Tips for Improving Your Air Consumption

Do you often find yourself low on air faster than your buddy? Would you like to maximize your air consumption and extend your bottom time?  Here are ten diving tips to help conserve your air and extend your bottom time.

 1.  Go Diving!!

The one thing that will improve your air consumption more than anything else is more diving. The more comfortable you get in the water, the less air you’re going to use. It’s a function of familiarity and learning to relax underwater. Inexperienced divers are famous for burning through their air supply at a furious rate, so get out there and get more experience. You may not be a new diver, but unless you dive almost every week it’s still an unnatural activity. If you Go Diving, your body will get used to the idea, and you’ll breathe less.

2.  Breathe Deeply and Slowly

You should not be taking lots of short, shallow breaths. You should breathe  in deeply and slowly and slowly exhale. Do not hold your breath to try and decrease air consumption – you’ll only make it worse and it’s dangerous.

3.  Slow and Steady Movements

You should use a minimum of movement when you dive. The more you are moving around underwater, the more air you will use. Focus and concentrate on your movements and minimize grand gestures and fidgeting. The energy cost of speed is even more than you might think: Swim half as fast as you do now, and you’ll use less air. It takes more air to feed the major muscle groups in your body so any time you can minimize movement you’ll improve your air consumption.

Keep your hands (“quiet”) and in front of you (or whatever position you are comfortable with). You usually don’t need them to swim so don’t use them. Just move forward with your fins. And, if you’re on a drift dive you usually don’t even need those.

4.  Streamline Everything

Unsecured hoses, gauges, and computers create drag in the water, resulting in an increase in air consumption. Make sure you have nothing dangling from your gear setup. Get rid of those scuba accessories you don’t use and make sure that you have everything secured as close as possible to your body. This has the added benefit of not damaging the coral from dangling equipment.

5.  Get Neutrally Buoyant

This skill, probably more than any other, will result in an improvement in your air consumption rate. This is often easier said than done, so practice, practice, practice. Ideally, you want to be able to stay level at the safety stop with no air in your BC and about 500 psi in your tank. If you are not properly weighted you will be putting air in the BC, letting air out of the BC and struggling to stay at the desired depth. Obviously, this is not the way to conserve air.

6.  Inspect your Gear and Fix Leaks

Even the smallest of air leaking from your equipment can use up a noticeable amount of air and may be a sign of more serious trouble ahead. A mask that doesn’t seal is another kind of leak that must be dealt with, in that you have to constantly blow air into it to clear out the water. It’s also a source of stress, which needlessly elevates your breathing rate and thereby reduces your breathing efficiency. Detune your octo or mount it carefully so that the mouthpiece points downward. Check your O-rings, inflater hose and connection points, and have your gear serviced as recommended by the manufacturer.

7.  Stay Horizontal

Streamline your body in the water and stay horizontal. The more vertical you are, the greater the resistance you will need to overcome and consequently, the more air you will use. Adjust your weights, tank, and BCD if you find you’re diving more vertically than horizontally.

8.  Go Shallower

If you remember from your initial open water training, you use more air the deeper you descend. Consequently, if you are concerned about your dive being cut short due to a low air situation, you can always ascend a few feet above the group so you will use less air. Remember, your regulator has to deliver air at the same pressure as the water, so a lungful at 33 feet (two atmospheres) takes twice as much out of your tank as does the same breath at the surface. At 99 feet (four atmospheres) it takes four times as much as the same breath at the surface. It’s physics – there’s absolutely nothing you can do about it except stay shallower and avoid being deeper than you have to be.

9. Minimize the Lead

If you’re overweighted, you have to put more air into your BC to float it and be neutral. The inflated BC is larger and requires more energy and oxygen to push it through the water. An extra eight pounds of lead means your BC is one gallon bigger when inflated enough to make you neutral.

10. Go Slow, Relax and Enjoy

Remember, you’re diving, NOT swimming. This is not a race or competition to see who can cover the most territory. Keep your hands quiet and make steady, fluid fin kicks as you enjoy the sights. There is no need to be darting all over the place. Just go with the flow (literally on a drift dive) and your dive will last longer and you will enjoy the experience more.