Dive Deeper And For Longer With One Of These 10 Specialist Air Compressors
Diving is one of the most awe-inspiring and rewarding hobbies you can take up. It invites you into an otherworldly paradise, full of wonderful and intriguing sub-seascapes and lifeforms; sometimes it can feel like a whole different planet!
But just as it would be if it were another planet, the time we spend underwater is limited by the capacity of our oxygen tanks — curse these mammalian lungs!
It’s sort of a Cinderella type of deal. We’re invited into this alien world of beauty and splendor, but as soon as the dial on our tanks shows midnight, we’re yanked out of the dream and pulled back to the surface.
That is, of course, unless you have a diving air compressor to hand for a quick refill, or even for some surface-supply airflow.
Well, lucky for you, I’ve spent the last few weeks researching the best air compressors for diving, so you can spend even longer in your happy place under the waves.
Table of Contents
- Dive Deeper And For Longer With One Of These 10 Specialist Air Compressors
- 10 Best Air Compressors For Diving
- Buyer’s Guide
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Summing Up
10 Best Air Compressors For Diving
As an electric compressor, the CS3 is environmentally friendly, and being that it can be hooked up to the 12V port on your car battery, it can be used wherever you may roam — perfect for the adventurous soul.
It has a maximum air pressure output of 4500 PSI, meaning it’s powerful enough to fill larger diving tanks, and as it has an internal fan, there’s no need for an external water pump to keep thermals in check.
You won’t need to lubricate it with oil either, amounting to cleaner air before it even reaches the filtration system.
And to top things off, it has a nifty auto cut-off feature, so you don’t have to worry so much about timings when filling your tank.
- 17lbs – Super portable.
- Integrated Fan – No separate cooling system required.
- Zero-Oil – Fewer filters required.
- Auto Cut-Off – Cuts output once desired pressure is reached.
- Price – It’s not cheap, but worth every penny.
The CS2 is basically the CS3’s little sibling. It brings most of the same great features to the table, including internal fan cooling to prevent overheating, oil-less functionality for clean air and an easy maintenance schedule, and 12V car battery compatibility for use on the fly.
Capable of pushing out a whopping 4500 PSI, it’s suitable for providing a liter of air per duty cycle and takes about 26 minutes to fill a 0.5-liter tank from 0 to 300 bars.
My only gripe here is that it doesn’t have the auto cut-off ability of the CS3, but as long as you don’t mind doing it manually, you’ll save yourself over $100.
- Integrated Fan – Great thermals.
- 14.7lbs – Won’t throw your back out.
- Zero Oil – Cleaner system.
- Electric – Environmentally friendly.
- Manual Cut-Off – No automation.
- 1-Liter at a Time – Will take a while to fill a large 12-liter tank.
This 4500 PSI air compressor is the perfect pick for those looking for speedy refills, as it can pump out a full liter of clean, compressed air in around 8 minutes. It’s also a corded electric compressor, so it’s great for the environment.
However, you do pay for the power of this device in other ways. For instance, it weighs 45lbs and has a max running volume of 78dBA, so it might be worth investing in a sound-dampening enclosure.
On the bright side, it comes with a fully automated cut-off with an adjoining alarm, making your refill sessions a total breeze.
- 8 Minutes Per 1 Liter – Fast refills.
- Electric – Green and mean.
- Auto Cut-Off with Alarm – Alerts you when the job is done.
- 45lbs – You may need a hand lifting it.
- 74dBA – Quite a noisy device.
Capable of pushing out clean air at 4500 PSI, this Orion compressor is primed and ready to refill your scuba tanks, and as an electric system, you don’t have to worry about damaging the environments you so enjoy exploring.
It weighs 46lbs, so it’s not the most portable compressor on the market, but it’s loaded with great features such as auto cut-off and a digital thermometer for temperature monitoring.
Speaking of thermals, I really love that this Orion compressor includes an integrated water cooling pump, but you do have to provide the water source externally, so buckets at the ready, folks.
- Internal Water Pump – Tidy, comprehensive system.
- Auto Cut-Off – No manual disengaging required.
- Electric – Environmentally sound.
- 45lbs – Heavy for a small compressor
While this gas-powered air compressor isn’t powerful enough to refill your scuba tank, with a pressure rating of 115 PSI, it’s a fantastic option for surface-supply diving sessions up to 50ft below sea level thanks to the included 50ft umbilical hose.
