In general, down comforters are a warmer comforter and best suited for cooler conditions. In some instances, they are a very suitable option for summer months. This will largely depend on the person who is sleeping and temperature of the room as well as the materials of the down comforter.
The very definition of a comforter is “a warm quilt” Typically comforters consist of a shell and a filling material which is held in place within the shell by quilting or internal baffles to keep the filling from shifting during use. Down comforters typically consist of a breathable shell and duck or goose down filling. By nature, down is a great insulator and helps to keep ducks and geese warm in cold water. Therefore when used in comforters it has a great insulating capability and traps body heat next to the person who is under the comforter.
Fill power is the scientific measurement of the cubic inches of loft of one ounce of down. It measures how “fluffy” the down is and how well it can trap air and insulate. The higher the number the loftier (and thus more insulating and warmer) the down is. Warmth of any down item is determined by three factors:
1) The fill power of the down being used
2) the warmth of the shell materials
3) the amount of down in the item
Warmth can be regulated in an item by any of these factors or all of them together.
While down comforters can be made from many types of natural or synthetic fibers, the shell must be of breathable materials. Another “must have” is shell materials that are finely woven enough to stop down from coming through the comforter and “shedding” onto surrounding areas, so opt for fabric with a higher thread count. Typically shells of down comforters are made of cotton, but may also be found with bamboo, microfiber or other materials. Cotton lends itself well to down comforters because is it highly breathable. Look for a thread count of at least 250 or higher for the best resistance to shedding and the best durability of the shell.
By combining a breathable cotton shell with down fill, a comforter is born. The warmth of that comforter will depend on the fill power of the down (remember the higher the number the loftier and warmer the down) and how much down is used in the construction of the comforter. The more down the thicker and warmer the comforter becomes. Good comforters will use either internal baffles or stitch through constructions (typically boxes) to keep the down in place inside the comforter. Internal baffles which are extra fabric separating the top and bottom shells internally like tiny walls will allow more down in each box, while stitch through construction will allow less fill and is typically used in a thinner comforter.
It is also possible to find down blankets which are a combination of a typical blanket but has down fill. While comforters tend to be thicker and puffier, a down blanket would be flatter or thinner. While still having the properties of a down comforter, these tend to be not as warm and well suited to summer.
Our original question to be answered was whether a down comforter could be suitable for summer use. The answer is it depends on the person. Someone whose temperatures tend to run on the hot side or who often sweat at night would probably find a down comforter too warm. While down lends itself to trapping body heat, a lightweight comforter made from breathable fabric and lightweight, fluffy down might be OK in a cooler room. A down blanket would probably be a perfect match.
For those who find an air-conditioned room too cool or prefer to be warmer when sleeping, a lightweight down comforter would be perfect! With light weight and gentle warmth, they lend themselves well to a cooler air-conditioned summer bedroom or chilly evening on the couch for movie night. While being lightweight, the insulating power of down keeps you comfortable, but not too warm for a cooler room even in summer. Add a flannel duvet cover and you are ready for cooler fall and winter months. A down comforter is both versatile and easy care (machine wash and dry at home) and lends itself well to multiple season of use, including summer!