How to Reduce Air Consumption During Diving
Are you always the one diver in a group or with your buddy that runs out of air the fastest? If you often end up being the one to end a dive first then check out the tips below that will help you reduce your air consumption during diving. Have a look at what you can do to change that situation.
You might be wondering why it even is important to make your air last as long as you can. Well, if you need less air then that means you can enjoy longer bottom times and maximize your overall dive time. Also, you don’t want to be the one diver that has to admit that you have the lowest amount of air left after a dive.
Why bother to improve your air consumption?
The most important reason is that you’ll end up having bragging rights back on the boat when you are having the most air left in your tank. Just kidding…
If you consume less air then you can dive longer. Or, you have a larger safety margin compared to other divers. Both are good and important enough reasons to start working on your air consumption.
Diving in a group with a guide can also have its problems for the diver with the highest air consumption. Your guide will usually require the diver that reaches 1000 psi first to let him or her know so that the group can be brought up safely again. Nobody wants to be that first diver that ends the dive for all.
You have three choices when you are that diver though. First, you can let the guide know. That’s the reasonable thing to do at that time. Second, you can lie and put yourself at risk because you don’t want to be the one that ends the dive for all. That’s not such a smart choice. Third, you can work on consuming less air so that you’re not the guy calling the dive in the future!
What factors related to air consumption can you not control?
There’s pretty much one factor that you unfortunately cannot change which determines air consumption. It’s the size of your body.
If you are 5 feet tall (short) and weigh 95 pounds then you certainly need less air than a 6’5 guy that weighs 250 pounds. Nature is just like that. There’s pretty much nothing you can do to change that part of the equation.
Now, if you are seriously overweight and completely out of shape then it’s pretty obvious what you can do yourself. Lose some weight and get some exercise onto the menu and you will see steady progress with regards to requiring less air during a dive.
What are air consumption factors that you can control?
There’s a number of factors that you can control and influence. There’s a few categories in which you can directly impact your air consumption.
- Leaking or otherwise malfunctioning dive gear
- Overall fitness
- Reducing air consumption while diving
These three major areas are usually under your control. There might not be instant ‘fixes’ but over time you can improve in those categories to reduce your air consumption.
Check out our tips below on what you can do to reduce your air consumption during a dive.
Check for Leaks
Check your scuba gear regularly for leaks. If you see bubbles or hear a hissing noise then it’s time to find out where the leak is. Even if you don’t see a leak yourself, make sure that you have your gear checked regularly.
Ask your dive buddy to check behind you to find whether a tiny stream of bubbles is escaping from a worn-out O-ring. Also check that your mask sits tight and seals well. Lastly, make sure that your octo doesn’t drain air unnecessarily.
Tiny leaks are normal. Your gear will never be completely leak free and you don’t have to worry about those tine air escapes. Larger leaks can put you into danger and you will end up running out of air faster than what you’d expect.
Prepare your Gear
It’s a good idea to prepare your gear in advance and to arrive early at the dive site or the boat early. Getting to the dive site or boat late results in you running and carrying your gear at a fast pace which in turn means you’ll be out of breath by the time you get to dive.
Knowing that you have everything you need and that you have time to spare gives you time to relax which means you will not be frantic and anxious at the time you jump in the water. Being calm and relaxed reduces your need for air tremendously and lets you enjoy your time under water longer.
Bring the Right Gear and Streamline it
Consider the dive you’re going on and only pack the gear you really need. Do you need a dive light? A spare snorkel? All of your other little gadgets? If not, then don’t bring them. Try to pack anything you have to bring close to your body instead of having it hanging off the O-ring of your BCD.
Anything you do not have to bring and that is not essential to have will slow you down. It’ll hang off of your BCD and you end up being anything but streamlined. Imagine how fast a shark would swim if he’d have a ton of items hanging off of him! Leave at home what you don’t need and keep all other items tight to your body if anyhow possible.
Also make sure that Octo’s and other gear it tightly connected to your BCD and stays in place and is not dangling off of your body/BC. Keep hoses as short as possible. Make sure your console is close to your body.
