Choosing a diving rebreather can be a popular choice for many scuba divers and diving enthusiasts. Diving is quite a popular pastime and offers a unique experience, to say the least. Until recently, open-circuit scuba diving breathers were the traditional diving equipment utilized by professionals. Unfortunately, they are noisy and tend to scare the fish away. That’s why closed-circuit rebreathers (CCR) have become popular among professional and recreational divers worldwide.
A closed-circuit scuba rebreather is worlds away from open-circuit equipment but can be more effective for many professional divers. Rebreather diving is very popular because of the technology behind it. It enables you to recycle the air breathed while underwater. Also, it helps to prevent fatigue in divers and the entire diving experience is enhanced. While open-circuit breathers were the primary apparatus for divers, rebreathers are increasing in popularity.
So why use them and how can you tell if they’re right for you?
Deeper Dives and Getting Closer To Ocean Life
Rebreathers bring the action closer. Not only can divers remain underwater for longer, but go deeper than before. Rebreathers are unique in that sense. For example, you’re ten minutes into your dive and you see a swarm of clownfish. You cautiously swim near; they get spooked by the air bubbles coming from your air tank and there goes your fantastic photograph too. However, with a rebreather, this won’t happen. You can get closer to the fish without spooking them. There are no air bubbles with the rebreathers unless you’re on an ascent.
Since you recycle the air you inhale and exhale, there are no bubbles floating their way to the surface and won’t spook the fish. That means you don’t disturb any marine creature. This gives you the perfect opportunity to view them in their natural habitat. Also, there’s no noise from the equipment, so everything is silent. That’s why rebreather diving is a popular choice.
A Training Course Is Required
Proper training makes the difference in diving and it’s the same with rebreather diving. Unless you’re trained in rebreather equipment, you shouldn’t be using it. This isn’t just essential for your safety but for the safety of others diving with and around you. Fortunately, training can be completed over the course of a week, but it’s a lot of hard work. Essentially, you’re going back to basics. You’ll learn about physics, assembly, breakdown, maintenance, and rebreather design too, and much more. Also, you’ll have to carry out diving practice in confined waters and open waters too, both with a qualified instructor.
How Often Do You Dive?
When deciding if a scuba rebreather is for you, it’s important to think about how often you dive and where you dive. For instance, diving once a year on your family vacation wouldn’t require a rebreather; in fact, it could be a waste of money. You aren’t getting enough use out of it to justify the investment. On the other hand, if you were a regular deep-sea diver and were serious about it, you may be justified in the investment.
Advantages of Using a Diving Rebreather
Closed-circuit rebreathers are incredibly impressive and offer a range of benefits for its users, including:
- Gas Efficiency: Closed-circuit breathers enable you to use as much gas as possible so that nothing is being wasted or released into the ocean. An open-circuit breather uses very little gas and that’s actually a bad thing because you’re releasing more carbon dioxide into the open waters. Rebreathers allow you to reuse the gas you’ve exhaled (the carbon dioxide) and convert it back into oxygen. That means you have to carry less gas during the dives. Also, you don’t require as much helium as you normally would either. A rebreather diver is able to get better gas consumption. That’s a huge advantage.
- More Diving Time: A rebreather diver can increase the amount of time spent in the water because of their equipment. A dive can last 2 or 3 hours without having to change oxygen supplies around. That’s fantastic and not something often seen. There’s better efficiency available and deco time is greatly reduced too. This means you have more time to spend watching and interacting with marine life.
- Quiet Time: A rebreather has a unique breathing loop. Very little carbon dioxide is released into the atmosphere which means there are fewer bubbles floating around the water. That’s an advantage to any rebreather diver because it means you don’t scare the fish away. Also, it’s incredibly quiet. You can experience an authentic marine atmosphere without disturbing them.
- Less Weight to carry: A rebreather diver doesn’t have to carry a heavy piece of equipment around. Yes, there is some weight to the rebreather but it’s a lot lighter than traditional scuba diving equipment. Also, there are smaller units and mouthpieces available and suitable for practice dives at dive centers or the real thing out in the open ocean.
Closed-circuit equipment is great and offers many advantages over traditional diving equipment.
Disadvantages of Diving Rebreathers
While there are many positives surrounding rebreathers, there are also a few drawbacks, including:
- Different from Open-circuit Breathers: While some would say it’s not a disadvantage, it can be if that’s all you know. A rebreather uses a different breathing loop from the traditional diving equipment and that puzzles a lot of divers, even experienced ones. Additional training is required to become a rebreather diver.
- Malfunctions Can Occur: Problems can arrive in any diving circumstance. Malfunctions are possible and that may cause a build-up of carbon dioxide in the body. As a result, it could cause the bends, convulsions, or even death in extreme cases.
