Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Helium and a little of what you need to know as a balloon professional Part 1


I wonder how many people who read this blog are unsure how much it costs to fill a balloon with helium?

When I first started working with balloons, I had absolutely no idea how to work out the cost of helium, along with a lack of job costing my work, everything that I ever sold was complete guess work, and very bad guesswork at that!I was asked recently if I could help someone to work out how much helium each balloon uses and how to cost it when using the job cost form, so I thought that this would be a useful blog for others too!Before we start talking about costs and prices, lets just take a few moments to review helium and a few points of safety.

Helium is a lighter than air gas (second lightest element after hydrogen) that is colourless, odorless, tasteless, non-toxic and inert (will not react with any other element). 

Generally in the balloon industry we use something that is known as ‘Balloon Gas’, this is when helium has a small % of air mixed with it, this mix is usually as a result of the helium having been recycled from other industries such as medical after it has been used in MRI scanners.

Is there a safe alternative to Helium? I am afraid that there is only one answer and that is a resounding NO!

I want to make my next point very loud and clear, is it safe to inhale helium... NO!

Although helium is not poisonous, if inhaled it could result in death by asphyxiation (suffocation) or seriously damage a persons lungs, so no inhaling helium from balloons or even opening a cylinder in a non-ventilated room. Please let us lead by example and make sure that we tell our customers too, so that we may prevent any terrible accidents, which as you know always gives our industry very bad press!

When transporting a cylinder by car or van make sure that the vehicle is well ventilated and that the cylinder is well secured, just imagine what would happen if you had to make an emergency stop!

Ensure that cylinders are stored in well ventilated areas, away from direct heat.

When inflating a balloon always point the balloon and inflator away from you, and close the cylinder valve after use. Some professional balloon artists will wear protective eyewear when inflating balloons.

Always use a proper cylinder trolly for moving cylinders, even for a short distance.

Always secure a cylinder to a secure support in an upright position when in use, a cylinders can cause serious injury if they fall over or roll on to you.

Keep cylinders away from children at all times.

Always use the correct inflation equipment designed especially for inflating balloon  and the cylinder type that you are working with and NEVER repair, alter or change equipment as this can result in serious accidents, remember you are working with gas under very high pressure. For balloon inflation equipment visit www.Conwinonline.com

Different gas suppliers offer helium in a variety of different cylinder types and it would be difficult for me to mention all the different types available worldwide, but I think from experience there are currently 2 main types, 200 bar Pressure un-regulated cylinders and those that have built in regulators such as Ballooniumcylinders.

BOC Gases is an example of 200 bar cylinders, that requires a screw in balloon inflator/ regulator such as a Precision Plus as shown below.


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Precision Plus

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Balloonium is an example of a pre-regulated cylinder (fitted with expensive pressure-regulating equipment inside the cylinder head) so that only requires a special quick-fit Balloonium Inflator (not screw thread), these are available from Air Products and other Conwin distributors.
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Balloonium cylinder with a Conwin Quick-Fit Inflator
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Balloonium Cylinders are also available in other European countries, check with your local Air-Products outlet.

Please note that Balloonium Quick-Fit Inflators are ONLY suitable for this type of cylinder and should NEVER be altered or adjusted to use on a non regulated cylinder (screw thread).

Regarding the helium shortage, I strongly recommend that you read the report ‘Don’t deflate the party’ by Dan Flynn. Dan Flynn is chairman of the Balloon Council and CEO of Pioneer Balloon Company. Sadly it's a controversial subject with those who strongly believe that helium filled balloons should be banned, but as you will see, the Balloon Council is standing up for our industry and those who work within it.

So let me start by asking ‘how much does your helium cost you?

This will undoubtably vary around the world, which is another reason why our balloons and designs prices will vary from town to town and country to country (read 'How much should I charge for that")

To calculate the cost of your helium per balloon you need to know how much you helium cylinder costs you and how much helium is in your cylinder (volume)? 

If you only inflate a limited number of different size balloons this could be quite simple for you as most of the information you require is supplied by each of the helium suppliers. 

Below is the chart that is supplied by BOC GASES,(please note that these figures are only approximate as it all depends on how accurately a balloon is inflated, slightly over or under-inflating a balloon will affect how many balloons can be inflated from a cylinder), which is always worth mentioning to your customers if you rent out helium cylinders, as they will swear blind that you did not give them a full cylinder if they do not get as many balloons out of a cylinder as they expected, and of course they did not 'pop' any balloons or 'let helium out' during the inflation process!




So looking at this chart is tells us that from an L size 9.00m3 (317 cubic feet) cylinder you should be able to inflate 560 11" latex balloons, from a T size 3.6m3 (127 cubic feet) cylinder you should be able to inflate 225 11" latex balloons and from a V size 1.81m3 (63 cubic feet) cylinder, you should be able to inflate 110 11" latex balloons.

So here is how you can cost your helium usage:

Let's use a T-Size or 3.6m3 (127 cu ft) cylinder for our example:

If our cylinder costs us £50 to rent from our helium supplier plus we pay 1 months rental on the cylinder at £5, that would make our cylinder cost us £55, then in the UK we need to apply VAT(tax) @20% therefore making our cylinder cost us £55 plus £11 = £66.
(Please note that these figures have been made up for this exercise, so PLEASE do not use these figures for your own calculations)

Looking at the BOC chart it tells us that we can inflate 225 11" balloons from our cylinder T-Size or 3.6m3 (127 cu ft).

So take the total cost of you cylinder £66 and divided by 225 = 0.29333, I would probably round that up to 30p, which is the cost of helium per 11" balloon.

So that's pretty easy as long as you are only inflating balloon sizes that are listed on the charts.

The same would apply for the Balloonium cylinders, they also give you the approximate number of balloons that you can inflate (limited sizes), so once again you would divide the cost of your cylinder including any rentals and taxes by the number of balloons as shown on the chart and you would know how much the helium is costing you per that size of balloon.

OK, I am going to finish Part 1 of this blog here, in Part 2 will explain how to calculate how much helium you have left in your cylinder and how many balloons of a certain size you will be able to inflate from the amount of gas that you have left, plus lots more!

Happy Ballooning!

Sue
www.suebowler.com







1 comment:

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