Get the best Fins
Once you think about it, it becomes pretty obvious that fins will have a huge impact on your air consumption. Cheap fins often are simply not as efficient in transferring your kick into forward motion and the result is that you have to kick harder and/or more to get moving. Good fins will significantly reduce the amount of energy spent on kicks to propel you in the water. The result is less air spent and a more enjoyable dive. Check out the Scuba Fin Buying Guide for information on good fins as well as our overview of the Best Fins for Scuba Diving!
Keep Your Gear Up-to-Date and Maintained
Make sure that all your scuba gear gets the maintenance required. Not only through checking for leaks but by simply making sure that all equipment is cleaned as well as overhauled on schedule. For example your regulator should regularly be overhauled and cleaned. This will make it easier to breathe and as a result you don’t waste air when breathing.
You also want to keep gear up-to-date. Technology is evolving and you can find regulators that require less work when breathing compared to your old regulator from 15 years ago. That doesn’t mean that you need to replace all your gear every couple of years but it does make sense to keep an eye on new product introductions that could make your dives easier and more comfortable and as such reduce your air consumption.
Exercise Breathing and Calming Techniques
There are many ways to exercise breathing and to learn to calm yourself and relax. Being relaxed and knowing how to breath efficiently will help you a lot to reduce your air consumption while you dive.
A great way to practice both at the same time is to start to meditate. Just spend a few minutes a day sitting in silence and then directing your focus on your breathing. You’ll quickly figure out to calm yourself faster and to control your breathing even in anxiety provoking situations!
Continue your Education
Keep up with continuing your education by taking various dive courses and refreshers. It will make you feel more confident in your abilities and you’ll be more comfortable when you dive.
Feeling more accomplished through passing more exams will grow your confidence. These courses will provide you with the technical knowledge to be a better diver. The increased knowledge and confidence will calm you under water and reduce your air consumption.
Improve your Fitness
Being in better physical shape obviously helps. You reduce your weight and need less oxygen to keep yourself moving. Try to do some exercises that are specifically designed for diving.
Think of walking up a hill. If you’re not in shape you’ll end up huffing and puffing. If you are physically fit then your breathing will be more shallow and you require less air. The same is true if you are diving and have to work hard to get through a current. Keep yourself in shape and reap the benefits by being able to dive longer with less air.
Watch your Lifestyle
It should be pretty obvious that alcohol and parties don’t mix very well with diving. Starting a dive after you drank too much the evening before is not only dangerous, it will also require you to consume more air as you are fatigued instead of being rested.
Not having enough rest will result in your body being exhausted and you will automatically require more oxygen even if you’re not moving at all. Having a good night of sleep before a dive will make you feel refreshed and relaxed. You’ll dive calmer and on less air.
Dive More Often
The more experience you gain, the more confident you will be. Feeling ‘at home’ in the water will result in you being calmer which in turn leads to less air consumption.
It is a known fact that inexperienced divers burn through their air supply much faster than divers with experience. Being inexperienced leads to being nervous which leads to breathing faster and harder. By simply diving more you’ll gain the experience to lose your nervousness and to breath calmer.
You have a Snorkel – Use It
When you’re swimming on the surface then switch from your regulator to your snorkel. Breathe surrounding air instead of emptying your tank. If you end up swimming in choppy water then make sure that you have a dry snorkel to use. It’ll keep the water out while you conserve air. You’ll be surprised how much longer you’ll be able to stay underwater by using a snorkel when you’re on the water.
Take it slow
Trying to swim fast during a dive will cost you a ton of energy. It’s exhausting to go fast under water. If you double your speed you will increase your drag by a factor of four and need up to eight times the energy. That additional energy requires a lot more air than taking it slow and enjoying your dive. Slow and steady is the name of the game that allows you to surface last and with the most air left.
Keep your Hands to Yourself
Well, not literally but keep your arms close to your body. Streamlining under water and using your fins to propel you forward will reduce drag and reduce the energy you need to dive. Using your hands to swim is pretty ineffective. Simply compare the size of your hands with your fins. Which will get you moving?
