Scuba diving is a fun activity that allows you to explore an entirely foreign world, one that only human innovation allows you to enjoy. With the proper gear and training you can breathe underwater and experience the wonders of the world’s oceans.
Of course, being out of your element does come with some inherent risk. If the water is too cold and you don’t compensate accordingly with a properly rated wetsuit, you risk hypothermia. The bigger threat is that your tank could run out of air.
Although you can plan carefully to ensure that you have enough air to carry you safely through every dive, you still want to do all you can to conserve, rather than risking burning through the air you have too quickly. Here are just a few tips to help you save air when diving.
1. Stay in Shallow Water
If you’re new to scuba diving or you’re at all anxious about having enough air for your dive, it’s probably best to stay near the surface. This is not only for your psychological sense of well-being – the last thing you want is to panic in deep water – but it’s also scientific.
The deeper you go in the water, then the more air it takes for you to keep breathing. This is because air pressure must be maintained even though the underwater pressure increases.
At sea level, we experience one atmosphere of pressure which amounts to just over 14 pounds of pressure per square inch. When you hit a depth of 10 meters underwater, this doubles to two atmospheres of pressure. At 20 meters it triples, and so on.
However, your regulator must still deliver breathable air that is the proper pressure for your lungs. When you are at two atmospheres, you’re drawing twice the amount of air with every breath you take.
This does not pose a problem so long as you calculate appropriately and time your dive to coincide with the amount of air you’ll use. However, if you want to save air when diving or extend the life of your tank, staying nearer the surface can do the trick.
2. Conserve Movement
The faster you move, the faster you’re likely to use up your oxygen supply. By swimming faster and exerting more effort, you’ll raise your heart rate and increase demand for air.
You can, however, conserve your movements in order to save air when diving. Avoid rapid movements whenever possible and think about using your real power source – your legs – for momentum, leaving your arms at your sides so as to move less. You could also try enhancements like flippers or jet boots to get more mileage out of every tank, so to speak.
3. Redistribute Weight
Scuba diving requires a lot of gear, and some of it is quite heavy. If, however, you can afford to shed some weight, you’ll save air when diving.
Do multiple members of your diving party really need camera equipment? If not, you can leave this unnecessary weight behind. There won’t be a lot you can trim, but whenever possible, reduce the weight of your gear to extend your air
If there’s nothing left to shed, consider redistributing your weight for optimal energy conservation. By shifting your gear around your body, you could reduce the effort needed to move underwater and save some air in the process.
4. Consider Body Temperature
Insulation is important when you dive, especially in colder waters. If you’re in relatively warm water, preserving your body temperature is not as much of a concern.
However, in cold water your body will have to work harder to stay warm, which could increase your air usage. By wearing appropriate insulation (i.e. a properly rated wetsuit) you can reduce your body’s demand for air.
Practice makes perfect. The more you dive, the calmer and more confident you will be, reducing anxiety and slowing your breath. You might also increase lung capacity, and in turn, your ability to conserve air.
6. Check for Leaks
Even a miniscule leak somewhere in your diving gear can spell disaster as you dive and pressure increases. If you want to save air when diving, you cannot afford to let any of it leak into the water unnecessarily. It is therefore imperative to check all of your gear before you dive to ensure there are no air bubbles leaking out where they shouldn’t.