Air conservation while underwater is an aspect of scuba diving many divers struggle with at the beginning. You often find yourself cutting your dive sessions shorter because you exhausted the air in your tank way too quickly. Being the only one in the squad who has to come up to the surface due to poor air management can be disheartening. As a veteran diver, I remember the struggle of trying to make my air supply last as long as possible.
But don’t worry, it is quite common for new divers to consume their air quickly.
As you get skilled in buoyancy management, proper streamlining of your body, and controlled breathing techniques, conserving air will become a child’s play.
I’ve compiled a handful of tips and suggestions that you can follow or learn to quickly master air conservation as a scuba diver and make your upcoming dives more enjoyable and relaxing.
Table of Contents
- 1 How Long Should Your Air Last While Diving?
- 2 12 Tips to Reduce Air Consumption While Scuba Diving
- 2.1 1. Improve Your Buoyancy Control
- 2.2 2. Slow Down
- 2.3 3. Breathe Slowly and Deeply
- 2.4 4. Stop Stiffening Your Body
- 2.5 5. Streamline Yourself
- 2.6 6. Choose the Right Wetsuit
- 2.7 7. Choose the Right Fins for scuba diving
- 2.8 8. Dive Shallower
- 2.9 9. Use Your Snorkel During Surface Stops
- 2.10 10. Use Your Hands More
- 2.11 12. Learn to Use Nitrox
- 3 How to Conserve Air Before a Dive Session?
- 4 Conclusion
How Long Should Your Air Last While Diving?
The duration of your air supply while scuba diving is dependent on various factors such as your depth, level of physical exertion, breathing rate, and equipment used. It is vital to know how long your air should last to plan your dive accordingly and avoid any unexpected surprises.
The ideal duration of air supply while diving should be based on “the rule of thirds” which basically tells us to plan our air consumption ahead of the dive with the expectation of using one-third of your air for the descent and exploration, one-third for the ascent, and one-third as a reserve.
The average air consumption rate for a scuba diver is around 20 to 25 liters per minute (LPM), which means that you can expect your standard 80 cubic foot (cu ft) air tank to last around 45 minutes at a depth of 60 feet (18 meters). However, this is just a rough estimate and can vary significantly based on the factors mentioned earlier.
12 Tips to Reduce Air Consumption While Scuba Diving
Incorporating one or more of these tips in your diving routine will definitely improve your air conservation while underwater and your tanks will for a longer period.
1. Improve Your Buoyancy Control
By achieving neutral buoyancy, you can move through the water with minimal effort and without using too much air. With proper buoyancy control, you need less tinkering with your BCD (buoyancy control device), less underwater drag, and in turn less physical exertion.
To improve your buoyancy control, practice using your fins and body position to adjust your depth and maintain a stable position in the water.
Here’s a small mind hack from my arsenal. Try to achieve harmony between your slow uniform breathing and the BCD to achieve the perfect neutral buoyancy.
2. Slow Down
Scuba Diving is a recreational activity, not a competitive sport. You are in no hurry to thrash forward to reach the finish line. Rapid movements and kicking can use up the air quickly, so try to swim slowly and smoothly.
Take your time and consume every ounce of beauty the underwater world has to offer.
3. Breathe Slowly and Deeply
Take long, slow breaths and exhale fully to maximize the amount of oxygen you are taking in with each breath. This will help you stay relaxed and conserve your air supply. Try to pause for a brief moment (no more than 1 second) between your inhaling and exhaling to create a nice and slow rhythmic breathing pattern.
4. Stop Stiffening Your Body
When your muscles are tense, they require more oxygen to function. This increased oxygen demand can cause your breathing rate to increase, leading to a higher air consumption rate.
During your dive, make a conscious effort to keep your muscles relaxed. Avoid clenching your fists or tightening your muscles when you encounter a stressful situation underwater.
5. Streamline Yourself
The goal of scuba diving is to perfectly streamline yourself horizontally in order to minimize water drag. Carrying excess equipment can cause unnecessary drag and make it harder for you to move through the water.
Streamline your equipment. Don’t have lots of dangling stuff hanging off you, tuck slates and bags into pockets.
Most divers try to arch their spine too much in order to remain horizontal, avoid doing that. Practice using your legs to keep you horizontal.
Think of yourself as a bullet going through the water – you want the smallest surface area of your body cutting through the water.
6. Choose the Right Wetsuit
Wearing the right exposure suit can help you conserve air while scuba diving. If you’re diving in warm waters choose a 3-5mm wetsuit to maintain a stable body temperature while in cold water get yourself a thick 7mm wetsuit. Helping your body maintain an ideal temperature helps in less energy consumption.
A wetsuit that is too tight or too loose can cause unnecessary drag and make it harder for you to move through the water. Make sure that your wetsuit fits properly and is comfortable to wear.
7. Choose the Right Fins for scuba diving
Your fins are your primary means of propulsion underwater. They allow you to move effortlessly through the water and conserve air by reducing your overall physical exertion. That’s why it’s essential to choose the right type of fins for your diving needs.
