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Oxygen Concentrators

Oxygen concentrators are medical devices that compresse the air around it to give it to the patient in a purer more concentrated form. The great thing about it is that the supply of oxygen is continuous as long as the oxygen machine is plugged into an electrical outlet or has a powered battery.

It can be extremely helpful for seniors who have low oxygen levels in their blood for whatever reason. This is because the portable oxygen generators are lighter and easier to use then the standard oxygen tanks. This provides a solution for the people who need an it outside of their home, as well as, people who travel.

When people get older there can be a lot of reasons for why they need oxygen therapy. Some of these conditions include recovery from surgery, COPD, sleep apnea, and even anemia can leave people with low oxygen levels. An easy way to increase oxygen levels in your blood is to have a portable oxygen machine. It work because they draw in the air around them, compress it, and use a sieve bed to filter out the nitrogen, this then leaves behind 90% pure oxygen. After that the pure oxygen can be inhaled with a mask or the nasal cannula.


Article Summary:
1. How Does Home Oxygen Concentrator Work?
2. Why Choose o2 concentrator?
3. What to Look for When Buying an o2 Machine?
4. Requiring an Oxygen Generator for Acute Conditions:
5. Requiring an Oxygen Generator for Long-Term Chronic Conditions:
6. FAQ
7. Oxygen Concentrator Glossary



1. How Does Home Oxygen Concentrator Work?

An o2 concentrator takes room air with its 78% nitrogen and 21% oxygen balance and removes a large proportion of the nitrogen. The air that comes out is over 90% oxygen. The highest concentration of oxygen achievable with a device like this is 94%.When the machine is running, it pulls in the room air, purifies it, compresses it, removes the nitrogen, and pushes out oxygen-rich air in a continuous stream.


1.1 Internal Components
Each of the components has a role to play in the creation of the oxygen-rich medical air:

· Filters – air contains more than gases.

· Compressor – air compression lets the molecular sieves trap nitrogen.

· Four-way switching valves – control of airflow.

· Molecular sieve beds – remove the nitrogen.

· Circuit board – controls the process

· Product tank – holds the oxygen before it goes to the patient.



1.2 What Do the Filters Do?
There are a series of filters to deal with the incoming room air and the outgoing medical air.


Incoming air passes through two filters:

· Washable Foam Filter – this filter stops the big particles like dust, pet hair, and other items that get into our room air. This foam block is the cabinet filter that you can wash, dry, and put back in the machine every couple of weeks.

· HEPA filter – looks like plated paper in a plastic housing. Like the filter high-grade vacuum cleaners, this filter removes finer particles of dirt and dust and protects the compressor unit from damage. The filter changes from white to black in use as it removes material from the air. Once a year, replace this part with a new clean filter. You can’t clean it because it is a special filter designed for one use only to keep the compressor free from dirt.

Before the air passes to the patient, it passes through a final in-line bacteria filter whose job is to remove the finest of particles. Recent models of oxygen compressors say this is a lifetime filter without the need for replacement. Consider replacing this filter every couple of years or when the machine goes to a new patient.



1.3 What About the Air Compressor?
The air compressor is a small motor with two pistons. These pistons move rapidly to pull in the room air and compress it, so it runs under pressure into the sieves. The air coming out of the compressor is slightly pressurized at 15PSI. Air at sea-level is usually 14.7PSI, lower at higher altitudes. The compression may be slight, but it is enough to make the next stage work.

The compressor’s life cycle ranges from 8,000 to 15,000 hours before needing servicing and maintenance.



1.4 What Are the Valves For?
Four way valves provide for directions for airflow. They feed air to the sieve beds from the compressor, and they expel the unwanted nitrogen back into the room. The air feeds alternately into the two sieve cylinders.


The valves operate in a couple of ways, depending on type:

· Electrical solenoid valves operated by a timer via the circuit board: Electric coils – typically found in older models (like the Airstrip Elite) using metal plungers. They are noisy with mechanical clunks (every 10-12 seconds), but robust and reliable. Modern models (Respironics Everflo) have smaller, quieter electronic coils, but may fail more often.

