A Complete Guide For Scuba Compressors (Part II)

In our last post, A Complete Guide For Scuba Compressors (Part I) we discussed the difference between a scuba air compressor and other regular air compressors along with how a scuba air compressor works. In this post we’ll take a look at factors to consider when buying a portable scuba compressor, for the average recreational diver.

featured above: The Max-Air 35 Compressor available at Leisurepro.com

Type of compressor: There are essentially two types of portable scuba compressors, electric and gas. Electric motor compressors are more commonly used and preferred, however it’s important that the location where you are going to keep it is wired properly. The electric motors also come in single phase or dual phase electrical systems. Smaller compressors require 220-240 volt electrical systems.

Low-pressure and High pressure compressors: low pressure compressors are lightweight and are used in the case of surface supplied diving. The compressor is fitted in a flotation ring on the surface and supplies air to divers underwater through a hose. High pressure compressors compress air from 3,200 to 5,000 psi. They are commonly used by dive shops and even in commercial diving to fill scuba tanks. They are heavier and more bulky than low pressure ones, but are better for filling tanks.

Maximum Pressure: Consider the maximum pressure of the compressor before you purchase it. The compressor’s capacity should be in proportion with your tank size. A small tank may not be able to handle a high-pressure compressor, and a low-pressure model may not sufficiently compress air in a large tank.

Filtration: The filtration needed depends on the type of compressor and motor used. Gas compressors require more filtration to get rid of the carbon monoxide that comes from the motor exhaust. On top of that, if it’s an oil lubricated compressor, then you’ll need even more filtration to get rid of the oil/hydrocarbons in the air. The filter systems rarely come with the compressor itself and often has to be bought separately. Ascertain whether the compressor complies with the international breathing air standards.

Heat and Noise: All compressors generate considerable amounts of heat and can also be very noisy – more than 100 decibels, in some cases. These two factors lead many dive shops to set up a “compressor room” where the heat can be vented and the noise contained, while air is distributed to where’s it needed through long hoses or piping. If you don’t have the luxury of space, you may want make arrangements to get an enclosure for the compressor to reduce noise levels. Alternatively, you can make sure to choose a quieter type of compressor. For the heat factor, the space/ enclosure the compressor is kept in should be well ventilated and allow ample air flow.

Scuba air compressors are very expensive and can require a lot of maintenance and upkeep to keep them running smoothly. It’s a real commitment to own and run your own compressor. It’s important to know the ins and outs of the compressor you buy and have have basic mechanical abilities to help safely operate your compressor. If you’re ready to take on the expense and responsibility, take your time to do your research on different models and different companies well before making the purchase. Get details on the maintenance and cost of spares, rebuild kits etc from the company or authorized dealer and have them answer any questions you might have.


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