Tanks of helium may be purchased from your local welding supply company, especially those that specialize in the sale of welding gases. Most suppliers will deliver to your (or an event) location and pick up the empty tanks when you have finished. Ask for “balloon grade” 97% pure helium.
Plan to keep at least one extra tank of helium to occasionally "top off" your product. A product with no holes will have about ½% to 1% loss per day through the material, which means you will normally have to add a little helium every 3 to 5 days.
Invest in a good pressure regulator with gauges for the helium tank valve, usually available from your helium supplier. The inflation hose should be from 4 to 10 feet long. Follow the instruction supplied with your regulator for attaching to the helium tank and opening the valves.
PREPARATION FOR INFLATION
Select a location for inflation which is smooth and clear of any rough or sharp objects. Lay out the plastic ground sheet (tarp) to protect the product and keep it clean during inflation, is a good idea.
Make sure all valves on the product are completely closed! Attach the two tie down lines, one to each end of the product, never less. Blimps 15 ft and larger without the gondola attached, should never be tethered with less than 3 lines.
Very slowly crack open the helium valve! The flow of helium will make a rushing noise. Inflate slowly! Never open the helium tank valve to the point that the flow of helium makes a high pitched screeching noise and violently flaps the balloon material, which could result in unnecessary wear to the product. As the balloon gets near full, slow down the rate of inflation. The helium will continue to expand briefly. Inflate until the outside surface of the product is smooth and firm to touch, usually when the wrinkles are gone along the seams.
If your blimp is equipped with a rapid deflation sleeve, fold up the 12 inch long sleeve in thirds, roll the remaining 4" piece from left to right tightly like a cigar, wrap tightly several times with an 18" length of 1/8" braided nylon rope, tying both ends together, tape with black plastic electrical tape over the entire length of the sleeve and tuck all this inside the two flaps to be out of sight.
If you try to fill the blimp too quickly through the small filling valve the pressure will be too great and the Filling Hose (optional) will blow off. To fill more quickly you can insert the filling hose directly into the large opening at the tail of the blimp. Hold the blimp envelope tightly around the filling hose and fill until 3/4 full. This procedure will allow a higher flow rate from the helium tank. Then close the large filling valve securely and continue filling through the smaller valve at the lower rate until full.
TOPPING UP WITH AIR
All indoor blimps require placing ballast weight into the Ballast Bags (provided) to properly balance the blimp. Those blimps without banners will need even more ballast. It is unnecessary to carry around this extra weight which you can reduce by replacing some of the helium with air. When the blimp is 3/4 full attach the gondola, battery(s) and fins loosely (don't tighten lines) and continue filling until the blimp floats with a small amount of ballast. Use a canister style vacuum (like Shopvac) to finish filling the blimp to the proper tightness.
REMOVING AIR AND IMPURITIES
There will be a time when you want to raise the purity level of the helium gas in your blimp to get more lift. If you leave your blimp inflated between flying days you will notice that you steadily are removing ballast for proper balance. This is caused by impurities (like air) seeping into the balloon over time. At some point you will run out of ballast. This may also be the case where you add air to reduce the amount of ballast needed. With the gondola removed, raise the nose of the blimp and the highest purity of helium will rise. After a minimum 1/2 hour you can open the large valve at the tail and force out (or vacuum out) some of the lowest purity helium. Lower the blimp and top up with fresh helium. Repeat if necessary.
A canister style vacuum (Shopvac) is an excellent addition to the equipment for your blimp. As mentioned above, a vacuum can add air to minimize ballast weight and it can also be used to empty the blimp more quickly.
UNDERSTANDING THE AFFECTS OF TEMPERATURE CHANGE
Helium shrinks in cold temperatures and expands in warm temperatures. If you inflate in a warm room/area and bring the product into a cold environment, the helium will shrink slightly and the product will become soft. DO NOT ADD HELIUM, because when you take it back to the warm room/area, it will expand back out. If you inflate in a cold room/area and bring the product into a warm environment, the helium will expand slightly and so will the product. DO NOT BLEED OFF HELIUM, because the product can withstand 5% expansion and you will loose lift.
Call for Fire Rating Sheet