The good news is that as the number of oxygen users has grown, manufacturers have responded with new units and innovations.
As early as 5 years ago there were only a few providers with limited features but the market has grown and we are seeing units that provide oxygen users with unheard of flexibility and freedom in choice.
Every year we survey, inspect and select the top units in each category. Our analysis is based upon customer input, feature sets, specifications and, quality. We are excited to share with you our results and award winners as we enter 2018.
Best Portable Oxygen Unit
Our research shows this category is a dead tie between the Respironics SimplyGo Mini and the Inogen One G3. While there are slight differences between the units, we consider both to be best-in-class. Both of these units offer a similar feature set including:
- Robust oxygen capacity for an over the should unit. The Inogen G3 gets a slight nod with maximum oxygen output of 1050 ml/min with the Respironics SimplyGo Mini close behind at 1000 ml/min.
- Five easy to use pulse dose settings. While each unit has it’s own proprietary trigger mechanisms, our customer's feedback is that both are pleasing and relatively hard to distinguish a difference.
- Both units are very portable and easy to carry and weigh less than 5 pounds with their smaller batteries. Again, the Inogen G3 just edges out the SimplyGo Mini weighing in at 4.8 pounds as compared to 4.95 pounds.
- We love that both units offer two battery options - essentially a standard option and an extended option. This allows patients to minimize weight with the smaller battery and maximize "freedom" when they want to be out longer with the extended battery.
- Both units receive a GOLD Star in quality with below average failure rates. The Respironics SimplyGo Mini wins out here, however, because IF the unit has a failure, Respironics has been considerably faster getting units repaired and back to the oxygen user and we know repair turn-around time is important. The good news is that effective April, 2018, we will be repairing Inogen units directly which will dramatically reduce the turn-around time.
- Lastly, while both units are easy to maintain and receive a GOLD star, there are trade-offs between our two top units. The Inogen G3 requires replacement of its sieve beds (about a $130 cost) more frequently (every 12-18 months) than the SimplyGo Mini (2-3 years) but they can be replaced directly by the oxygen user. The SimplyGo Mini on the other hand requires that the sieve beds be replaced less frequently but they need to be replaced by an authorized technician. It should be noted that the current state of technology in portable oxygen concentrators requires that the small sieve beds of all units in this category be periodically replaced.
Best Small Oxygen Unit
Once again, the Inogen One G4 takes top honors in the best small unit category. We define this category as less than 3 pounds.
While there are other small units available on the market, the G4 is unsurpassed regarding of total usability and weight to performance ratio. The other small units available on the market don’t measure up in terms of maximum oxygen output (measured in ml/min O2), battery life or ease of use.
Inogen One G4 Strengths:
- GOLD Star in Quality with below average failure rates.
- GOLD Star in Maintenance with all periodic maintenance able to be completed by you in your home.
- Three easy to use pulse settings - ideal for people requiring up to 2 LPM.
- Best in class oxygen capacity for a unit its size with a maximum O2 output of 610 ml - this compares favorably to units two times its size.
- Extremely portable and comfortable over the shoulder weighing only 2.8 pounds.
- Maximum freedom and flexibility with 2 battery options giving you up to 8 hours battery life.
Best All-Purpose Oxygen Unit
Sometimes this category is called "transportable" meaning that the unit provides BOTH pulse flow (like the smaller portables) AND continuous flow (like the stationary home concentrators). These units provide oxygen users who need continuous flow either 24x7 or as a nocturnal solution. Additionally, any oxygen users who are also on a CPAP or BiPap would need the continuous flow afforded by these units. The winner in this category is the Respironics SimplyGo. It is the big brother of the SimplyGo Mini described above.
Respironics SimplyGo Strengths:
- GOLD Star in Quality. Respironics has been making this unit now for several years, and it has one of the lowest failure rates in the industry.
- GOLD Star in Maintenance because there is essentially NO maintenance other than running a vacuum over the filter if it’s dirty. The machine will let you know if it’s not working!
- Its great industrial design makes you feel like you are carrying a 6-pack cooler instead of medical equipment!
- Packs a lot of horsepower in its 10 pound design with 2 LPM continuous flow and 6 pulse settings.
- Great for travel (and everyday life) as it lets you easily use a single unit 24 x 7. For portability and longer battery life during the day you can operate the unit on pulse mode, and at night for better sleep (and if you use a CPAP or BiPap) you can run it under AC power on continuous flow. It is a great all-in-one unit.
Most Powerful Oxygen Unit
We often get calls from oxygen users needing and wanting to know what is the best, most powerful unit. We realize small, portable units don’t always provide the oxygen output necessary for some. In the current state of technology, the most powerful unit available deliver LPM continuous flow and 9 pulse settings. While there are several units that deliver 3 LPM continuous flow, we believe one unit remains heads and tails above the others. If you need a 3 LPM unit, our winner in this category is the SeQual Eclipse 5.
SeQual Eclipse 5 Strengths:
- Gold Star in Quality
- Gold Star in Maintenance
- Chart Industries who manufactures this product has been revising and improving this unit for over 10 years. The current Eclipse 5 represents 4 rounds of iterations and improvements (there was no Eclipse 4). We have seen improvements in quality, reliability, and functionality in each revision.
- While definitely heavy at 18 pounds, it is comparable to other 3 LPM continuous flow units. It is just a fact of current technology that delivering 3 LPM continuous flow takes weight. In order to mitigate the weight, the Eclipse 5 has a well designed and easy to use carry cart that makes its weight almost irrelevant.
- Similar to the Respironics SimplyGo, the Eclipse 5 is a great all around, 24 x7 unit. It can run on batteries during the day for portability and plug into AC power at night.
Best Home Oxygen Unit
Home (or stationary) concentrators run on AC power and are great while you are in the house. Almost every oxygen user has a home concentrator as the "work horse" of their oxygen therapy. There are lots of units on the market, and we always review and compare the offerings, but we (still) believe the Respironics Everflo Q is best.
Respironics Everflo Q Strengths:
- GOLD Star for Quality with a lower than average failure rate.
- GOLD Star for Maintenance - there are two easy to check, clean or replace filters.
- Value Value Value - we believe the Everflo Q to be the best value in the market. You can pay more for a smaller unit, but this unit represents the sweet spot.
- Sound - noise does matter and don’t be fooled by other units or even Everflo units that are not clearly labeled a Q (for quiet). These units have additional foam inside the plastic shell for noise baffling. While it is true that everyone hears the sound of a portable concentrators a little differently, our customer group that listened to units preferred the Everflo Q.
- Good price to weight ratio. There ARE lighter units, but for a unit largely stationary in the house, this 30 pound unit is great value.
New Units in 2018
We have heard from suppliers that there will be several new units entering the market in 2018 and we will be watching and testing them closely. If you have any questions about Oxygen Concentrator Trends for 2018 please give us a call at 877.774.9271.