How Does a Home Oxygen Concentrator Work?

People who need constant oxygen are often prescribed with an oxygen concentrator, sometimes called an oxygen generator. There are two types of oxygen concentrators: home and portable. Home devices are designed to move from room-to-room throughout the house and plug into a wall outlet. They can even be moved outdoors, but require an electricity source to operate.The Process of How Oxygen Concentrators Work

Regardless of whether or not they are home or portable, all oxygen concentrators work primarily the same way. Simply put, the device takes air from the environment, purifies it, and distributes air with the highest dose of oxygen possible to the user, via a nasal cannula or mask.

Natural, ambient air is made up of 80% nitrogen and 20% oxygen; once it goes through an oxygen concentrator, it delivers 90-95% pure oxygen and 5-10% nitrogen to the user, who does not have enough oxygen in their blood, thus needing the extra support.

Parts of a Home Oxygen Concentrator

A concentrator is made up of a compressor, sieve bed filters, cooling system, and a cannula. A compressor compresses the incoming air and delivers it to two sieve bed filters filled with the porous Zeolite minerals that help absorb the air’s nitrogen molecules while allowing other gases to pass through. The cooling system keeps the device from overheating, and the nasal cannula, a device that has two prongs that fit into the nose, and is usually supported by loops around the ears, delivers the purified oxygen to the user.

Home Oxygen Concentrators and Continuous Flow

Besides the size and weight difference between home and portable oxygen concentrators, home oxygen concentrators (HOCs) provide a continuous flow of oxygen versus a pulse or intermittent flow that some of the portable devices provide. A continuous flow provides increased oxygen output and more consistent, high levels of oxygen. Home concentrators feature oxygen outputs ranging from 2 Liters per Minute (LPM) up to 10 LPM compared to much smaller doses dispensed by smaller portable models.

Oxygen Concentrators vs. Oxygen Tanks

Many users wonder the difference between an oxygen concentrator and an oxygen tank. Tanks have a fixed amount of oxygen that runs out once it’s inhaled by the user, whereas oxygen concentrators continuously filter and generate pure oxygen, either via an electrical outlet or a battery (which needs to be recharged). Additionally, oxygen tanks can rupture or leak, leading to combustion and fire, unlike the concentrators.

Have more questions about home concentrators?

Page last updated: December 11, 2018

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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