· Air pressure valves operated by pressure in the machine – as the machine ages, it takes longer to achieve optimal pressure. This type of valve adjusts automatically.


If a valve malfunctions, it sets off an alarm. The types of problems are:

· Low oxygen concentrations in output.

· High or low operating pressures inside the machine.



1.5 Molecular Sieves
Two cylinders full of zeolite remove the nitrogen from the air. The zeolite is the molecular sieve that separates the nitrogen and oxygen.

The crystalline structure of zeolite contains silicon, aluminum, and oxygen and has a porous internal framework. Zeolite occurs as a natural mineral (40 types), but for medicine and industry, synthesized zeolite allows the separation and removal of gases. The zeolite in your o2 concentrator looks like coarse sand.

The purified room air pushes into one of the pair of cylinders. As the air rushes in, it compresses and pressurizes the zeolite grains. Under pressure, the zeolite absorbs nitrogen molecules but lets the smaller volume oxygen molecules pass through.

Once cylinder one is full, the valve switches to move the air from the compressor into cylinder two. Cylinder one now depressurizes with a whoosh – the oxygen is in a holding tank, and the nitrogen expels into the room air.

The cycle of filling a cylinder and moving to the next takes 10-12 seconds. Your o2 concentrator sounds as if it is breathing with the regular whooshing noise of the cylinders depressurizing and releasing nitrogen.

Newer models of o2 concentrator (Invacare PerfectoV, Respironics Everflo, Devilbliss 525DS) all use a Zeolite formulation that is highly efficient and allows the machines to be smaller and still provide 5LPM of oxygen. Zeolite crystals have a life expectancy of 20,000 hours use.



1.6 Circuit Board Operations
The circuit board controls and monitors:

· The compressor

· Four way valves.

· Cooling fan – depends on the machine model

· Low purity sensor – built into some machines


The circuit board may operate on pressure or set timing. Circuit boards are reliable and generally require no maintenance.

If a low purity sensor is present, it samples oxygen via a tube from the molecular sieves to monitor oxygen concentrations. Some models have a low purity sensor as a stand-alone function with a dedicated circuit board - Respironics Millennium.


1.7 Why Use a Product Tank?
Both molecular sieve beds send the oxygen-rich air into the product or holding tank. The two streams mix, the pressure stabilizes, and the patient receives consistent air.

Some o2 concentrator devices (Airstep Elite) use zeolite crystals inside the product tank to sweep up additional nitrogen.




2. Why Choose o2 concentrator?

2.1. Oxygen Machine Portability because of Battery Packs

The battery packs allow the oxygen to stay mobile with their portable oxygen machine. With it's small size it tends to be lightweight so that it can be carried around fairly easily. A fully-charged battery in a portable oxygen machine can keep the machine useable outside which is unlike a stationary unit.


2.2 Multiple Power Options for Convenience with an Oxygen Generator:

Apart from the portability, another benefit is that the concentrator can run on AC or DC current. This means that is can be plugged into an electrical outlet in your home or your car, it can also be charged through a DC power cord making it easier to preserve the battery for outdoor use. The multiple power options with the AC and DC current, as well as, the rechargeable battery makes it a convenient machine to have for your home and the outdoors.


2.3. Varied Usage Options for portable oxygen concentrator:

A part of the portable variety includes a pulse dose home oxygen concentrators which are smaller in size. Some of the portable oxygen machines provide continuous a continuous flow oxygen but these are larger in size and have built in wheels for easier transportation. The portable concentrators have more options in terms of use - portable for travel, some have continuous flow, some have a high flow setting, and some oxygen machines weigh less than 5 pounds.




