Tips for Owning Your Own Scuba Air Compressor

People always tell me how lucky I am when I tell them I have my own compressor to fill my scuba tanks. When I hear this, I roll my eyes. Little do people realize just how much work goes into owning a high pressure air compressor. It’s almost like raising a child. Many times you have to handle it with kid gloves and other times, you need to get more forceful. Just like with children, when it starts to act up, it will cause you quite a bit of frustration. Don’t be surprised if you make a lot of new leaches “friends” when people find out you can fill scuba tanks.

High Pressure, Breathing Air Scuba Compressor

Decisions, Decisions


The decision to purchase your own compressor is one that shouldn’t be taken lightly. When trying to decide, there are a few factors that you need to consider.

  1. Electric or Gas – Most likely, you’ll want to go with an electric motor. Unless you are going to travel with your compressor. So you will need to make sure that the location where you are going to keep it is wired properly. Smaller compressors will require 220-240 volt electrical systems. Motors will also vary. If you are going to use it out of your home, you will need a single phase electric motor. Bigger compressors require bigger motors, those motors may require dual phase electrical systems. Homes are rarely wired for three phase. So if you want that 25 cfm, 4 stage compressor in your garage. Be prepared to drop a few thousand dollars to get three phase installed at your home (plus any municipal hassles).
  2. Filtration – The type of compressor and motor will determine the amount and type of filtration needed. If you are using a gas compressor, you’ll need plenty of filtration to get rid of the carbon monoxide that comes from the motor exhaust. If you are using an oil lubricated compressor, then you’ll need plenty of filtration to get rid of the oil/hydrocarbons in the air. Rarely will compressors come with filtration already installed. So you will need to buy a filter system for your compressor. you’ll want something that can produce Modified Grade E air (or Oxygen Compatible Air).
  3. Your Compressor Education – If you know nothing about high pressure, breathing air compressors, then you should not own your own. You should know how air gets compressed as it passes from stage to stage and how it travels between stages and eventually into your tanks. I would recommend become a certified gas blender. Having the understanding of safe flow rates and gas properties certainly will help you safely operate your compressor.
  4. Your Ability with Tools – If you are like my wife and have difficulty using a screw driver, then you may want to reconsider purchasing a compressor. You need to have some mechanical ability to work on your compressor. If you are afraid to get your hands dirty, then have plenty of money on hand to hire someone to work on it.
  5. Patience – If you get frustrated easily and rush to decisions, don’t buy a compressor. You’ll stress yourself to an early grave. You need to keep a clear head when working on compressors so that you can make wise decisions. Jumping the gun can cost you quite a bit of money if you screw things up even more.

Lastly, you need to have a continual stream of income. You’ll need to buy oil, lubrication, filters, rebuild kits, etc. just to keep your system maintained and working properly. If you think you will save yourself some money by owning your own compressor versus buying air from a dive store, think again. The only benefit to owning your own compressor is the convenience of it. I can fill tanks on my schedule and don’t have to rush to a dive store before they close to get my tanks filled. Do a thorough job of researching compressors and the amount of work to maintain them before you buy.

Dive Safe,
Duane
Precision Diving

About Duane Johnson

Duane Johnson is the founder of Precision Diving and runs a scuba diving blog to help scuba divers improve their diving skills and enjoyment. He teaches recreational and technical scuba diving classes in the Chicago area. Learn more about him here and follow him on Twitter at @PrecisionDiving.

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