When it comes time for most people to purchase a new cylinder, many folks get very confused very quickly. It’s easy to see why. Even though there are many companies who manufacture these scuba components, their products are so much alike that it’s often difficult to know which one to go with. The only real aspects a customer has to choose from are tank capacity, pressure, and whether to go with a steel or aluminum tank.
Is an aluminum tank lighter than a steel tank? Most people automatically assume that aluminum tanks are lighter than steel because it is a lighter metal overall. After all, airplanes are made from aluminum to save weight, right? Contrary to most assumptions, aluminum tanks usually end up being heavier than steel tanks. If you think about it, it makes sense. Those tank walls have to retain a lot of air pressure. Because steel is stronger than aluminum, the walls of a steel tank can be made much thinner. This means that the steel tanks end up being lighter. What about corrosion resistance, surely aluminum wins there, right? No, not really. Both aluminum and steel can corrode, especially in salt water.
How long your tank will last is another factor to consider. When it comes to service life, steel is the clear winner. Steel is a winner on service life because these tanks are usually good for 40 years of use. Aluminum tanks, on the other hand, are only good for 15 years. Even though their service life isn’t as long, aluminum tanks are more affordable.
The issue of whether a steel or aluminum scuba cylinder is better is really not too confusing when you consider the facts. Steel is the better alternative. If you have a couple of steel tanks and a diving compressor, you will be set for many years of diving fun.