Choosing the right portable oxygen concentrator
Finding the right portable oxygen concentrator (POC) for your needs can seem like a tough decision when you’re just getting started. Here at Pure Medical, we are here to help you make the best choice to help you get back to an independent lifestyle.
Check out our portable oxygen concentrator buyer’s guide to learn more about how a portable oxygen concentrator works, what features to look for, and what brands will fit your needs. If you have any questions, or would like to learn more about your options, give us a call at 1.888.747.7590 today! Our specialists are here around the clock to assist you.
Basics of Portable Oxygen Therapy
How a Portable Oxygen Concentrator works
An oxygen concentrator works by separating nitrogen from oxygen in the air. Through this process, the concentrator delivers oxygen that is 90-95% pure oxygen. This process begins when air is filtered into the first of two zeolite towers. The towers are two cylinders with sieve beds. Here, oxygen is compressed and nitrogen is removed as the filters are saturated by the nitrogen in the air. Before entering the concentrator, air is made of 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen. By the time it is filtered and delivered to the user it is around 95% pure oxygen. From here, oxygen is forced into the second zeolite tower. At this stage, the user receives pure oxygen through a nasal cannula.
Parts of a Portable Oxygen Concentrator
- Compressor: one of the main parts of the POC. It compresses air that is filtered into the concentrator before delivering air to the sieve bed filters.
- Sieve bed filters: remove nitrogen from the air by processing it through zeolite, a six-sided microscopic cube that absorbs nitrogen.
- Nasal cannula: a thin tube that delivers purified oxygen to the user and helps improve oxygen absorption.
Your Prescription & Doctor Recommendations
When starting oxygen therapy, your doctor will recommend which type of portable oxygen concentrator is best for your needs (continuous or pulse dose). Your doctor will also prescribe a dosage. This can be defined as how much oxygen (liters per minute, or LPM) is required and how it should be delivered. Oxygen can be delivered via continuous or pulse dose settings. A continuous flow device provides a steady stream of oxygen, while a pulse dose system provides oxygen on-demand when the devices senses a breath.
From here, a unit of your choice can be selected based on your lifestyle needs (think about portability, battery life, noise level, etc). You can purchase or finance a portable oxygen concentrator by contacting an online store, where a specialist will help you narrow down your options to find the best POC for your lifestyle and needs.
As with any medical device, it’s important to keep your concentrator clean so it can work at full capacity. Maintenance is generally fairly simple. Most user manuals will feature instructions on how to properly clean and maintain your device and its parts.
Types of Units
- Pulse dose: a pulse dose portable oxygen concentrator delivers air in short bursts. Sensors detect when the user is ready to take a breath and the oxygen is released accordingly. This process does not waste much purified oxygen. Settings on the pulse dose units generally reflect a number of breaths rather than how many liters per minute will be inhaled (as seen in a continuous flow unit).
- Continuous flow: a continuous flow portable oxygen concentrator delivers a steady stream of oxygen and is recommended for daytime and nighttime use. These units generally offer a range of settings that allow the user to select how many liters are inhaled per minute. For nighttime use, many oxygen patients choose a continuous flow unit.
What to Look for While Shopping for a POC
Key Features to Consider
- Battery Life: if you plan on being away from home for several hours at a time, choosing a POC with a longer battery life will be crucial. Battery life depends on the setting that the device is on during use as well as how often/how long the unit is in use. Many POC’s are compatible with an internal and external battery and can be charged in a vehicle. Some devices can even be charged during use. If you plan to travel via airplane with your POC, the battery must be able to last twice as long as the flight time, per regulation.
- Size and weight: The larger the device, the more output it can produce. This being said, larger devices are not recommended for everyone. If you plan to travel often, or want to take your POC everywhere you go, you might investigate some of the smaller handheld units. Most portable units will weigh anywhere from 3-10 pounds, but some of the continuous flow portables can weigh up to 20 pounds, so it’s recommended to be very aware of your needs before choosing a POC.
- Approved for air travel: Airlines require that passengers have an FAA-approved POC when flying. FAA-approved devices are among the safest and most reliable on the market. If you plan to travel often, make sure that your portable oxygen concentrator is FAA approved.
- Noise level: Just a few years ago, oxygen concentrators were very loud. Thankfully this has changed, and you can find many models that are almost whisper-quiet. The loudness of a POC is measured in A-weighted decibels (dBA) that measure the loudness of sounds as perceived by the human ear. An average concentrator runs between 37 and 43 dBA. This can be compared to a low hum. If you plan to use your POC in restricted environments like an airplane or during quiet events/work settings, be sure to check the dBA of the unit before purchase.
