Portable Breathing Air Compressor Systems

 In portable breathing air compressor systems


Have you ever wondered how scuba tanks are filled?

Several memes, like the one you see above, depicts ways that are cheap or utilizes everyday objects to do the trick. Well, luckily, these are just memes.

In reality, these comical techniques are impossible to do and the only way to fill a scuba tank at 3,000 psi (205 bars) is with the use of portable breathing air compressor. Make no mistake, compressors used in filling scuba tanks are highly pressurized and produces breathing air (not oxygen) that is fit for human consumption.

Note: At this early stage, we would like to remind you that the use of other types of compressor can lead to air toxicity, accidents and even death.

History of Portable Breathing Air Compressor System

Photo courtesy from ADSI

Would you believe that the first portable breathing air compressor system to fill a sealed container were not machines, but rather, the lungs of a human being? Yes, during the old days, men blew air from their lungs to a sealed container which they can use in a later time, such as when they want to go underwater. It is believed that the first sealed container that stored air was a dried animal skin stitched together. This eventually became the official logo in one of the world’s many certifying dive agencies – the Association of Diving School International (ADSI).

Aside from the small container that can only store a tiny amount of air, exhaling to a sealed canister also delivers carbon gases which is dangerous to our health. Thus, sturdy containers (like the scuba tank) that can keep high air pressure was born, and so does portable breathing air compressor systems. While there are other types of  high pressure compressor, you have to take note that the ones we use in filling scuba tanks uses special oil that produces fresh air fit for human breathing.

Types of High Pressure Breathing Air Compressor

There are several types of high pressure breathing air compressor currently available in the market. Each type of compressor addresses a specific mode of operation that suits your need.

Portable Compressors

Bauer Junior II. Photo courtesy from Bauer

Designed for mobility, portable compressors are small and easy to handle. Producing high pressure fresh air, portable compressors will give you the liberty to fill scuba tanks anywhere, anytime.

This 3 stage compressor can be configured to suit your needs. You can either run it using an electric or gasoline motor. The good thing with using an electric motor is you eliminated the possibility of producing gas fumes like a gasoline motor does. But if you want total freedom, gasoline motor is the perfect configuration where you can use it even in isolated areas. Just remember, before you turn on the compressor running in gasoline motor, position it in the right orientation so as the gas fumes from the gasoline motor will not come in contact with the intake filter.

Famous brands and models for a portable compressor are Bauer Junior II (operating at 3.5 cfm or 100 lpm) and Bauer Oceanus (4.9 cfm or 140 lpm) where they can fill a standard 80 cu.ft. tank at 30 and 20 minutes respectively from empty to 3,000 psi. Usually, portable compressors will fill scuba tanks one at a time. There are larger versions of the portable compressors, like the Bauer Capitano (4.9 cfm or 140 lpm) and Bauer Mariner (from 7 to 11.3 cfm or 200 to 320 lpm) that can fill 2 to 4 tanks simultaneously. But the Capitano and Mariner are sturdy and heavy that making them a mobile compressor is not recommended  and usually runs on electric motor.

Vertical Compressors

Bauer Vertecon. Photo Courtesy from Bauer

If you want a compressor that can fill-up multiple tanks in a single charge, then vertical compressors should be your choice. These large and vertically oriented compressors are powered by electric motor (usually 3phase) and must have a designated area for operation where you need to set-up special electrical connections and vertical intake pipes.

If your profile involves diving during the weekends, then vertical compressors may be too much for you. But if you are in to the business of diving where you have a large requirement of tanks on a daily basis, then vertical compressors are your toys.

Famous brands and model for vertical compressors are Bauer Verticus (with the Mini and Maxi Edition) and the Bauer Vertecon where they operate at an outstanding rate of 20 up to 40 cfm (560 to 1,100 lpm).

The Cascade System

Photo courtesy from Offshore Technology

Designed for high speed airfill, the cascade system can fill-up a single scuba tank in just a minute or two.

The principle behind this system is that high-pressure air, produced from a compressor, is initially stored in a series of canisters. Once the valve of a scuba tank is opened, high pressure air from the canisters will gush in to the scuba tank, thus the name Cascade. While it may sound advantageous to us where airfill can take only a few minutes, it may be disadvantageous to your scuba tank as it shortens its life due to the wear and tear caused by sudden entry of high pressure air.

Use to fill a Fireman’s SCBA

Portable breathing air compressors are not just use to fill a diver’s scuba tank. Another common usage is to fill a fireman’s air tank, also called as SCBA or Self Contained Breathing Apparatus.

PS: Now you know divers (SCUBA) and firemen (SCBA) are closely related.

Photo courtesy from YouTube

Although SCUBA and SCBA are closely related, filling them requires some configuration. Most SCBA has a DIN valve configuration while most compressors are configured to fill yoke valves commonly used in scuba tanks. So, the trick here for your compressor is the use of a DIN conversion adapter.

The process of filling SCBA is similar in filling up a SCUBA tank. But you have to remember that SCBAs has a lightweight material and has a specified optimum pressure capacity. So it is best to first ask the prescribed filling pressure as SCBAs and scuba tanks have a different pressure rating.


Go Diving’s BAUER Full Service Maintenance and Restoration

Here at Go Diving, we only trust one brand – Bauer. And that’s the reason why we sent our staff to a respected SCUBA Engineer school here in Australia and to Bauer’s Training facility to become a Full Service Technician.

With this, Go Diving has been known in servicing old Bauer compressors and refurbish it to good running condition in accordance with factory specifications.

Here’s a sample of our fully refurbished Bauer Compressor – The Capitano.

Video courtesy from Bauer

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