One of the most frequent questions we get asked is "What maintenance does my home or stationary concentrator need?".
Home oxygen concentrators are like any machine, and they require regular maintenance and service to ensure they operate and perform correctly. Luckily, home units (concentrators that run only on AC/house power) are easy to maintain.
To assist with this question, we have developed a general maintenance guide as well as instructions specific to each model of concentrator.
General Concentrator Maintenance
1. The first step is good maintenance is making sure the unit is placed in a well-ventilated space with roughly 6 feet of space around it to properly pull air and vent exhaust. This means that a closet, bathroom or small corner are NOT good locations. The unit needs about 8 inches – 12 inches of space around it. This is roughly an 80 square foot room.
2. Because a concentrator pulls air from the surrounding environment to create the medical grade concentrated oxygen, it is essential to keep the unit itself clean and in a clean environment. The outside of the unit should be kept clean of dust and pet hair. If the unit itself is needing to be routinely cleaned, it is a sign that the filters may need more frequent cleaning as well.
3. Make sure the unit is run at least 10 hours per month (these do not have to be 10 consecutive hours). Running a unit ensures that the lubricants continue to move and the sieve bed does not harden. The sieve beds filter the nitrogen and other trace gases from the air to create the medical grade oxygen.
4. If you are using a humidifier kit with your home concentrator, it should be thoroughly cleaned monthly. The bottle and top should be gently hand washed in warm water.
a) Don’t use abrasive sponges or cleaners as this may scratch the plastic; scratches are where bacteria prefer to grow.
b) It is best to rinse and use water pressure to clean. If dirt or other contamination isn’t easily removed from the bottle, you should replace it.
c) The tube from the humidifier to the nozzle on the unit can be rinsed off as well, but it should not require cleaning or monthly replacement.
5. Most units have either a Gross Particle Filter (GPF), a HEPA filter or both. See below for unit specific information.
a) Gross Particle filters catch large particles, pet hair and, other "dust bunnies." These typically look like foam and should be inspected monthly. If they are dirty, they should be washed with warm soapy water. They only need to be changed if they will not rinse clean or are deformed.
b) HEPA filters catch finer particles. They typically look like white paper housed in clear plastic. These should be inspected quarterly and replaced if the white paper looks dirty.
Unit Specific Maintenance
Philips Respironics Everflo Q: This unit has a HEPA filter but does not have a Gross Particle Filter (GPF). Instead, there is a "Whisper Cap" that sits over the intake with the dual purpose of sound baffling and air filtering. The Whisper Cap acts like a GPF. Simple removal of the cap (be gentle!) will allow you to wipe down the intake vent. You can also use a vacuum hose on the cap itself. The Everflo Q’s HEPA filter should be inspected quarterly. It looks like folded white paper inside a clear plastic housing.
Invacare Perfecto 2: This unit has a HEPA filter and Gross Particle Filter (GPF).
Airsep Visionaire 5: No HEPA filter, just GPF on the side of the unit.
Inogen at Home: This unit has a HEPA filter and GPF. The unit also has replaceable sieve bed and the machine will alarm if this needs to be replaced. Please contact our Customer Support Team at 1-877-303-9289 for assistance if the Inogen at home is alarming.
Philips Respironics SimplyFlo: The Philips SimplyFlo doesn’t have a GPF or HEPA filter that is accessible by the patient. If you notice dust and debris appearing around the vents or the bottom of the unit use canned air or a gentle vacuum (like a DustBuster™) to clean the intake vent.
When to call the Customer Support Team
Generally, any time your concentrator is alarming, please give us a call so we can assist in diagnosing the problem – most can be solved over the phone. Concentrators today don’t require regular specialized servicing; keep in mind that a concentrator that is used regularly will function the best over time.
Most home concentrators will alarm with lights and occasional beeping during their warm-up cycle – which can last 20 minutes. If red, amber or yellow lights appear when the unit is first turned on but go away during this period there is no cause for concern – the unit is running properly. If these alarms do not go away or appear after 20 minutes, it is a sign of a problem, and you should contact our customer support team.
Over time, like anything mechanical, concentrators will sound different and sometimes louder, this is normal. However, a concentrator should never be louder than a refrigerator, for example. If you can’t sit in a room with the concentrator running and speak at a normal volume with another person the unit is probably louder than it should be. While the sound of the machine will change with time, there should never be a knocking or grinding noise. These sounds are indications there is a problem.
Every concentrator monitors the purity of the unit and will alarm when purity drops; some units will display the purity, however, most just alarm when the purity has dropped. A pulse oximeter is a valuable tool you can purchase to ensure you are getting the saturation you require and will help us diagnose potential problems on the phone. Remember that concentrators require air to operate and will not function well in poor ventilation, smoke, or other contaminated environments (for example spraying an air freshener in the air next to the concentrator).
If you believe your concentrator is not working properly, please give our Customer Support Team a call at 1-877-303-9289 and we will happily help.