It boasts an integrated moisture and particle filter, so you won’t have to fork out too much for aftermarket filtration to enjoy fresh, clean air while you investigate the depths.
And best of all, it features dual outlets, meaning you and a buddy can dive together and share some magic moments beneath the waves.
- 115 PSI – Suitable for shallow diving.
- 50ft Hose – Non-restrictive apparatus.
- Integrated Filters – Nice, clean air.
- Dual Outlets – Supports two divers simultaneously.
- Gas – Emits fumes.
- 59.9lbs – It’s not light.
Here’s another quick refill compressor from Orion, capable of topping off a 6.8-liter tank in as little as 30 minutes.
It has a maximum output of 4500 PSI which means it’s compatible with most medium to large scuba tanks, and though it does require an oil lubricant, it boasts dual internal oil/moisture filters.
The eco-warriors out there will appreciate that it’s powered by electricity, and as far as cooling’s concerned, you just have to replenish a cold water supply every 30 minutes.
- Electric – Eco-friendly.
- Dual Oil Filters – nice, clean air.
- 6.8 Liters Per 30 Minutes – Fast refills.
- No Auto Cut-Off – Manual only.
- Needs Oil – You may need to invest in extra filtration.
It may be small, but this Win Outdoor compressor is loaded with a two-stage filtration system, making it ideal for most shallow surface-supply diving sessions.
Completely oil-less and quiet as they come, I’d recommend using this for pool or boat maintenance, but the 32ft hose opens the door for some reef exploration if the feeling takes you.
- Zero Oil – Fewer filters required.
- 21.35lbs – Nice and portable.
- Two-Stage Filtration – Cleans air nicely.
- Quiet – Practically zero noise pollution.
- Price – It’s a lot for a small compressor.
This surface-supply compressor from Jufeng is powered by electricity, cutting both your wallet and the planet some slack. And speaking of slack, it arrives with a 50ft ABS hose, so your underwater adventures won’t be too limited.
It arrives with a high-quality respirator, ready to use out the box, and as it weighs in at fewer than 20lbs, you can set it up anywhere with ease, and enjoy some solo submarine fun!
- 19.84lbs – No burden to transport and set up.
- 50ft Hose – Enables underwater wandering.
- Respirator Included – A nice touch!
- Price – It’ll cost ya!
With their air compressor, Aquarobo has essentially taken the portable, surface-supply blueprint of the Jufeng and Win Outdoor devices, and augmented it with a buoyant, waterproof body.
It doesn’t matter that the included hose is only 39ft, because it simply floats along with you, unshackling you from the bonds of a stationary compressor.
With one of these bobbling on the surface, you can explore depths up 32.8 FSW for up to 2.6 hours per charge.
- 2.6 Hours – Plenty of time to explore.
- Waterproof – Comes on the water with you.
- No Distance Limitations – Follows you as you go.
- Calm Water Only – Waves can break it.
- Price – You may have to smash your piggy bank.
If you’re after high-pressure on a budget, allow me to introduce you to this Best Brose 4500 PSI compressor. It’s electric, so it’s cheap to run and good for the environment, and the price tag is incredibly reasonable.
It requires an oil lubricant, so you will have to invest in some extra filtration, which does slightly offset the bargain price point, but it’ll still wind up cheaper than any of the other compressors on my list.
- Electric – Environmentally responsible.
- 4500 PSI – Refill-ready.
- Price – Very reasonable.
- Oil-Lubricated – Requires extra filtration.
- 78dBA – Pretty noisy.
As you can see from our website, there are tons of different kinds of air compressors, each built for a couple of or a singular application, which unfortunately means you can’t just snatch up the very first air compressor you stumble across.
You’re going to need to know what makes an air compressor suitable for diving, so let’s take a look, shall we?
Gas VS Electric
Your first port of call is deciding between power types. Your options are gas or electric. Divers typically prefer electric as they’re far more environmentally friendly, and they tend to be slightly lighter, but either will do.
The thing that really separates regular air compressors from diving air compressors is the filtration system.
Diving compressors utilize a system of filters that purify the air as it travels through the pressure chambers, ensuring it’s safe to breathe.
Gas-powered air compressors usually require a heavier duty filtration matrix, as they have to remove the carbon monoxide that they themselves produce.
