10 Things to Know Before Buying a Rebreather

Words and Photography by Jill Heinerth

Choose your features carefully, some are more manual than others, some offer bail out valves, or near eye displays. Photo: Jill Heinerth

Rebreathers offer an entirely new route to enjoy the underwater world. Whether it is the technology that attracts you or the potential to swim free without building bubbles, the decision to enter the domain of rebreather diving is a serious one. You will be making a considerable investment in equipment and training, in addition to taking a serious look at risk assessment. It can be hard to know where to start.A

There are dozens of manufacturers building rebreathers around the world, and comparison shopping is almost like buying a vehicle. Dozens of different vehicle makers fabricate vehicles ranging from small smart automobiles to big trucks. Some cars run on gasoline or diesel, and others utilize hybrid technology. Regardless of their differences, cars and trucks have many similarities and also contain common subsystems. Each auto, motorcycle, or truck has wheels. Each vehicle has an engine and brakes. Some vehicles have extra features like airbags, and anti-lock brakes, and sophisticated locking mechanisms. Ask aWhich vehicle should I buy? a and the answer might be, aIt depends.a The same is true for rebreathers.A

Different rebreather models are equipped with a wide variety of subsystems, mechanisms, and features. You donat need expert knowledge to make an informed buy decision, but the following points should help steer you in the right direction.

Rebreathers are designed to recycle the gas that an open-circuit diver typically would exhale into the water column. This action conserves gas volume, reduces the noise made by bubbles, and widens the range of a given diving. Rebreathers are operated either manually or automatically, and are built by numerous manufacturers offering different operational designs.A

Exhaled gas is captured within a breathing loop-the-loop. Thanks to one-way mushroom valves, the gas travels through the loop in only one direction. The breathing loop is furnished with one or two flexible counter lungs that help compensate for the changing gas volumes that occur through the respiratory cycle. Gas is routed through the scrubber, which contains an absorbent material that removes the carbon dioxide from the exhaled breath. After dwelling in the absorbent canister for a precise sum of hour, the gas passes over one or more oxygen sensors. Based on information gathered by the sensors, either the diver or the electronics package intervenes and adds oxygen to replace that which has been metabolized by the diver. If the level warrants, it may be added with an injection or flow of oxygen or other high-PO2 gas, bringing the life subsistence levels back to a suitable or selected phase. The gas may then pass across another flexible inhalation counter lung and then through a one-way valve back to the diveras mouth. When diving a rebreather, you are able to control your life subsistence surrounding, perhaps the most hazardous thing you will ever do. As such, choosing to buy a rebreather is a decision that must be made with respect to risk.

There is no third party testing in North America, so strap on the helmet – youare the test pilot now. Photo: Jill Heinerth

1A TheA decision

Determine if you are ready to be a rebreather diver. Consider the risks and rewards and discuss them with their own families. At the time of this writing, rebreather divers were ten times more likely to have a fatal accident than open circuit technological divers. If you are diligent with protocols, the additional danger can be mitigated, but the ultimate selection to buy a rebreather is one to stimulate with your entire household. Ensure you have all the needed prerequisite training courses and experience completed. This is not a time to be struggling with academic knowledge or diving skills.

2A LearnA aboutA howA rebreathersA work

Bone up on your knowledge about how rebreathers work. The basics will be sufficient. Get a book, attend a seminar or seek out a mentor. You will need to know a bit about mechanics so that you do not get sucked in by a biased sales pitch. There is no perfect rebreather, but you can find the right rebreather for you if you are willing to do a little work.

3A EstablishA yourA budget

Determine your initial investment budget and operating/ maintenance budget well in advance. This will assist you narrow the choices and make a decision about whether you can afford new or will be to purchase a pre-owned unit. Consider the cost of the rebreather, bailout devices, and training. You may have to travel for educate, so consider that, too. Once you are qualified you will have continued costs for consumables such as batteries, sorb, gas fills, oxygen sensors, spare parts, and annual maintenance.

4A LearnA aboutA howA rebreathersA area madeA andA tested

Buy a rebreather from a reputable manufacturer. If “youre willing to” spend upwards of $10,000, you deserve to be diving a piece of equipment that has gone through proper third-party testing and validation. In North America, there are more regulations regarding the manufacture of toasters and hair dryers than there are for underwater life supporting. That means you need to do a bit more diligent searching for datum. In Europe, rebreathers must conform to a standard called CE 14143 and will bear a mark indicating such accomplishment. That means you can get evidence of tests ranging from work of breathing to manufacturing tolerances and sensor tracking, demonstrating an agreed upon level of safe operation. Without third-party independent testing, you are essentially putting yourself in the position of serving as a test pilot without a helmet or seat belt. In my views, a manufacturer that sells life subsistence equipment should invest in reaching this high bar of excellence. Life support equipment should be appropriately vetted, tested, and verified for safety.A

5A FindA aA goodA teacher

Even before you purchase a unit, determine if there is a suitable instructor available to you. Interview potential instructors to assess their experience and up-to-date continuing education on the unit that you would like to buy. Rebreathers are not overly complicated, and your teacher should have real-world knowledge developed by a lot of time diving the particular division that you are interested in using. If they do not have at least 100 hours on that model, they may not have had a chance to deal with some of the subtle failings and tricks that can be passed along to you through experience. Good, experienced rebreather instructors are few, and in great demand. Reputable instructors have busy schedules that may require booking up to a year in advance. Professional instruction will not be cheap. You must be willing to support a level of excellence that you expect from a rebreather instructor who will be teaching you about life support and survival. This is not the place to cut corners on your budget.

