A Guide To Fill Power
By David Smith
Last Updated: 2/15/23
What Is Fill Power in a Down Pillow?
Fill power is a number that measures the fluffiness and quality of a down product. Fill power measures the amount of space one ounce of down will occupy in cubic inches. Why is fill power important? Higher fill power means the down will have better quality, higher loft, and will retain its firmness longer. This is because higher fill power means the down can trap more air which allows for greater insulation. Common fill power measurements include 650, 750, 800 & 850.
Our Down Fill Power Chart:
Each of the cylinders below contain only one (1) ounce of down. As fill power increases, the down can trap more air which, in turn, allows more insulation from the down.
For example, one (1) ounce of 800 fill power goose down will loft to 800 cubic inches. So 850 fill power will 'bloom' or 'loft' higher than 800 fill power. The higher the fill power the larger the down cluster. Larger down clusters will loft higher; sleep softer, last longer and sleep warmer.
What is fill weight vs fill power?
Fill weight is the number ounces of down inside the pillow shell. Fill power is the size and quality of the down used to fill the shell. It's that simple.
You’ve probably seen down products mention fill weight and fill power all the time, but what's the difference between the two? People think that fill weight and fill power are the same thing, but the reality is:
- Fill weight is a measurement of how much material, in terms of ounces, we put inside the shell of the pillow to create a given density: soft, medium, firm or extra firm.
- Fill power is a measure of quality and cubic inches. So, the higher the fill power, the higher the quality, and the larger the down cluster.
Just to give you some perspective on the difference between those qualities: a 600 fill power down cluster is a little bit smaller than a US dime but an 850 fill power down cluster is larger than a US Quarter and has the maximum loft and the highest quality. However, 850 down clusters are produced by older, more mature Hungarian geese and take longer to be grown. Each fill power of down clusters equivalates being grown longer by a high-quality goose, which is why it's so much more expensive.
So, you might ask: should I look for the high fill power 800 or 850 if I want the best? Absolutely. Here at Down & Feather, we offer 650 fill power down and above for your down pillow fill. See how our sourcing makes the difference below.
How to compare fill power?
Comparing our Down & Feather Co. ultra-premium Hungarian white goose down sourced, cleaned, packaged and shipped by our team to other down in the market is going to be a challenge. All down is not sourced from the same species, from the same geography, cleaned the same and certainly not packaged, shipped and stored in a climate controlled room with moisture barrier floors installed and designed specifically for our down. All of those variables can and do significantly impact the way the finished goods; pillows, comforters and mattress toppers perform over time.
Fill power is a measure of quality, size and cleanliness. The higher the fill power the higher the quality and the higher the fill power the larger the size of the down cluster. Since the higher fill power down cluster are larger we can't get as many of them into the pillow so the fill weight is lower. And, since higher quality fill powers are also larger comparing them to other fill powers becomes a challenge.
The reason is all fill powers are not created equal even within the same fill power especially when compared across different manufactures. Meaning, I can almost guarantee you that our ultra-premium Hungarian white goose down isn't like any other Hungarian white goose down or any other goose down.
A very quick, and hopefully useful analogy, is comparing chocolate. Is all chocolate the same? I mean, it's just chocolate right? So how different can it be? Hershey's makes great chocolate. But, Godiva is probably better. You might not like Godiva more than Hershey chocolate but Godiva is using higher quality ingredients and it's certainly more expensive. Godiva is great chocolate but Teuscher chocolates of Switzerland and their champagne truffles are extraordinary. "A chocolate truffle made with Dom Perignon and milk chocolate ganache and then encased in milk chocolate". Still chocolate but significantly higher quality ingredients, much more expensive than Godiva, requiring much greater skill to source and manufacture. So, all chocolate isn't the same. All goose down isn't the same either and the differences can be just as extreme as chocolate.
How do I compare fill weights?
To be honest, it’s difficult to compare fill weights across different brands. The fill weight is different for each pillow density (the thickness for each pillow size). The pillow sizes are standard, queen or king, and each comes in multiple down fill powers that can drastically change fill weight.
We get a lot of emails requesting the number of ounces used to create a given density (thickness) of our pillow sizes like soft, medium, firm or extra firm. Each of our pillows is custom-made for you with the requested down pillow fill power, so fill weights can vary in the creation process. Ordering a 700 fill power pillow that’s extra firm will use a different fill weight than a 700 fill power pillow that’s soft, and both of those will be different than a 850 fill power pillow that’s medium.
Knowing a product’s number of ounces for a given density or thickness does not make for a 1:1 comparison across companies and products due to a variety of reasons. Our down may have larger clusters or come from a different breed of goose than products from other companies. This is why we do not recommend using fill weight for comparing products.
What does down fill power mean for pillows?
Fill power represents the size and quality, loft and how long a pillow will retain its firmness. The higher the fill power the higher the quality, the higher it will loft and the longer it will "retain its firmness" (i.e. years it will last). DO NOT use fill power as a "measure of firmness", 850 fill power down pillows are NOT firmer than 650 fill power down pillows.
However, the 850 fill power pillow is higher quality and will last longer. Firmness (i.e. soft, medium, firm, extra firm) is determined by, fill weight, adjusted by the amount of down inside the pillow shell. For example, our standard soft 850 fill power pillow contains (14 oz.) while the medium contains (16 oz.) firm contains (19oz.) and extra firm has (21 oz.) stuffed into the pillow shell.
What does fill power mean for down comforters?
