Why Do CO2 Cartridges Get So Cold?
Date Posted: September 12th, 2018
Q: I have been investigating carrying CO2 cartridges and a CO2 inflator in my bike bag, rather than exhausting my arms with a hand pump when I have to inflate on a ride. I keep reading consumer comments about how I should invest in a CO2 inflator that “prevents frostbite.” Or one that “stops my fingers from getting frozen.” What are they talking about?
A: CO2 cartridges are highly compressed cylinders of liquid carbon dioxide. As the liquid CO2 is released, it turns into a gas and makes your cartridge ice cold.
This frost-all-over-the-cylinder sort of cold is thermodynamics in action: Changing from a liquid phase to a gas phase requires energy. As the CO2 is released into the air, it steals the energy required to convert in the form of heat from the metal cartridge casing, making the cartridge frigidly cold. In short, as the pressure inside the cartridge decreases, so does the temperature.
Thankfully, there are a couple of solutions to combat CO2 cartridge frostbite when inflating your bicycle tires:
No. 1: Select a cupped CO2 inflator or inflator head with a sheath designed to protect your fingers.
Genuine Innovations’ popular Ultraflate CO2 inflator is a good example of a cupped inflator that keeps your hands off the cartridge. Its reinforced glass nylon construction makes it durable and reliable. Plus, you can store a non-threaded 20 gram CO2 cartridge in the cup until you are ready to use it!
Want a more compact inflator head option? Genuine Innovations’ AirChuck+ features a rubber sheath around the inflator head that is designed to keep your fingers warm. The ergonomic design offers comfort, plus protection when airing up your bicycle tires!
No. 2: Use a controllable inflator head.
You are more likely to feel the (CO2) burn if you can’t control the flow of CO2. Some CO2 inflators are “all in,” meaning once you pierce the CO2 cartridge, the air is coming out whether you are ready or not. But good CO2 inflators allow you to control the flow of air. Genuine Innovations actually offers three different types of air flow control technology: Push-to-inflate, twist-to-inflate and trigger controlled (like on the HammerHead CO2 inflator pictured on the right). Select the option that works best for you!
By selecting the right CO2 inflator, you should never have to worry about freezing your hands or fingers when airing up your bicycle tires.