3. What to Look for When Buying an o2 Machine ?

3.1 Find Your Oxygen Needs:
You have to ask yourself questions about your oxygen needs. Such as, how much oxygen do you need for sitting and standing, or for your everyday activities? If you aren't sure about the answers for some of these questions you can always ask your physician to clarify for you. They can also indicate the type of portable oxygen machine that you might need, which is based on your individual lifestyle and needs.



3.2 How You Will Use Your Portable Oxygen Concentrator:
Do you need your oxygen concentrator portable mostly while you are at home? Or do you need it mostly for traveling, exercising, or anything outside of your home. For the cases where you would like to travel you have to have a concentrator that is FAA approved, as well as on that also comes with an easy to carry and compact design. People that are frequent travelers should like for a portable oxygen machine that is travel-friendly.



3.3 Is the Size Just Right?
Can you easily lift and carry the portable oxygen concentrator? Or do you need to get one with a special carrying case? The best thing to do is check out the carry options at the seller's site to see which type of portable oxygen concentrator best suits your needs.


3.4 What Time do You Use it?
Do you mostly use your POC during the day or during the night as well? The reason this is an important questions is that it can make a huge difference. If you need a 24 hour a day portable oxygen concentrator you have to get one that meets all of your required parameters and functions.


3.5 Continuous Oxygen Flow or a Pulse Dose?
There are so many portable oxygen machines that can provide you with both types of functions as well as they can be alternated.


3.6 Do you need a portable oxygen concentrator with a Humidifier?
You might need this is you struggle often with allergies or irritations.




4. Requiring an Oxygen Generator for Acute Conditions:

There are a few different examples of acute conditions when you would have to use it for a short-term oxygen there. The examples are:


4.1 Asthma:
With this condition your airways can become inflamed. They then start to produce a lot of mucus, which can make it harder to breathe. There are a lot of different pharmaceutical drugs that are used to control and treat asthma, having it can pump high levels of oxygen into the bloodstream of someone while they are having or might of already had an asthma attack.



4.2 Pneumonia:
This is an infection where you can develop some inflammation in either both or just one of your lung's air sacs. In many cases, they start to fill up with fluid. Many patients that have pneumonia are prescribed with some oxygen therapy which has resulted in good clinical outcomes.



4.3 Respiratory Distress Syndrome (RDS):
This is a breathing disorder that for the most part affects newborns, mostly those who are born within six or more weeks before their delivery date. The newborns that are suffering with RDS don't create enough surfactant which is a lung coating liquid, causing their lungs to collapse which makes it far harder to breathe. Using it helps to pump oxygen into the babies' blood stream and lungs to reduce the risk of having further complications.



4.4 Bronchopulmonary Dysplasia (BPD):
When a newborn is suffering from RDS it gives them a higher risk for developing BPD. It is a severe lung condition that requires being on a long-term breathing support.


4.5 After surgery, in some cases, there are sometimes a need for oxygen from a concentrator for a short period of time.




5. Requiring an Oxygen Generator for Long-Term Chronic Conditions:

Some of these chronic conditions that require a long-term home oxygen concentrator are:


5.1 Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD):
This affects somewhere around 16 million people, but using it tends to be an effective treatment. With COPD, you have chronic lung damage. This can make it difficult for your lungs to bring in and absorb enough oxygen for your body. As a result, you have difficulty breathing, and using oxygen therapy with a concentrator can help.


5.2 Cystic Fibrosis:
This is a life-threatening condition that is inherited. It causes lung damage and digestive system damage. This rare condition affects the body's cells that are responsible for producing digestive juices, mucus, and sweat. The fluids are them changed with a stickier, thicker fluid that can plug the passageways, ducts, and tubes for the person that is affected.


5.3 Sleep Apnea:
This is a sleeping disorder that can be seriously cause a persons breathing to stop and start suddenly while they are asleep. For the most part, the treatment for this condition is the continuous use from a CPAP machine, physical exercise and weight loss, and in some cases people with sleep apnea need to use oxygen therapy.




