What to Look for When Buying a Portable Oxygen Concentrator

Deciding which portable oxygen concentrator to purchase is an important choice. Not only are you buying a vital piece of medical equipment, but you’re paying a significant price too. It really pays to do your research and make sure you’re getting the features you need. The list below will detail what to look for and hopefully help make your decision an easier one.

Portability

A portable oxygen unit should be, well, portable. If the unit is oversized it’s not going to lend itself to easy carrying. Patients requiring oxygen can still lead very active lifestyles and their oxygen concentrator shouldn’t hold them back. Before making a purchase, consider the portability factors below:

  • Size: With the modern mobile concentrators currently on the market, it’s not difficult to find models under a foot in every dimension. When thinking about size, consider if the unit will fit in the trunk of your car or under an airliner seat. If you ride public transit will it fit there? Can you easily handle it?
  • Weight:The weight of the unit is as equally important as the size. Even a small object can be incredibly dense, so make sure the model you choose is the proper weight for you. Although heavier models often come with wheeled carts, there will still be times that you or a caregiver will need to lift your oxygen concentrator. Your unit should be a comfortable weight for you to carry, at least for short distances. Fortunately, there are many models available that weigh less than 10 pounds.
  • FAA Approved:These days, if the Federal Aviation Administration doesn’t like it, you can’t carry it on a commercial airplane. Generally, most portable oxygen concentrator models are FAA approved, but this is something you’ll want to make sure of before selecting a model.

Durability

No matter how careful you are, it’s inevitable that your unit will suffer some bangs and bumps, particularly during travel. Since an oxygen concentrator is a considerable investment and manufacturers warranties usually don’t cover accidents, try to pick a model known for its durability. The ideal concentrator should have a tough casing and quality parts that can stand up to a few knocks.

Oxygen Delivery Options

Oxygen concentrators have a variety of options when it comes to oxygen delivery. Some are pulse dosing only. This means that oxygen is supplied to the patient in measured pulses. The pulses are usually adjustable, within certain limits. Be certain that the model you choose can supply large enough pulse doses to meet your oxygen requirements.

You’ll also find models with technology that auto-adjusts the pulses to match the patient’s inhalation and exhalation. This can be a very useful feature, especially during exercise or other increased activity.

Another available mode is continuous flow. With this setting, oxygen is delivered constantly at a set rate. Patients who have higher oxygen needs may find a continuous flow setting useful. Again, the available rates vary from model to model, with some oxygen concentrators maxing out at 1 liter of oxygen per minute and others providing up to 3 liters per minute. Know your supplemental oxygen needs before settling on a model. It’s important to note a continuous flow setting is necessary for an oxygen concentrator to be compatible with a CPAP or BiPAP machine, so keep this in mind if you have sleep apnea.

Some models offer both pulse dosing and continuous flow, while others have only one or the other.

Display and Alarms

Is the display on your oxygen concentrator easy to read? Does it have large enough buttons that you won’t accidently press the wrong one? Does it feature useful alarms, like low battery, malfunction, and oxygen flow problems? These are all important factors to consider when buying an oxygen concentrator.

Filters

Almost every oxygen concentrator comes with a filter, but most are simply particle filters designed to remove dust and dander from your oxygen supply. However, some models feature antibacterial filters, which are a definite plus for patients, especially those who have weakened immune systems or are prone to respiratory infections. Of course, you should always clean or change your filters regularly and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.

Warranty

Warranties are important on any major purchase and portable oxygen concentrators are no exception. A 3-year manufacturer’s warranty on the unit itself is the industry standard, but check the details to see if you must send your concentrator in to the company for servicing or if it can be fixed at the place of purchase or other local shop. Also, keep in mind that the warranty for accessories is often much shorter, around 90 days to 1 year.

Noise

Portable oxygen concentrators are generally quiet, but do have a wide range of volumes. Some you won’t notice even in a library. Others give off a noticeable background noise and may not be the best choice if you’re going to be spending time in noise sensitive areas. Most oxygen concentrators list their decibel level, so do some research if you need an especially quiet model.

Battery Life

Even the smallest, most powerful portable oxygen concentrator isn’t very good if you can’t take it anywhere due to a short battery life. While different oxygen delivery modes drain batteries at varying rates, you should expect anywhere from 2 to 4 hours from a fully charged battery. If you take frequent trips where you have no access to a car charger or wall outlet, consider looking for a model with a longer battery life. Keep in mind that purchasing additional batteries is always another option.

Accessories

Some units come with a ton of accessories while others don’t even include a single battery. Consider the included accessories carefully, as purchasing them separately can end up adding to your final price. You’ll definitely want at least one battery and a carrying case. For heavier models, a mobile cart is also a good pick. Some models also include shoulder harnesses and a cannula, adding more value for customers.

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