Helium can be obtained through any local welding supply or industrial gas company, including hospital supply companies also. Tanks are referred to as “300 HE” and they stand apx 4 FT tall and actually contain 291 cubic feet of helium. A tank cost will usually always include the cost of delivery and free pick up and you should not be charged for any unused tanks. Tanks will run apx $100 each. Helium is harder to obtain than it used to be so if you are planning an event, make sure you have your helium lined up. If a supplier’s terms are not satisfactory, shop around. You should not have to pay a tank deposit. You can check with www.airgas.com also to see if they are taking any new accounts as they are a national helium supplier.
FILLING YOU SPHERE
Your SPHERE will come pre-assembled. You will simply take the supplied 5 foot long filler hose and brass fitting and attach them to the tank. Your tank does NOT require a regulator, you will simply turn the knob to release the helium into the SPHERE. Always be careful not to kneel on your SPHERE as you lay it out and prepare it to be filled. People often ask how will they know when it is full. It will actually be pretty obvious when it is full. Be sure to have it tied to something before you fill it or you run the risk of it flying away. Always fill in calm conditions and be sure to tie an extremely good knot. Many SPHEREs have been lost the first day by someone not securing it with a really, really good knot. Just when you think you’ve tied a good knot, tie it again. Sometimes extreme temperature changes may cause your SPHERE to appear that it has lost some helium, but that is just normal. Cold air will contract the helium.
TOPPING OFF YOUR SPHERE
Helium is the second smallest molecule in the universe. For example, it you filled your SPHERE with air, it would remain filled for many months, but helium escapes through anything. If you use a PVC SPHERE, you will need to add an additional 25 to 30% every 3 days. If nylon, you will require topping off every 6 to 7 days. You will be able to tell it is time to top off when the nose of your SPHERE pushes or dents inward. Pull the SPHERE down to top off. This may require 2 people if the wind is blowing. Keep the SPHERE high enough to not hit the ground or have two other people holding each end. This should usually be done in the early part of the day when the winds are much more calm. Unscrew the cap and blast in more helium, retighten and release your SPHERE back into the air slowing. Do not just release it or you could damage your SPHERE.
WIND CONDITIONS AND FLYING ALTITUDE
Your SPHERE should always be flown above 90 to 100 feet. Your tether is 125 feet long. The wind closer to the ground is subject to turbulence. Much like a kite does not fly steady until it reaches a certain height, the same is true with SPHEREs. At 100 feet, the wind is steady. Anything below that height could cause your SPHERE to be pushed down to the ground or into a building due to a down draft of wind. The wind will usually be 5 mph faster at a 100 foot altitude, so determine your wind speed on the ground and add 5. SPHEREs should not be exposed to gusts exceeding 20 mph regardless of what other websites or companies may tell you. If the wind at ground level is high enough to bend tree branches or stretch out a flag, then your wind speed is near or above 15 mph. Add 5 mph to that and you are at 20 mph. Wind gusts are usually 5 to 10 mph faster than steady wind speed, so at or above 15 mph on the ground you are already is the red zone and risk having your SPHERE tear or blow away. Unfortunately that happens more often that we like to see. The rule of thumb is, always fly in calm or light wind conditions and you will have your SPHERE to fly another day.
MAINTAINING YOUR SPHERE USAGE
A SPHERE should never be left unattended, such as left out overnight unless you are absolutely sure of the wind conditions. The most practical way to use a SPHERE is on a regular schedule (certain set days weather permitting). If you buy a SPHERE with the intention of flying and forgetting it, you will be disappointed. SPHERE use requires regular weather watching. Be prepared to vacuum out the helium (a fast way to empty it) and carefully roll it up and store it away in a cool, dry location. Never put your SPHERE away wet or damp or you could get mildew stains that can not be removed without a total repaint. For very regular use, you may want to leave in the helium. In that case, you can build a SPHERE cradle out of 3” pvc pipes that will keep it off the ground. We can provide a diagram of one for you. You can tie the SPHERE down to the cradle or throw a painters tarp over it and secure the tarp to contain the SPHERE. As a rule though, that is not the most practical solution. We have had customers actually build a SPHERE hanger (a very large storage shed). If you can use a SPHERE on a regular basis and it is the only way to solve a visibility issue for your location, then you may consider such an option, because the regular use of a SPHERE will dramatically increase your sales revenue. Even using just on weekends will create a large increase in store traffic.