- Higher Expense: It can cost around five thousand dollars to invest in rebreather diving training. Then, there are additional costs for equipment. It’s a problem if your budget doesn’t stretch far.
- Additional Training Required: You may be a qualified diver but you aren’t certified in rebreather diving and that means more training is needed. As said above, it’s not only costly but complex. You have to understand the new breathing loop system and oxygen sensors too.
All things in life have their drawbacks. Deciding if a scuba diving rebreather is for you will come down to your comfort levels, as well as the advantages and disadvantages.
Should You Consider Rebreather Diving?
Diving rebreathers are in a league of their own. They aren’t for the faint of heart, however, because they’re complex. The rebreathers add more pressure onto the body and the lungs because it takes every last inch of oxygen within the system and reuses it. However, that’s not necessarily a bad thing – depending on your diving abilities. Of course, some panic over the idea of breathing gas and worried they’ll get the gas mix wrong.
If you have all of your scuba certifications, including your rebreather certification, you should be safe. However, you need to understand how the equipment and breathing loop works. If you don’t understand, you’re not ready to use the rebreathers. You have to be able to read and understand the oxygen cylinder and oxygen sensors, among many other factors.
Here are a few more things you may need to think about before knowing if a rebreather is right for you:
- Good Discipline and Commitment: Circuit rebreathers require this. The reason why is simply because diving is dangerous and if proper safety procedures aren’t followed, the worst can happen. A rebreather diver must show good discipline in terms of keeping their equipment maintained and in good working order. However, the right circuit rebreathers must be found so you’re able to enjoy dives safely. Commitment to learning – even after training is complete – is necessary.
- Budget: Potentially, becoming a rebreather diver is expensive. You have initial training costs, and then have to buy oxygen sensors, consider gas consumption, travel expenses, buy special batteries, and much more. It’s a costly investment and can run into thousands of dollars. That’s something you have to consider to understand whether this is right for you.
- Purpose: What’s your reason to use them? Do you want to use them to explore the ocean floor closer or just because you can use them? Rebreathers are expensive and potentially dangerous in the wrong hands too. That’s why you have to think about the reasons you’re using the rebreather. If you’re a professional diver and go technical diving regularly, you may require them.
- Diving Hours: How many dives have you been on? Do you have a hundred hours of diving experience or just one? A rebreather can be a great tool for professional divers, military personnel, and of course, underwater photographers. However, if you aren’t and don’t plan to do any technical diving, it may not be a wise investment. Advanced or highly-skilled divers are more suited to a close circuit breather than beginners.
At the end of the day, you have to think about what is best for your skills and requirements. For example, if you have less than 25-hours of diving experience, you’re unlikely to qualify for training since that’s the minimum number required by most training authorities. To become a rebreather diver, you need to be over 18 and have logged at least 25-hours of dive time. On the other hand, if you were a professional or recreational diver and spend dozens of hours per year in the water, the circuit rebreathers may be ideal.
Of course, the hard part is undergoing training because it’s like starting over again. You have to learn about a new breathing loop, as well as understand how to read oxygen sensors manually and how gas consumption works. While the gas (carbon dioxide) is converted into oxygen, it’s a totally new system to get used to. So you have to be comfortable using the rebreather.
What Depths Can You Achieve With A Rebreather?
Rebreather divers are able to dive to depths further than if they used an open-circuit or traditional breathing equipment. It’s possible to dive to depths around 50-feet or more; however, a Navy SEAL could reach 70-feet and that’s amazing. With traditional diving equipment, scuba diving has reached new heights. Scuba divers wouldn’t be able to make those dives without extensive oxygen supplies.
The oxygen content required to reach those depths would be greater than what’s required with a rebreather. However, it isn’t always feasible to make dives on those scales. With closed-circuit rebreathers, it’s possible.
Scuba diving is incredibly fun but also extremely dangerous. It requires divers to wear tanks filled with gases, including oxygen and helium. Divers inhale the oxygen through the rebreather and exhale toxic carbon dioxide (also a gas). However, that is converted back into oxygen within the rebreather and supplies the user with fresh oxygen. The gas is transferred into the filtration system of the rebreather tank and is reused. If the process is done correctly, it’s safe to breathe in that air and it ensures divers use fewer oxygen supplies too.
Divers use the same amount of oxygen, but only, it’s being recycled. The rebreather uses a smart way to recycle and reuse the air you breathe underwater and convert gas (carbon dioxide) into reusable air. It’s incredibly smart and a useful solution for most experienced divers, even though it’s very simple technology behind the process. Rebreathers are incredibly useful but are more suited for professional divers.