Oil-lubricated compressors also need a few extra filtration stages in order to separate hydrocarbons and oil particles from the air.
Unfortunately, filters rarely ever come with the compressor, so you’ll need to factor an aftermarket purchase into your budget, and remember to always check if an air compressor complies with breathing air standards before buying it.
Low VS High Pressure (Surface-Supplied Or Tank Refills)
One of the reasons you can’t use your garden variety air compressor for diving is that they don’t have a high enough PSI rating to refill your oxygen tanks with breathable, highly pressurized air.
For tank refills, an air compressor needs to be able to push out air at least 3000 PSI, which is far beyond the ability of standard compressors.
That said, if you’re more intrigued by the idea of surface-supplied diving, which entails receiving air directly from the compressor via an umbilical leash, then you don’t need quite as much pressure.
The rules of thumb for surface-supply pressure are as follows…
- Shallower than 60 FSW (feet of seawater) = 90 PSI (minimum).
- Shallower than 130 FSW = 135 PSI (minimum).
- 130-190 FSW = 165 PSI.
Matching Air Compressor PSI With Tank Size
Okay, so I know I was literally just waffling on about how you need a powerful air compressor to refill your tank, but here’s the thing…the PSI of the compressor needs to be proportional to your tank size.
Smaller tanks won’t be able to handle the pressure of super-powerful compressors, while larger tanks will need something with a little more juice.
Thermals And Running Volume
As you’re most likely already aware, air compressors can be noisy little devils, and they can run hot as hell too.
If you’re planning on using them outside, it’s definitely worth prioritizing a design with adequate soundproofing. Should you end up with a loud compressor, I’d consider installing a sound-dampening enclosure.
If the plan is to use the compressor indoors for tank refills, you need to ensure there is a decent airflow in the room to ensure the compressor doesn’t overheat.
Frequently Asked Questions
Let’s bring things to a nice, tidy close with a diving air compressor FAQ segment.
Can you use a regular air compressor for diving?
The short answer here is no, unfortunately, you cannot use a regular air compressor for diving. They’re just not powerful enough.
Why do you need a higher pressure air compressor for surface-supply diving the deeper you go?
In order for a consistent amount of oxygen to reach you, an air compressor has to have a higher pressure rating than the water itself.
As the pressure of the water increases with every inch you descend, the required pressure output of the compressor also increases.
Can you breathe underwater with an air compressor?
Yes, as long as an air compressor has a high enough PSI rating for the depth, as well as the required filtration system to purify the air, you can hook up an umbilical hose to it and use the hose to receive air from the compressor while you’re underwater.
How do you fill a scuba tank?
Before you even think about filling your scuba tank, it needs to have been visually inspected by a dive shop professional within the last year and hydrostatically tested within the last 3-5 years.
Once you have checked those boxes, follow these simple steps…
- Purge any residual air from your tank.
- Give it a thorough visual inspection. Keep an eye out for cracks.
- Shake it as if you’re making a cocktail. If it actually sounds like a cocktail shaker, i.e. clinking of ice or sloshing of booze, you mustn’t use it. A silent shake is key!
- Check for cracks in the oil ring.
- Clean the valve.
- Hook the yoke of the air compressor up to your tank.
- Keep an eye on your tank’s pressure gauge as it fills. Most diving compressors have an auto cut-off function, but it can fail from time to time, so you need to be ready to shut the compressor down when your tank is full.
How do scuba air compressors work?
Scuba air compressors usually have a 4-stage system in place.
- The compressor pulls air through an intake filter and compresses it to around 140 PSI. Compression heats the air, so before it reaches the second stage, it passes through a coil or intercooler.
- The second stage is a repeat of the first stage, but this time around, the air is compressed to around 1000 PSI.
- The third stage further compresses the air to roughly 5000 PSI, the air is then cooled one final time, then passes through a moisture filter and any other additional particle filters before moving on to the fourth stage.
- During the last stage, the air is forced through a back valve that reduces pressure to a set rate (usually between 2700 and 3300 PSI) and encourages an even and balanced airflow to the target destination.
There you have it, folks; 10 awesome air compressors capable of pushing your underwater expeditions to the limit, ensuring you get the most out of each dive.
All you need to do now is decide whether you want a surface-supply or refill system, pick your favorite from the list, and pack for your next diving trip. Enjoy!