6. Frequently Asked Questions about POC:

6.1 Will a portable oxygen concentrator meet your daily oxygen needs?
With your mobile concentrator it will provide you with the exact amount of oxygen that you need during the day no matter what you need the oxygen for or how much you need. Since your oxygen levels change during the day whether you are sleeping or doing physical activity your portable oxygen concentrator will monitor that and give you the amount of oxygen that you need.

The two different types of setting that come with portable concentrators are a pulse dose and a continuous flow setting. All of the portable oxygen concentrators that you will find that have a continuous flow setting will also have a pulse dose setting. For now, the highest continuous flow setting for a mobile concentrator is 2 liters per minute.

When you buy a portable oxygen concentrator you need to make sure that it has the correct dosage setting that you need. As well as, a high enough breath rate. The maximum settings should exceed what you normally need this way you never run out of oxygen. It should also have a good oxygen reserve, so that when your breathing rate goes up, your portable oxygen concentrator can meet the dosage quickly. Your breathing rate is measured in breaths per minute (BPM).


You can take advantage of the smaller and portable oxygen machine if you have the need for a low dose of oxygen or a low pulse dose of oxygen. On that note, if you need 5 liters per minute of continuous oxygen, then you won't be able to use a portable oxygen machine that are currently on the market.


6.2 Is a portable oxygen generator truly portable?
A portable units has to be light enough so that it isn't a burden while you are out where you need to go. You should also take into consideration the extra batteries and supplies that you will most likely need. You should always account for a few extra pounds for the additional supplies if you plan to be out and about all day.


6.3 Are you able to fly with a portable concentrator?
Yes. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), requires that the airlines that are based in the United States, as well as, the foreign airlines that are flying into the United States allows passengers to have and operate their oxygen concentrator portable. This is approved by the FAA for all of the phases of the flight as long as the unit displays a manufacturer's sticker. The sticker is important because it indicates that it meets with the FAA requirements for the portable medical devices.

There are over 20 different oxygen concentrator portable that are approved by the FAA for air travel on all of the United States aircrafts that have more than 19 seats. Every portable unit that we offer is approved for flights.

The responsibility of the passenger is to make sure that the unit is working properly as it must be able to respond to warning alarms. The FAA requires that you have at least battery power for 150% of your flight time. Your unit but also be stowed away properly when you are not using it. You can learn more about the FAA regulations for it.


6.4 Do I need a prescription to buy a portable oxygen generator?

The FDA classifies all medical grade oxygen as a drug, and therefore by Federal law, you have to have a prescription to purchase any oxygen-related medical devices, including portable oxygen concentrators. You can talk to your health care provider to get assistance with getting a prescription.


6.5 What type of maintenance do I need on my concentrator?
Your portable concentrator needs regular maintenance just like any other machine so that it works the way that it should. Doing routine maintenance with extend the life of the unit and help it to continue to deliver optimal airflow.

Some of the maintenance includes inspecting filters, cleaning, using the unit, and regularly changing out the cannula. You can learn more about portable concentrator maintenance.


6.6 Does my unit come with a warranty?
Most of the manufacturers include with your unit a 3-year warranty for new portable concentrators, and the batteries usually come with a 1 year warranty. The accessories warranties can sometimes vary from 30 to 90 days and up to a year in some cases.


6.7 What is the difference between portable oxygen generator and stationary ones?

With a stationary concentrator you usually have a larger tank and a more continuous flow for oxygen therapy devices. Stationary concentrators normally stay where they are while you can get tubing extensions that can be as long as 50 feet. The SOCs requires power from an electrical outlet restricting you to the house.

The difference is in the average weight of the concentrators. The portable oxygen concentrators are normally 5 pounds and can become as light as 3 pounds. They can also be portable with a battery and worn by a person unlike the SOCs. These characteristics make the portable oxygen concentrator easier to manage.



