPad to make our pad not quite so Chili, we shut it off when we go to bed anyway; no harm done. And the company's website does offer hose extensions for sale, so maybe we'll look into that down the road.

Be careful about placing the control units too far out of the way, though; you'll need to top up their reservoirs every couple of weeks and you'll want to maintain access to the control panel.

Each control unit comes with a handy wireless remote control you can use to set the temperature, turn the unit on or off and/or set its timer. The timer gives you up to 12 hours of delay between when you set it and when the ChiliPad fires itself up. It works fine, but I wish they'd build in a real clock/timer so you can set it once, like an alarm clock, and then forget about it. The way it works now, I have to set the units every day, and my wife has assured me that if I ever forget about it I'll be a dead man.

As for the cooling feature, I look forward to trying that next summer, when the Tempur-Pedic gets so warm I nearly throw a Tempur tantrum. For now, though, I'm content with the lovely warming it does and very glad to be using it.

The manufacturer also claims a medicinal benefit from using the ChiliPad, saying it can help people with "injuries, illness, arthritis, osteo-related conditions, insomnia, anyone who is confined to bed."  And here's a hot flash for you: the ChiliPad folk claim it's even helpful with the symptoms of menopause.

Besides being a miracle of the modern age (well, okay, it's not going to cure cancer or anything like that!), the ChiliPad folk claim the gadget is a money saver. Yep, they say that by using the ChiliPad to control the temperature of your bed instead of adjusting the temperature of your bedroom, you can "reduce your household heating cost by up to 8%" and that "For every degree the thermostat is raised, 4% to 8% can be saved on cooling costs".

I have no idea if our power bill has gone down since the ChiliPad showed up. Nor do I care. There are so many electrical gewgaws in our home that the only way our electricity is going to get any more affordable is for us to build our own nuclear reactor. I imagine the Obama regime would issue a strongly-worded statement to stop us from doing that, though; heck, it worked so well with the Iranians!

ChiliPadIf the "Pad People" do decide to add an honest-to-goodness timer to future versions of the product, I hope they give it variable programming capabilities – something that would, for example, let me warm the bed the way I do now, but then lower the temperature once I'm in bed so I don't end up sticking my feet out from under the covers later, when I get too warm, as often happens now.

To be fair, I could accomplish that right now using the remote control (I can't use the control panel once I take off my reading glasses for the night), but then I'd have to remember not only to do it, but also which temperatures I prefer for optimal warmth and optimal "coolth". No big deal, I suppose, but more thought and effort than I want to put into it.

The ChiliPad, which the company says is machine washable (I bet they don't mean the control units, though!) sells on the company's website at with prices starting at $399 U.S. for the single zone twin size. The dual zone queen size we've been using is listed for $599 U.S. regular price.

That ain't cheap by any means, but if it works for you as well as it's been working for us you may think it's worth the money.

Copyright 2009 Jim Bray

Jim Bray's columns are available through the TechnoFile Syndicate.

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