6 DetermineA whereA youA willA getA support

If the rebreather you would like to buy is manufactured overseas, it may need to be serviced overseas, even if there is a local distributor. Understand where and how service passes. How long will it take? Will you be shipping a heavy box halfway around the world and waiting months for it to return? How much work can you do yourself? Are other divers having problems that require a lot of service subsistence? Are proportions generally available? Has the manufacturer been around for a while? Are they a stable, well-funded company?

Having local subsistence and role modeling from dive store mentors or experienced locals on a particular unit is worth its weight in gold. If everyone in your dive club owns one type of rebreather, then you should give it a hard appear. Having role model, spare parts, and dive barge supporting is extremely valuable.

7A DecideA onA theA featuresA youA want

Choosing a unit is a tough decision, and nearly everyone you ask for an sentiment will have a strong one. You have to remain pragmatic and analytical. A try-dive experience will only help you fall in love with a well-fitted harness. A comparing of cosmetics will merely help you decide whether you will appear cool. Take time to compare features and research the human rights unit on your own before jumping into one of the most significant purchase decisions of your life.

Some rebreathers are more manual and others have a high degree of electronic control. That does not necessarily mean that one is safer than another. Analyzing accident and incidents over the past twenty years, researchers like Dr. Andrew Fock have determined that there is no particular brand or style that causes more fatal accidents than another. It appears that most accidents are caused by diver error and poor options. That means that your purchasing decision will not be driven by athis is safer than that one.a Salespeople who construct that assert are ill-informed. Features like sophisticated alarm systems and carbon dioxide sensing come with a price. You should choose which features are most important to you and your style of diving. This may include researching accessories that you might want to add. An off-market bailout valve( BOV) or Near Eye Rebreather Display( NERD) will add to your investment, and you should also research their compatibility. There are many amazing rebreather add-ons that might interest you down the road as long as your rebreather is compatible. This includes compatibility for trimix diving. Learn about the operating hour, depth rating, and gas compatibility specifications of your unit. If the rebreather is not rated for 330 feet( 100 m) depth, it is not necessarily a mechanical issue such as crush depth. The rebreather may not be capable of delivering a safe work of breathing if you go deeper. Ensure that you know what you are buying by reading manufactureras specs. The internet is not always a reliable source of information. Just because somebody survived a dive to 400 feet( 120 m) does not entail the rebreather is safe to use at that depth. Beware of anecdotes. Search for hard proof such as data regarding CE testing.

8A DecideA ifA youA willA wantA to travelA withA yourA rebreather

Most airlines have exceedingly stringent luggage limiteds and some rebreathers are more portable than others. Generally, a 50 pound( 23 kg) purse or box can be shipped on a passenger aircraft without exponentially high charges. Will your division break down into a shipping instance that fits the weight and size requirements for most airlines? You wonat be traveling with your tanks, so merely look at the rest of the human rights unit. How much extra gear, spare parts, and tools will you need to take? Determine the total weight so you understand the costs of travel.

9A ConsiderA buyingA aA usedA rebreather

There are many places where you can buy a certified use rebreather from a manufacturer. Some private sales offer guarantees that a rebreather has been recently serviced. If you buy utilized, check that you are not buying obsolete. If a rebreather becomes obsolete, you may not be able to get the necessary parts or support to keep it operating. However, a gently utilized unit from a reputable manufacturer might be a good buy if it has been serviced. Check with the manufacturer to ensure they will service the human rights unit in the future if you are the second buyer.

10A ResolveA toA diveA withA strictA safetyA protocols

Before you purchase a rebreather, seem deep into your diving past to determine if you are going to be a diligent diver who respects protocols and is willing to skip the most exciting dive of your life. If you donat have a high level of discipline and a respect for safety regulations, then you shouldnat buy a rebreather. If that is the case, stick to open circuit( OC) scuba, which is generally more forgiving. When a problem happens on OC, the diver is usually alerted with a aboom, hiss, a from loss of gas. Rebreather problems are much more subtle and slow to develop. If you are attentive, you usually have a long time to find a problem; but if you are complacent, it is easy to miss a developing issue that could cost you your life. Rebreather diving is not for everybody. It involves substantial personal investment and dedication to safety.

Rebreather diving dedicates us a chance to have unequaled experiences with wildlife. They offer us increased depth and period scope and when used properly can be safe and enjoyable devices that take us to new horizons. With well over twenty years of rebreather experience, I still view my rebreather as a tool with a purpose. I donat use it on every diving. It is not always the right gear for the job. However, I have been able to achieve things that would have been impossible on open circuit. Whether spooling out an exploration line in the back of a virgin cave or getting close to an enormous manta ray, I have enjoyed the possibilities that rebreathers have given me in my career. Construct a thoughtful selection, and your rebreather can last you for a decade or more. Dedicate yourself to safe diving protocols and require them of the person or persons that dive with you.A

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