Your regulators are one of the most important parts of your kit – without them, you wouldn’t be able to breathe under the water! The regulator reduces the pressure of the supply of breathing gas from your cylinder on demand. A regulator set is made up of several things:
- 1st stage – the shiny part that fits onto the cylinder valve.
- 2nd stage – the primary regulator that you put in your mouth and breath from.
- Alternate air source (Octopus) – the secondary regulator available for your buddy.
- Submersible Pressure Gauge (SPG) – Displays the gas level you have in your cylinder.
- Inflator Hose – A low-pressure hose to attach to your BCD.
- Drysuit hose (optional) – An extra low-pressure hose to fit your drysuit.
- Transmitter/pod (optional) – These relay the air pressure from your cylinder to your computer.
How does a regulator work?
I’m just going to touch briefly on how a regulator works to give you a very basic understanding of them just so you have an idea of how they function.
The first stage fixes to the cylinder valve and has several ports on it for the hose attachments with different features at the end of each hose (e.g. regulators, SPG, drysuit hose etc). It is the first stage that reduces the high pressure from the cylinder down to suitable pressures for each device that connects to the first stage. For example, the SPG will have the full pressure of the cylinder fed to it from the high-pressure port on the first stage. All other fittings tend to be fed from the low-pressure ports of the first stage that tend to be fed at a pressure of around 9 – 10 bar although this may differ between different brands.
Most second stages operate a diaphragm and lever mechanism that allow air to be supplied to a diver on a demand valve basis. When a negative pressure is apparent in the second stage body, the diaphragm is drawn toward the lever which in turn pushes the lever to allow air to flow into the second stage body and onward into the diver through the mouthpiece. When the diver exhales, a positive pressure is apparent in the body of the second stage, which releases the diaphragm thus removing the pressure from the lever and closing the air supply until the next breath is taken.
As mentioned earlier, the SPG is attached to the high-pressure port. High-pressure air travels down the hose to the SPG where various types of mechanism inside move the needle to the appropriate reading. You’ll notice that some are accompanied by depth gauges and/or compasses, these are not connected to the hose. They are simply inserted into a case surrounding with the gauge.
The inflator hose and drysuit hose are low pressure and enable airflow to the appropriate places for buoyancy control.
Choosing the right set for you.
As with everything else, there is no right or wrong. It is all dependent on how you plan to dive and your needs. For example, if you’re planning on diving to deeper depths, rather than recreationally, you’ll need a more robust set of regulators and if you want your own set for travelling or your holidays then a simple set of travel regs will do. However, it is highly recommended that you do not mix brands on a regulator set – stick with the same brand for all items of the set. Another recommendation is to always buy new; regulators are your lifeline when you’re underwater, so they are one of the most critical pieces of equipment you’ll wear. Therefore, it is important to know the history of the regulators and that they are in a trustworthy condition. There are plenty of brands of regulator out there but be sure to talk to other divers, dive centre staff and online reviews before purchasing. Don’t just go for the cheapest ones or a bargain!
We stock Apeks and Aqualung regulators as we believe that these are one of the best brands on the market. All of our team own a set of these brand and have never had any issues with you. We have Apeks technicians at the dive centre so we can also service your regulator sets when they need doing. We also offer the first service free of charge when you purchase your APEKS regulator set from us.
We also stock MiFlex Hoses at the dive centre. They are flexible, durable and available in a great range of colours, lengths and fittings. All you need to jazz up your dive kit 😉
Servicing your Regulators.
It goes without saying that you should always have your regulators serviced by a qualified technician. Please do not try and do it yourself. Not only are you not qualified to do so (no matter how many “really good” YouTube videos you’ve watched!) you can also endanger your life. Your regulators need to be serviced every 12 months, or as per manufacturer recommendation, to ensure that they are in a safe, working order. A service on your regulator set will include:
- Strip down and inspection of all parts of the first and second stages.
- Replacement of all wearable parts, including O-Rings, Diaphragms and seats.
- Ultrasonic clean of all parts and fittings.
- Re-assembly with manufacturer-approved replacement parts and service kits.
- Adjustment and tuning of the first and second stage.
Maintaining your Regulator Set
Just like everything else always make sure you rinse them off with fresh water after every dive (make sure your caps are in place before doing so). Always put the dust caps on when you’re not using them, make sure that the dust cap is free from water before placing it on, otherwise this can cause moisture in your 1st stage – and you don’t want that! As a dive school, we swish our mouthpieces around in a tub of steriliser after every use, this is a good idea if you’ve had someone using your set for any reason.
Make sure the set is dry before putting them away, do not leave them sat in direct sunlight. It’s recommended you get a reg bag to keep them in, these provide some protection to them and can prevent them from getting damaged if something is accidentally thrown on top of your kit bag.
When storing them, loosely curl the hoses round together and store them appropriately – don’t coil the hoses up too tightly and never hang regs from its first stage as this can put a strain on the hoses.
Keep an eye on the condition of your hoses, no matter how new/old they old. If they are starting to look worn take them to your local dive centre so they can advise you further.
Always carry with you a set of spare O-rings and a mouthpiece. If you ever need to change an O-Ring but you’re not sure how to make sure that whoever does offers to change it for you knows how and make sure you’re happy with the ‘fix’ before you get in the water.