Fill power represents quality, loft and how warm a down comforter will sleep. The higher the fill power the higher the quality. The higher the fill power the higher your down comforter will "puff up" and loft. If you are looking for a big billowy down comforter fill power, then you will want to look at our Snuggle Soft down comforter or our Natural Nights Year-round down comforters. They will loft the highest, last the longest and sleep the warmest.
What does fill power mean for Feather beds?
Fill power represents quality, loft and longevity. Fill power is a very important factor for an item like a feather bed given that all your weight will be compressing the down clusters underneath you for, hopefully, 8 hours. The larger the down cluster the higher the quality. The higher the quality longer it will retain its loft and firmness. DO NOT use fill power as a "measure of firmness", 850 fill power down feather beds are NOT firmer than 650 fill power down feather beds. However the 850 feather bed will last longer.
What is the best down fill power? (feathers don't have a fill power rating)
The rule of thumb is "the higher the fill power the higher the quality," so our ultra-premium 850 fill power is the finest and most consistent down fill available in the world. HOWEVER,
All of these elements and many more impact the quality of given a fill power from a given bird from a given region.
The higher the fill power the larger the down cluster, the larger the down cluster the higher the quality, the higher the quality the longer it will last and the higher it will loft and the more air it will trap therefore sleeping warmer.
How do I compare the different fill power?
Remember, the higher the fill power the higher the quality, but that does not mean that 650 or 750 fill power down fills are of inferior quality. 650, 750 and 850 fill power down clusters are considered premium quality down fills and anything less than 650 is typically considered commercial quality. Commercial quality down is typically used to fill furniture and stuffed toys for children.
650 vs. 750 vs. 850 fill power and what's the difference?
In addition to the larger down cluster being of higher quality it also came from a older bird. The smaller down clusters (650 fill power down cluster) come from smaller, less mature birds. It's all about supply and demand. 850 fill power down clusters are more expensive because there are fewer of them and most everyone wants only the finest quality. But keeping the bird alive long enough, many years, to produce such high quality is expensive, time consuming, and labor intensive.
Look for companies that specifically mention their treatment of the birds if you are concerned about how they acquire their down. All of our Hungarian white goose down is RDS certified under the responsible down standard.
Fill power facts:
- The higher the fill power the larger the down clusters.
- The larger the down cluster the higher the quality.
- The higher the quality the longer it will retain its loft and firmness.
- The larger the down cluster the more mature the bird from which it came.
- The larger the down cluster the more air it traps.
- The larger the down cluster the higher it will loft.
- The larger the down cluster the better the insulating power.
- The larger the down cluster the lighter the down pillow, down comforter or feather bed will be.
Three Fill Power Myths & FAQs:
Are higher fill power pillows firmer or harder?
No. This is a very common mistake when shopping the best down pillow. The higher the fill power the higher the quality of the down but the softer the pillow will sleep.
What is a good fill weight for a down comforter?
Down comforters work at any time of the year, they are breathable and fluffy. They also serve well in the winter months, keeping you from getting cold at night. We recommend:
- 650 fill power: A great standard down comforter fill, providing lift but density.
- 700 fill power: Perfect choice for middle-of-the-road fluff and thickness.
- 800+ fill power: The fluffiest, lightest and highest quality comforter.
Check out our guide to choosing the perfect down comforter to learn more.
What is fill power in jackets?
Similar to down pillow fill, jackets also use fill power to rate the fluff of their jacket. The higher the fill power, the greater loft and insulating efficiency of the jacket. For the best down jackets, look for at least 550 fill power - the higher the better. While we don’t sell these, we think it’s important to know!
The higher the fill power the heavier the down pillow?
No. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. The best down pillows use high fill power down which is soft, light and very quiet.
The higher the fill power the higher the fill weight?
No. Again, it’s the exact opposite. Fill weight is the number of ounces needed to fill the pillow to be a certain thickness. The higher the fill weight the thicker the pillow. But, due to the size of our Hungarian white goose down fewer ounces are needed to create a given density; soft, medium, firm or extra sometimes referred to as thickness.
Fill Power at Down and Feather:
We use a double-shell design for our down pillows to further enhance the longevity of your down pillows. We use a baffle box design for our down comforters so that the down clusters are free to reach their maximum loft and fluffiness. We use a baffle box design and a 2” gusset for our down feather bed or mattress toppers to allow the down clusters to reach their maximum loft while providing you with the greatest support.
As a consumer you should be looking for both the highest quality down, determined by using fill power, but also be looking for a design to allow the down fill to reach its maximum loft. The design that allows down to reach its maximum loft is a baffle box design like all of our premium down comforters and feather beds (save the classic). A baffle box design allows the down, not the feathers (we don't use feathers in any of our down comforters) to reach their maximum loft thus providing you with the maximum amount of insulation to keep you cozy warm at night.
We have chosen these designs because they are the most efficient designs for allowing the down to reach its maximum loft. Whether we like it or not, quality alone doesn't always win the day but big billowy and all fluffed up down comforters sure do look better than flat down comforters.
Still not sure what pillow fill power you need? Check out our Perfect Pillow Quiz to get matched with your sleep soulmate. We source all of our down from the finest Hungarian geese with an emphasis on ethical practices. See the Down & Feather difference today.
These designs made from single-ply Egyptian cotton shells with double stitching and sateen corded edges stuffed with RDS certified ultra-premium Hungarian goose down from mature birds living in the coldest of climates producing the larger down clusters are decidedly more expensive to produce and represent the finest luxury down pillows, down comforters and feather beds in the world.