6.8 What is the difference between pulse dose and continuous flow?
They both represent a way in which the oxygen is getting delivered to the person by the concentrator. Pulse dose is only when the person initiates a breath. The continuous flow means that the machine is continuously giving oxygen at a constant level.


6.9 Is it safe to use a pulse dose setting at night?
For most of the time doctors will recommend that you use the continuous flow setting while you are sleeping. On the other hand, everyone is different so consulting your doctor is that safest thing to do.




7. Oxygen Concentrator Glossary

Those in the know easily understand the jargon and technical terms involved with medical devices, but if you are new to concentrators (stationary or portable) here are some definitions:


AutoFlow technology
A feature available on AirSep stationary concentrators – reduces power consumption and saves energy. You still get the oxygen dosage, but it costs less energy.

A bolus is a medical term for the delivery of a dose of medicine or a lump of food that you swallow in one gulp. The pulse or puff of oxygen is a dosage of medical air, and often a doctor will refer to it as a bolus.

In simple terms, with an concentrator, a cannula is a plastic tube inserted into your nose. It is essential to use the best-sized tubing for the oxygen flow pressure.

1. Lo Flow Cannula
Smaller size of tube use with low flow settings up to 2LPM, slightly more comfortable than a standard cannula.

2. Standard Cannula
The ideal tube for flow settings between 2 and 4 LPM.

3. Hi Flow Cannula
Larger tube for higher flow (4 to 6 LPM) for patients who need a higher continuous flow.

4. Demand Cannula
Delivering a bolus or pulse of oxygen requires a double hose set-up. One senses the change in air pressure during the breathing cycle, and the other provides the oxygen pulse. A conserving regulator ensures the proper amount of oxygen delivers during inhalation.


Cell Battery
A portable oxygen concentrator can use a battery. The device will specify the battery size in cells. The cell is a measure of the volts a battery holds when charged.

This device attaches to an oxygen cylinder or tank. Its purpose is to allow a pulse dosage and prolong the use of the tank.

Continuous Flow Mode
A continuous flow setting (larger portable units and stationary devices) means the oxygen flows out consistently for rate and purity. The dosage setting prescribed by your doctor controls the amount you receive.

DME – Durable Medical Equipment
The term refers to any equipment that lasts – a wheelchair or an concentrator are both examples of DME.

DME can also stand for a provider of DME equipment – a company is Medicare approved to make available equipment to the patient.

FAA Approved
A portable model with the FAA-approved sticker is pre-approved for commercial flights (United States). The FAA is the Federal Aviation Administration. You still need to check that your airline approves your model even if it is FAA approved.

Flow Meter
A flow meter isn’t standard on every concentrator, and sometimes it appears on the control panel – a digital display. The flow meter controls the pressure of the oxygen flow and confirms that you are getting the prescribed dosage.

The maximum oxygen output is the highest setting on the meter. A pediatric flow meter provides very low flow levels more suitable for the delicate airways of infants.

Humidifier Bottle
Oxygen therapy can irritate the airways – especially at high flow. Discomfort reduces if the air is moist instead of dry. The bottle attaches to a specified outlet and releases water as a fine mist into the oxygen stream.

Intake Filter
Room air contains lots of grains of dust, lint, and hairs -this filter removes the dirt from the air entering the oxygen machine. Typically, this is washable and replaceable (six-monthly). A portable oxygen concentrator may have non-replaceable intake filters. It depends on the model.


LPM or Liters Per Minute
The LPM setting relates to the volume of air in liters released in a minute in continuous flow mode. The number refers to the liters – 2’ means two liters per minute

mL/min – milliliter per minute
The amount of oxygen delivered in a pulse is far less than the liter per minute produced in continuous flow. The dosage settings for pulse mode are 12 mL/min increments – 1’ is 12mL/min ad 2 is 24mL/min.

A nebulizer uses air to make a mist of liquid medicine. The device is an electric air pump using filtered air to create and introduce the medicine mist into the face mask. The patient breathes in the medication along with the purified oxygen.

