When working with helium-filled inflatables, it’s important to keep several basic tips in mind. With proper care and maintenance, your helium inflatables will give you lots of use down the road.
1. Not all helium is created equal. Helium-filled inflatables require 99% pure helium so when you shop around, be sure to ask for standard industrial helium (99% pure), not party balloon or medical helium.
2. You will need to add helium to your inflatable every three to five days. If you’re planning long-term use of your inflatable, ask your helium supplier if he/she can deliver fresh tanks as needed.
3. If using your inflatable outdoors, be sure to select a site that is clear from power lines, trees, buildings, and poles. These items can damage or destroy your inflatable, and cause possible injury to you or others in the process.
4. FAA regulations state that you may not fly your balloon at a height of over 150' nor within a five-mile radius of an airport without permission.
5. It’s always wise to check the local sign ordinances to make sure you are in compliance with regulations.
6. If you are inflating your helium balloon in cold weather, take note. Towards the end of the inflation, when the balloon starts to take shape, finish the process very slowly to allow the cold material time to stretch without damage. If the temperature is below freezing, the final phase of inflation must be done in stages.
7. Be sure the tether line from the balloon to its anchor does not rub against any nearby objects. Severing your tether line will send your balloon sailing!
8. Pack your inflatable only when it is completely dry, and store it in a place free from moisture. This prevents mold and/or mildew from accumulating and damaging your balloon.
Helium inflatables are fun and exciting but are very different in function and care than cold-air or sealed inflatables. Here are the answers to a few frequently asked questions about helium inflatables that can help you with their use and maintenance.
Q: What's included when I purchase a helium inflatable?
A: You get practically everything you need except the helium. When you purchase a helium inflatable from Landmark Creations, we include 135 feet of tether line, quick links and a reel. You also get a repair kit in case of an accident and complete filling and flying instructions. Just add helium and you're flying high!
Q: I've just repaired my helium inflatable with the included patch kit. How long should I wait before I inflate again?
A: Because of the way helium inflatables expand and contract with the gas as well as with the air pressure, you'll want to wait a bare minimum of two to three hours. Ideally, we suggest waiting 24 hours before use after applying a patch.
Q: Landmark's FAQ article says I need 99% pure helium and not medical or party balloon helium. What does that mean?
A: Helium comes in a wide range of grades from 90% up to 99.999%. Certain industries use different grades for a variety of purposes. For example, medical grade helium (99.9% pure) is more expensive than the helium gas needed for inflatable blimps. On the other hand, party balloon helium is not as pure, but comes in very small tanks. To purchase the amount needed for a helium inflatable would make this form of helium cost prohibitive also. Helium that is 99% pure is of good quality while also being cost efficient.
Q: Where can I buy helium to fill my inflatable?
A: Many rental supply centers carry helium tanks for rent. They usually range from 40–300 cu ft. per tank. Praxair is a helium supplier with locations all across the globe.
Q: How much helium will I need?
A: That depends on the size and shape of your helium inflatable. Landmark will provide specific instructions when we deliver your inflatable, explaining how much helium is needed. For example: a 10' blimp is 72 cu ft. and an 8.5' ball (sphere) is 322 cu ft., so, as you can see, each inflatable will have different needs.
Wintertime Tips for Helium Inflatables
You don't see helium-filled inflatables used outdoors as frequently in the wintertime. That's because helium behaves differently as the weather turns cold. When the temperature falls helium contracts making it difficult (but not impossible) to use. If you need your helium inflatables for parades or for indoor fairs or exhibits patience is going to be the key. Here are some tips that will help you remain afloat.
1. After you've connected the tube from your inflatable to the helium tank, open the tank very slowly. Helium is stored under extreme pressure. Releasing this gas quickly can damage your balloon.
2. Open the helium tank slowly (only about half-way) until the balloon fills to at least 50% capacity. In cold weather the gases can freeze the sides of the balloon to each other if inflation isn't paced.
3. When your balloon is about 75% filled, begin to slow the rate of helium you add. In cold weather, the balloon's material can become stiff and crack or tear if it isn't allowed time to adjust to the temperature. Take the remaining 25% of the inflation in three stages. Inflate slowly then allow the balloon to rest for several minutes. Add a little more helium and allow the balloon to rest. Then complete the inflation. This process provides time for the material to stretch without danger of tearing.
Also remember that standard protocols for inflating with helium will still apply regardless of the time of year. • Select a site that is clear of power lines, buildings, trees and other potential dangers. If you'll be indoors, keep an eye out for ceiling lights and ceiling fans that might cause damage to your balloon.
• To begin your inflation, lay out a tarp underneath the balloon for added protection during the initial phases.
• Find your tether points. You should anchor your inflatable to objects that are heavy and sturdy. Tie off points will need to hold three times the lift force of the balloon itself due to wind and other factors.
• Once the balloon is fully inflated and tethered, it can be released into the air! NEVER allow the tether line to slide through your bare hands during the launch. This can cause serious rope burns. Always wear gloves for protection.
•After inflation, rain, ice and snow will not hurt the material of your inflatable. However, the added weight will reduce the lift and affect the flying performance. Rain should not be a serious problem, but accumulating ice and snow will be so it is advisable to keep a cautious eye on helium inflatables during foul weather.
•Helium balloons are an enchanting part of the holiday season. With a few precautions and some additional planning you can enjoy helium-filled inflatables all year long.