Giving us the air we need, when we need it
As its name indicates, a diving regulator regulates the flow of air to make it easy to breathe quality air underwater. This must always be its main function.
A set of regulators consists of different components, each with a very specific role. These components are: the first stage, the second stages with a demand valve, the hose of the low-pressure inflator and, lastly, the information system or the instrument console, which also consists of several devices.
The first element is the first stage. These are currently manufactured with two different valves: with either the international or Yoke system, which is for recreational diving, or with the DIN system, which is recommended for technical diving. Either of the two will fit K system valves. The Yoke configuration was the first to be used in scuba diving and is thus the most popular, until the DIN system was invented in the United States in the 1950s and marketed by the gear maker Poseidon. This valve type became common among divers who needed to go deeper to explore the interior of caves or shipwrecks, or do technical diving, which is more demanding due to the high pressure levels or the impacts sustained by gear.
In both systems, there are basic models starting at 140 euros for occasional dives, and much more expensive ones that may include features such as environmental sealing to prevent freezing of components in very cold waters, or a balanced membrane to ensure an optimal air flow at any depth.
The main function of first stages is to reduce the tank’s air pressure, which is usually set at 200 bars, to an intermediate level between 6 and 10 bars, and then reduce it to a normal breathing pressure via second stages. The first stage is manufactured to be fail-safe. This means that if an internal membrane fails, the system will never stop supplying air and instead produce a continuous flow that will allow a diver to ascend to the surface safely. After an immersion, you must make sure the first stage filter is clean and dry, as this will determine the quality of the air you breathe into your lungs.
SECOND STAGES WITH DEMAND VALVE.
Second stages are made to ensure that we can breathe aire at will, with a simple system that was invented more than half a century ago. It has required no significant changes because of to its sheer effectiveness. Its simple design, consisting of an anatomic mouthpiece and a system of lever-activated membranes using the diver’s breathing itself, mean that a second stage is ready for anything, even for coughs, vomiting, or spitting if needs be, provided a diver keeps it well-fastened to their mouth to protect the respiratory tract. Even if you need extra air to clean the interior, you can push the front cleaning button to send air directly from the tank to your mouth. A diver will usually carry two: a black one, which is the main one, and a longer one in a bright color to be used in the event of an emergency and a diver needs to share air with a partner who needs it. This second emergency stage is called alternative air, secondary second stage or, most commonly, the Octupus.
The basic price of a second stage starts at about 70 euros.
LOW-PRESSURE INFLATOR HOSE.
This hose connects a diver’s tank with the buoyancy control device (BCD) so it can be quickly inflated by sending air from the tank or by pressing the inflate button.
It is usually built into the inflator or trachaeus when you buy the jacket, and its anchoring system is easy to use, with a female coupling, allowing the metal piece to slide back so you can insert it into the male coupling of the jacket inflator.
A diving hose must be changed about every two years, or sooner, if the tiniest deterioration is seen.
INFORMATION SYSTEM OR INSTRUMENT CONSOLE.
A very common concern among new divers is to know the amount of air they have, at what depth are they diving, what direction to follow, the water temperature, etc. In the past, there were rudimentary, unreliable and accident-prone systems, but this is no longer the case for responsible divers if you check your information system once in a while.
An instrument console may comprise a number of items like manometers to measure the air pressure of the tank, depth meters to measure the real depth or maximum depth, compasses, thermometers, and other gear. You can find these in either the metric system (pressure bars and meters) or the English imperial system (Psi and feet, normally for users in some English-speaking countries). So pay close attention to your needs before making a choice.
The simplest ones have only a manometer, although we would recommend carrying a depth meter if you go underwater without a dive computer. A manometer will tell you if the tank is full, with an approximate pressure of 200 bars or 2900 Psi, and a manometer will always have a highlighted area in either red or orange, indicating an air zone below 50 bars of pressure or 725 Psi, so that a diver can decide to end the immersion as soon as possible. A diver should not use up nearly all the air in his tank, both for hisr own safety, and to keep the tank or first stage from being damaged in case it loses all its internal pressure and fills up with water.
A depth meter indicates the depth, and it is as simple as the name would suggest. Some models have the 40 meter-zone marked to remind divers of the maximum depth in recreational diving with larger diving organizations. They usually have two needles: one shows the current depth, and the second is driven by the first, which is the maximum depth in the immersion, provided the diver has manually reset it before going into the water.
Prices for depth meters start at about 60 euros. Remember that the more components in your information system, the larger your final investment will be.
Lastly, you should protect all your gear and the information system from impacts. And whenever you have the tank ready for diving, you should not look at it directly when opening it, because the plastic or glass might just shoot out and hit you in the face if there is so much as a small tear. Remember to take good care and keep your gear in good condition. Check it on a regular basis, especially if it has been in use for a long time.
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