Operating Ranges
How well your o2 concentrator works depends on the environment – temperature, altitude, and humidity. The operating range tells you the safe conditions for your model of an o2 machine to work inside. Operating ranges are different from storage ranges.

O2 Concentrator
The medical device that converts room air into almost pure oxygen for the patient to breathe through a mask or nasal cannula. No need for oxygen tanks and regular refills - the portable or stationary o2 concentrator is ideal for home use.

O2 Concentrator, Stationary
A stationary o2 concentrator uses mains (AC) electricity. The advantage is that it delivers higher oxygen concentrations than the portable version. It is larger and occupies more room, plus it provides a continuous flow of oxygen. It is ideal for a sedentary patient, night-time use only, or when the patient only needs a few hours of oxygen therapy.

Oxygen Concentration
The amount of oxygen in the air coming out of the o2. Generally, shown as a percentage – you can expect 86-96% purity from a medical-grade device. The actual purity varies depending on factors like elevation above sea level.

POC: Portable Oxygen Concentrator
A portable o2 can run off batteries or mains power (AC or DC). They can charge while operating on DC power. Convenient for patients who travel or need the flexibility offered by a portable model. Larger models provide continuous flow, as well as the pulse mode.

Portable Oxygen Systems
An oxygen system is any method for delivering oxygen therapy to a patient. It includes electronic devices as well as liquid and gas tanks. A portable system packs up and moves from location to location with the patient.

Positive Airway Pressure – PAP
The mask or cannula delivers air under pressure to the patient. The PAP is a measure of the pressure and confirms the right dosage of the therapy.

PSI – Pounds Per Square Inch
This measure is the pressure of the oxygen flow. A typical oxygen condenser will push out oxygen between 5 and 9 PSI, which is enough for the standard tubing (57 feet) and a humidifier bottle. You can get devices that push out oxygen at a higher 22 PSI if you have several hundred feet of tubing.

Pulse Mode
All portable o2 have a pulse mode – oxygen is delivered as a puff or bolas when the patient inhales. Some portable models can also operate a continuous flow mode – usually the larger ones.

Other terms for pulse dose therapy include intermittent or on-demand.

Pulse Oximeter
A medical device that measures blood oxygen saturation – the healthy amount is 100%. This device helps measure the effectiveness of oxygen therapy.

This patented feature is different from a standard pulse. It’s not available on every portable oxygen machine. It works to deliver the oxygen dosage during the first 30% of a patient’s inhalation. This feature means the patient gets all the oxygen, and the sinuses are less irritated by the air pulse.

Purity Sensor
The purity sensor measures the concentration of oxygen and is usually part of the circuit board. OCI, OPI, OSD, SenseO2 are all types of purity sensors. The o2 needs to run for about 15 minutes before the purity check turns on. The purity check determines if the concentration of oxygen falls below the dosage level for the therapy to be effective.

A device that attaches to a tank and regulates the amount of oxygen flow – a continuous flow, unlike the conserver that emits pulses.

You can rent an o2 on a short-term rental for a couple of weeks or long-term on a monthly contract that can last years.

Sensi-PulseTM Technology
Invacare XPO2 and Invacare SOLO2 have this patented feature. When you are exercise or sleep, your demand for air changes, this technology changes the bolus or pulse of oxygen to meet your breathing pattern.

Sleep Mode
Some portable oxygen concentrator models (Respironics SimplyGo) can deliver a soft pulsed dosage that aids comfortable sleep.


Sound Level

Any machine in operation produces noise. The sound level (in decibels) lets you know how noisy the concentrator is when running at various levels. For example, if you run the AirSep Companion at 2LPM, you can expect a sound level of 40 decibels. That level is quieter than a refrigerator (50 dB) and louder than someone whispering next to you (30 dB).


Commonly Used Oxygen Definitions

Oxygen Therapy: Here's What You Should Know About it

Portable Nebulizer Machine

CPAP Masks & Machines

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