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Life Raft Inflation: Air vs. CO2

What things do people consider when picking a life raft? The list typically includes capacity, service interval, equipment, etc. One item that hasn’t been on the list—but should be—is the inflation system. CO2 has historically been the only inflation system option for marine life rafts…until now.  Now consumers have the option to choose between a raft inflated with Air or CO2.

What’s the advantage of using Air instead of CO2? There’s several. First and foremost is that air isn’t affected by temperature.  When you compress CO2 into a cylinder, the pressure changes based on temperature. This can affect the speed of inflation—at low temperatures, the gas compresses (which lowers the pressure), and your life raft will inflate slowly. In some cases the CO2 will even solidify into dry ice which slows inflation even more. Air, on the other hand, is not affected by temperature. Your raft will inflate with greater speed than CO2, regardless of the temperature. 

See below for a visual representation. The CO2 raft was chilled to -20⁰F, the air charged raft was chilled to -40⁰F. 

In an emergency where every second counts, wouldn’t you want air inflation?

In addition to inflation time, using air for inflation allows for the installation of a pressure gauge. With a CO2 cylinder (per the above), the pressure in the cylinder depends on the temperature--making it impossible to tell if a leak has occurred without weighing the cylinder. Since the pressure of air in the cylinder doesn’t change, a gauge can be installed. This lets you guarantee that your raft has air in the cylinder and will inflate, before each trip.  


All SWITLIK life rafts now come standard with Air Inflation systems and visible “go/no go” gauge. This feature, along with our patented and military proven vacuum sealing process, allows us to extend the time between services on our rafts to FIVE Years. Such a long service interval decreases the overall cost of ownership. For more information on SWITLIK rafts and the innovative design changes that have been made click here. 

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