Continuous Flow Portable Oxygen Concentrators: How Do You Compare Them?

If you need to purchase a continuous flow portable oxygen concentrator, it is essential to get the right device from the get-go. There is nothing worse than buying a medical device only to find out that it does not fit your oxygen needs.

In this blog post, we will explore how to compare continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators and briefly highlight 2 top concentrators.

Many oxygen units offer only a pulse-dose setting, also known as "on-demand" or a "puffer" device. While this type of device is excellent for patients who do not need high amounts of oxygen, if you need higher and more stable levels of oxygen from your device, it is essential to purchase a device that offers continuous flow. Your doctor will determine what is best for you.

Before we proceed, let us briefly cover the main criteria to use when making your comparisons.

How to Compare Continuous Flow Portable Oxygen Concentrators

There are many ways to compare portable oxygen machines, but for this blog post, we have whittled it down to 7 main criteria:

1. Flow Settings

The flow setting is how you set the device to the level prescribed by your doctor. Once your doctor puts in the order for you to receive portable oxygen therapy, he or she will specify a flow level for you. For example, your doctor might prescribe 2 liters per minute of oxygen flow. So on your device, you will have to adjust the flow settings to achieve 2 liters per minute.

Most devices will allow you to set a continuous flow from 0.5–3 liters per minutes, which you can adjust in 0.5-liter increments.

Oxygen Settings for Continuous Flow Concentrators

2. Alarm Types

Medical devices, like portable oxygen concentrators, are required to have various alarms for safety. It is essential to understand the different types of alarms that come with these devices.

While there are a wide variety of alarms, there are 3 primary alarms you should be aware of for your portable oxygen device:

  • Low battery
  • Low oxygen purity
  • No flow

Most people buy a portable oxygen device to use it on the go. So it is essential to have a low battery alarm to let you know if the battery is low. With this alarm, you will be alerted to stop somewhere, recharge the battery, and avoid the loss of oxygen flow. As a result, many users purchase a second battery to be used as a backup to ensure having power throughout their day.

While not every manufacturer will call the next alarm a "low oxygen purity" alarm, the basic idea is that there should be an alarm letting you know if the oxygen concentration level is out of range. This alarm is important because the correct flow setting on your device depends on a particular oxygen purity range.

Finally, a "no flow" alarm is also essential. There are many reasons for a loss of flow such as a device malfunction or a simple kink in the oxygen tubing. Either way, if there is no more flow coming out of the device, you need to be aware of it immediately.

3. Portability

The heavier your device is, the less "portable" it is on a practical level. Some manufacturers will call their devices portable, but if the weight is overwhelming for some users, then it ceases to be practically portable.

Therefore, it is always a good idea to consider the weight of your device before purchasing. If the specs on a device say it is 10 pounds, it is a good idea to grab a 10 pound dumbbell or something and test out how that weight feels around your shoulder.

Some of the heavier devices come with portable carts for easier mobility, so be sure to find out beforehand whether or not you will need a portable cart.

4. Rechargeable Battery

Most portable oxygen concentrators have rechargeable batteries, but the quality of the batteries will vary. It is a good idea to compare charging times and battery durations when making your comparisons.

Charging time is the amount of time it takes to charge an empty battery to full capacity. The battery duration is how long the battery will last once removed from the main outlet source.

Continuous Flow Rechargeable Battery

5. Noise Level

One feature many people do not consider until after they start using the device is the noise level. Whether using your portable oxygen concentrator in the grocery store or on your nightstand at home, the amount of noise emanating from your device can become a nuisance if it is too loud.

Manufacturers generally disclose the highest sound rating from their device in decibels. For comparison, a quiet conversation at home is 50 decibels, while the sound of a garbage truck can come in at 80 decibels.

6. Oxygen Concentration

Most portable oxygen units will give you a concentration range to specify the oxygen purity you could expect at sea level. Oxygen concentration gives you an idea about how pure the oxygen is from your device. While it is not critical to purchase a concentrator just because it has the highest level of oxygen purity, if the device falls below 80% oxygen purity, it is probably not strong enough to provide safe therapeutic levels.

7. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) Approval

If you travel a lot and have recently received a new prescription for oxygen therapy, purchasing a device that has already been pre-approved by the FAA will save you a headache. Portable oxygen concentrators are highly regulated devices, even with airline agencies. To best prepare for travel and are on oxygen therapy is to check with your airline’s website or call them to inquire on their policies and guidelines for flying with an oxygen concentrator.

Top 2 Continuous Flow Portable Oxygen Concentrators

Here are 2 top continuous flow machines that meet the above criteria:

Final Thoughts

There are many continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators on the market. Using the criteria mentioned above, you can easily make an informed decision about what you need in your day to day use of the device. If you consider what you will need from your equipment up front, you will find your device easier to use over the long run.


About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

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