- Price: Like most medical devices, portable oxygen concentrators are fairly expensive. Generally, the devices can run from $2,000 – $4,000 depending on design, features, and capability. Many online stores offer financing and will price-match to ensure you’re getting the best deal possible.
- Carrying case: Many units come with carrying cases that can be worn as a backpack or shoulder bag. Some units come with a mobile cart with heavy-duty wheels. If you plan to travel, you’ll want to select a lightweight POC with a comfortable carrying case.
A manufacturer’s warranty is included with almost any portable oxygen concentrator to ensure that it can be replaced or repaired if there is ever an issue. Most warranties on units are valid for around 3-5 years, and some units have a warranty on the accessories as well. If you come across a unit that does not come with a warranty, you might consider the need for possible repairs during the life of your device before committing.
Portable Oxygen Concentrator Brands to Compare
OxyGo: The OxyGo family includes the OxyGo and the OxyGo FIT. Both are American-made and offer 24/7 oxygen. The OxyGo and OxyGo FIT are designed for continuous use and both models are very lightweight and easy to carry around. Choosing the OxyGO POC is a good option for oxygen users who are active, on-the-go, and prefer a small, lightweight device.
Inogen: Inogen portable oxygen concentrators are made in the United States and are recommended for patients who need 24/7 oxygen therapy. Inogen portable oxygen systems have a long battery life and are fairly small and lightweight. Some of the most popular models are the Inogen One G3 and Inogen One G4. The Inogen G3 and G4 designs are some of the quietest on the market.
Precision Medical: Precision Medical is a Pennsylvania based company that has been in the industry since 1984. The most popular Precision Medical portable oxygen concentrators are the EasyPulse POC-3 and the EasyPulse. These devices have the lowest return rate and repair rate according to the manufacturer website. They also come with a competitive warranty and are recommended for everyday use.
Invacare: Invacare has been a leader in the portable oxygen market for over 30 years. One of their most popular designs is the Invacare Platinum Mobile portable oxygen concentrator, which is designed for oxygen users who require a pulse dose only device.
O2 Concepts: O2 Concepts is the maker of the Oxlife Independence, known for its extensive battery life and advanced technology. The Oxlife Independence is the primary model offered by O2 Concepts. The company offers a 5-year warranty on the device and is trusted for their excellent customer service. The company is very tech-advanced. The Oxlife features cellular connectivity, GPS pinpointing, remote portfolio management, and an online portal to manage and view data.
Respironics: Respironics is a well known brand nationwide. Known as one of the most reliable portable oxygen concentrators on the market, the SimplyGo POC by Respironics is a good choice for oxygen patients who want a durable and reliable device. Respironics also offers the SimplyGo Mini, a smaller version of the SimplyGo that is quite reliable.
Accessories and Payment Options
When you purchase a portable oxygen concentrator, you will have the option to select a package that offers accessories. Some accessories are necessary, while others can make oxygen therapy more comfortable.
- Nasal cannula: the nasal cannula delivers oxygen from the concentrator to the user through tubing that fits into the nose. The length of the nasal cannula can vary depending on preference.
- Oxygen mask: an oxygen mask can be required for oxygen users who have higher oxygen needs. This allows for the maximum amount of airflow.
- Replacement batteries: while batteries will be included with your POC, you should consider purchasing additional batteries if you plan to travel. If you plan to fly while using your POC, make sure you check FAA recommendations. Most airlines require that the battery lasts twice the length of the flight.
- Carrying case: even though the portable oxygen concentrator is designed to be lightweight enough to he handheld or worn on the body, a carrying case can provide extra comfort if you are often on-the-go. Consider a comfortable backpack, shoulder strap, or cart to transport your concentrator.
Financing & Payment
Pay up front: you can purchase your portable oxygen concentrator outright from an oxygen provider. Pure Medical offers a price-match guarantee to ensure you get the best deal on your POC.
Financing: many dealers offer financing so you can pay for your portable oxygen concentrator over time.
A Final Note
Choosing the right portable oxygen concentrator for your needs and lifestyle is a very important decision. Discussing your needs with your physician will be the most important step in beginning oxygen therapy. Your doctor will prescribe the settings you need and recommend the type of POC to look for. Additionally, it’s often recommended that you “test drive” the unit before making a final decision. This will ensure that the POC can meet your supplemental oxygen needs. Get started today by contacting one of our specialists at Pure Medical by calling 1.888.747.7590