Yes, you want to dive but the deeper you go the more air you consume. Remember that from your first dive course? You often get a better view on a coral reef or other sights when staying a few feet higher than the rest. And surprisingly, you’ll be the one consuming a lot less air.
When you’re crossing over some uninteresting area then go more shallow to cross in order to save air. Swimming over a section of bare send is as ‘interesting’ when you’re doing it at 15 feet vs. 30 or 40 feet. You won’t miss anything but you’ll extend your time under water to be able to see the things that are worth seeing.
Somehow divers have the tendency to blow off lots of air during a descent. There’s a lot of air wasted when equalizing or clearing your ears and blowing off air at that time. Try to reduce the amount of air you blow off when clearing your ears and you’ll be able to dive longer.
Optimize your Lead
Many divers end up diving with too much weight. At that moment you have to fill your BC with more air to be neutral and that unnecessarily sucks air out of your tank.
In addition, the BC gets bulkier and produced more drag which in turn means that you need more air to dive. Optimize your weight to the minimum amount necessary and you’ll enjoy a longer and less strenuous dive.
Neutral Buoyancy is the Name of the Game
When you master to keep neutral buoyancy then you need less adjusting with your fins to maintain a constant depth. You conserve a lot of energy that way and won’t constantly fight to keep off the bottom or float to the surface.
In neutral buoyancy you glide between fin strokes and stay at the same depth without effort. It makes the dive more enjoyable and prevents you from burning through your air.
Keep your Position
Try to adjust your trim so your body points in the direction you want to go. If you swim forward then make sure your body stays horizontal. That way your head and shoulders break your body through the water and your legs and fins don’t have to fight water resistance. The less water you disturb the less air you need.
When you’re cold you will consume more air. Your body spends energy on staying warm which requires oxygen. If you wear a wetsuit that matches your dive parameters then you’ll stay warm and your body doesn’t need to spend the energy to heat up.
Don’t forget that even in ‘warm’ water your body will lose temperature and work hard to keep you warm. If you’re diving in anything less than 95’ish degree water then the surrounding water will take heat out of your body.
Getting or being cold will also cause you stress which in turn often increases the rate of breathing. Most people simply get mentally stressed when they get cold. You not being relaxed and your body trying to stay warm will use a lot of air.
Deep and Slow Breathes
Don’t get in the habit of taking short shallow breathes. Slow and deep breathes allow to get more oxygen to your lungs and into your body. Breathing shallow creates fatigue resulting in you breathing heavier and more.
This comes back to your breathing exercises. Slow and deep like you meditate or like you’re doing yoga. It provides your body with the necessary oxygen without wasting air.
Relax and Enjoy
Enjoy your dive. Don’t obsess over things that are out of your control and don’t get into the water when you’re stressed out. Chill out and relax. Enjoy the ride and when you’re under water just chill out and have a good time. Don’t obsess with your breathing, your trim, etc. Any obsession with any of these things will lead you to get anxious and stressed which will increase your rate of breathing.
Plan your dive ahead of time. You can’t plan everything but plan the outline and be confident that you can master it. This will automatically reduce your anxiety level and reduce your breathing. Play through the dive in your head ahead of time and you’ll run into less surprises. Less surprises means you’ll stay calmer and you won’t burn through your air.
Analyze your Dive
A good way to figure out where and when you start to breathe heavy and burn air is by using an air integrated dive computer. Most of those will record your air consumption with each sample taken.
This allows you to analyze where and when you started to consume more air. Knowing the situations where it happens will either allow you to avoid those circumstances or to be mentally prepared when the happen. That preparedness will result in you staying calm and not starting to increase your air consumption.
Just keep those tips and recommendations in mind for your next dives. You don’t need to follow all of them to improve your air consumption. Just start with one or two and see how it goes. Get small wins by following a one or two of the suggestions and you’ll end up being able to dive longer than before. Eventually, you’ll master many of these suggestions and be the diver that outlasts your buddies or has the most air in the tank at the end of the dive.
Most important though: Have fun and enjoy your dives!