I have been considering installing a portable high-pressure breathing air compressor in the dive trailer for a while now.
I have been looking at a few different models, including the Max Air 35-G with a Honda gasoline engine shown here which I decided on because if its price, portability, and features. This compressor with a Honda gasoline engine weighs just 85 pounds, so it can be carried by just one person.
I wanted either a gasoline or diesel engine model so that I would be able to fill scuba tanks away from electricity.
These new portable compressors are able to fill scuba tanks with the same grade of compressed air (Grade-E) as the larger machines at dive shops, just not as fast. With a portable machine, tank fills would take around 20 minutes versus 10 at a dive shop.
When you think about it though, 20 minutes really isn’t that bad. If you are filling 3 tanks for the next days dives, in about an hour while you are cleaning you gear and getting it ready for the next days dives, your tanks are all filled and your ready to go — no trip to the local dive shop necessary.
You have to also consider fuel and maintenance costs of the compressor oil and the air filters which have to be changed out after every 10 hours of use, which would be about 30 filled tanks.
With the cost of fuel, maintenance, replacement filters, oil, etc, that would come to about $1 per tank fill versus the traditional $4 that the local dive shops here charge, saving me about $3 for every tank that I fill.
There have been several occasions when we have planned early morning dives at the last-minute the evening before, and the dive shops just closed. We were left with no way of getting tank fills for the early morning dives because we were planning to do the dives before the dive shops even opened. With a portable air fill station in the dive trailer, this problem would be a thing of the past.
I have been adding everything up, and a portable fill station like this would pay for itself within just over a year of use for me, which is an acceptable return on investment rate. After that time it would continue to save me money with every dive, not to mention the convenience of being able to fill my own tanks whenever and wherever I needed to fill them and being able to fill tanks for others on-site if necessary.
With the air compressor, spare air filters, compressor oil and shipping & handling the total came to just a little bit over $3,800.00 and should be here in about a week or so.
I have always considered myself to be a “self-contained” diver, meaning that I did not have to rely on anyone else for any of my diving equipment. Now I can truly say that I am completely self-contained. I will still get my Nitrox tanks filled at a local dive shop, but from now on I will be filling my own air tanks.
UPDATE: (7/1/13) I just found out that the air compressor was shipped out from the manufacturer in Texas last Wednesday the 26th and is scheduled to arrive here in Hawaii next Tuesday, July 9th. Hopefully I will have it operational by that weekend.