One factor to consider when choosing fins is the fit. Ill-fitting fins can cause discomfort, and cramping, and require more effort to use, leading to increased air consumption. Make sure to choose fins that fit snugly but are not too tight. You should invest in fins with adjustable straps for a more customizable fit.
Another factor to consider is the type of fins. Split fins, for example, are designed to reduce resistance and require less effort to move through the water, making them a popular choice for scuba divers looking to conserve air. Other types of fins, such as paddle fins or jet fins, may require more effort to use but can provide more power and control in certain diving situations.
8. Dive Shallower
As you descend deeper into the water, the pressure around you increases, and your body must work harder to breathe. This increased effort requires more oxygen, which in turn leads to a higher air consumption rate. That’s why it’s essential to plan your dive within your depth and weight limits and stay shallower to conserve air.
So, how do you determine your limits? The answer is simple: by knowing your personal diving parameters. These include factors such as your level of training, physical fitness, and experience. By knowing these parameters, you can plan your dive within safe and comfortable limits, conserving air in the process.
This will help you extend your dive time and make the most of your air supply.
9. Use Your Snorkel During Surface Stops
Snorkels are fantastic equipment to conserve your precious air while making surface stops. When you’re swimming on the surface, waiting for other divers, or dealing with rough conditions, a snorkel is the best alternative, allowing you to breathe comfortably without reducing your airtime. If you’re looking for a convenient option, I highly recommend a foldable snorkel. This compact tool can easily fit in your pocket and reduce any extra resistance during your dive
10. Use Your Hands More
Your hands can be a great tool for conserving air while scuba diving. By using your hands to pull yourself along the bottom or hold onto rocks or coral, you can reduce the amount of energy you are using and conserve your air supply.
12. Learn to Use Nitrox
Nitrox is a type of enriched air that contains a higher percentage of oxygen than normal air. By using nitrox instead of regular air, you can extend your dive time and conserve your air supply.
Nitrox also helps in reducing the risk of decompression sickness, allowing you to extend your dive time without sacrificing safety. Nitrox is also less likely to cause fatigue or nitrogen narcosis, which can affect your ability to make sound diving decisions and conserve air effectively.
However, using Nitrox requires you to get special certification which will teach you how to safely plan your dives using nitrox, as well as how to mix and analyze the gas properly. Don’t sweat over it though. It just takes a day or two to acquire your enriched air nitrox (EAN) specialty certification course.
How to Conserve Air Before a Dive Session?
Learning how to conserve air on the surface is an equally important aspect of scuba diving. Avoiding certain things and planning out your dive early on can help you set your air consumption chances on the surface to zero.
1. Get a Good Night’s Sleep
Getting a good night’s sleep before a dive may sound trivial, but many divers overlook this crucial step. A well-rested body is more efficient at using oxygen. On the other hand, if you are sleep-deprived, your body may be tense and stressed, causing you to breathe more rapidly and use up your air faster.
The bottom line is: make sure to get a good night’s sleep before your dive.
2. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can lead to increased air consumption and fatigue. Make sure to drink plenty of water before your dive to help conserve air.
Avoid Alcohol and Caffeinated drinks as both can dehydrate the body and increase heart rate, leading to increased air consumption. Alcohol and caffeine-induced dehydration takes several hours to set in. So, it’s best to avoid these substances for at least 10-12 hours before your dive.
3. Pack Your Gear Efficiently
A heavy or poorly packed gear bag can lead to increased exertion and air consumption. Pack your gear efficiently and try to keep it as light as possible to conserve air.
4. Put On Your Gear Right Before You Dive
I’ve seen many divers do this mistake. They put on their gear including the dive mask before they even mount the dive boat. This way you’re not only wasting your tank air on the surface but also exhausting yourself with all that equipment weight on the surface.
Avoid this at all costs. Put on your diving gear right before you jump from the boat.
5. Warm up Before Your Dive
Stretching and doing some light exercise before your dive can help improve circulation and reduce air consumption. It also relaxes tensed-up muscle groups so they require less oxygen to function efficiently and also reduces the chances of getting cramps underwater.
6. Plan your dive and dive your plan
Planning your dive and sticking to it can help you conserve air. Know your maximum depth and time limits, and plan your dive accordingly. Remember, the deeper you go, the more air you’ll use, so plan your dive accordingly.
7. Practice Yoga Breathing
This is more of a personal suggestion. Practcising breathing asanas helped me immensely to take authority over my lungs.
Implementing yoga breathing techniques can help you stay calm and relaxed while scuba diving. Try practicing deep breathing techniques like ujjayi breath or alternate nostril breathing before your dive to help you stay centered and focused.
To wrap it up, scuba diving is about enjoying ourselves, worrying is not a great factor for enjoyment. So worrying about having vacuum cleaners for lungs won’t help!
Don’t obsess over your air consumption. If you use a lot of air it is easy for this to become a worry prior to the dive. You will spoil the dive for others if you use your air quickly is a common concern. You have to breathe! You use what you use. Yes you may use your air much quicker than others but without getting dives in you won’t relax and gain confidence and experience which in time will become the exact things which improve your air consumption over time.