2. How Do Portable Concentrators Work?
Portable and stationary oxygen concentrators work on the same principles.
Room air is drawn into the device and passed through a filter to clean the air.
Forcing the air through a molecular sieve lightly increases pressure to allow the zeolite crystals to remove the nitrogen and expel it back into the room.
The oxygen-rich air (over 90% oxygen) then passes to the patient either as a pulse or in some larger portable models as a continuous stream.
3. Advantages of Portable Oxygen Concentrator
New developments and technology are working to decrease the size of portable concentrators. The benefits of a portable oxygen include:
3.1 Safety – portable oxygen machines are compact, so they generate a small amount of oxygen as you need it. There is no need for potentially hazardous oxygen tanks and cylinders in your home, car, or office.
3.2 Mobility – you can take your oxygen equipment with you, freeing you to go about your life, and with some models, you can access your oxygen inflight.
3.3 Increased oxygen levels in your blood with all the benefits getting the right amount of oxygen for your needs gives you from better mental alertness, improved stamina, and better sleep.
3.4 Less stress and exhaustion – struggling to breathe is both stressful and exhausting, a portable oxygen generator frees you from those feelings of panic and isolation when you are fighting to get enough oxygen into your body.
3.5 Easy to use – most portable oxygen generator models are straightforward and operate anywhere.
4. Continuous Flow Dose and Pulse Mode Delivery
The patient receives the oxygen as a continuous flow or in pulses from the oxygen concentrator.
Continuous flow means the oxygen flows continuously regardless of the patient breathing in or out. Providing a constant flow mode needs a bigger machine – only the larger portable oxygen concentrator offers the continuous mode option.
Continuous flow means the process wastes some oxygen. The advantage of a continuous flow system is for overnight sleep apnea when you breathe through your mouth, and your breathing rate varies between shallow and deep breaths. A pulse mode device will emit an alarm noise if you are not taking in your pulse dosage. This alarm going off repeatedly during the night disturbs your rest with a negative impact on your health and alertness.
Pulse mode delivers the oxygen as you inhale, so you get a measured dose on each inward breath. Most portable oxygen generators operate on pulse mode as standard. Continuous mode is an additional feature on some portable o2 concentrators.
Portable oxygen concentrators with a pulse mode is smaller and more portable, plus this is energy efficient with excellent battery life. Pulse Mode is not ideal for all-night use because of the risk of shallow breaths failing to trigger the pulse, and setting off an alarm. Portable oxygen concentrators are great for maintaining an active lifestyle because it adjusts your oxygen therapy to your needs – more if you are exercising and less if you are resting.
Portable oxygen concentrators that offers both continuous flow and pulse mode gives you the benefits of both, continuous for overnight use while attached to mains and pulse when getting on with your busy day.
Your choice of pulse mode, continuous flow, or both, depends on your prescription and Doctor’s recommendation as well as your lifestyle and need for regular oxygen therapy.
5. Maintaining a Portable Oxygen Concentrator
Portable o2 concentrator is a powered medical device, and like any other machine, it will give you longer and better service if you get into a routine of checking, cleaning, and maintaining it.
5.1 Air filters
The filter that cleans the intake air may be washable or replaceable – check your manual.
Washable filters need a weekly wash with warm water and soap. After washing, air dry – never put a damp filter into your machine.
The machine instructions specify the replaceable filter replacement schedule, typically every six months to a year. If your environment is particularly dusty, you may need to replace it more often.
5.2 Molecular Sieve
The sieve beds contain the zeolite crystals that remove the nitrogen from the air. Generally, these need changing every two or three years, depending on your portable o2 concentrator.
Long lived Lithium-ion batteries are rechargeable, but they do need replacement. Your portable o2 concentrator may give an indication of battery life, and you will want to monitor this carefully and have spares available to maintain your use of the device.
Some portable o2 concentrator includes a built-in humidifier reservoir, and these need to be kept clean and fresh. Other devices use an external humidifier – which also needs to be kept clean and deposit free.
Use fresh distilled water every day and empty the water reservoir when you are not using the machine.
Keep it Clean and Protected
A regular wipe down of the outside removes dust and dirt – use a damp microfiber cloth.
Avoid exposure to smoke or damp conditions – neither of these is suitable for electrical devices and may void your warranty.
The portable o2 concentrator may be durable but try to minimize bumps and avoid falls from a height. When not in use, keep it in its protective case, and if using it in the car, buckle it in, so it is not thrown about by sudden starts and stops.
6. Points to consider before buying a portable oxygen concentrator
The right portable oxygen generator for you is freedom with oxygen therapy on hand when you need it. Portable oxygen concentrators aren’t cheap, so you want to make sure that you get the right one for your needs because it is a substantial investment in maintaining your health.
6.1 Continuous Flow Mode Option
Portable o2 concentrator with a continuous flow mode option is larger and more expensive than a portable oxygen generator with a pulse mode.
If you need continuous flow mode overnight and you also travel and spend time away from home, a larger POC that has a continuous flow mode means you only have to pack one device to meet your oxygen therapy needs when away from home.
However, you may want a small portable oxygen concentrator to free you to go out and about during the day but use a stationary oxygen concentrator overnight. Then you don’t need the continuous flow option, and a small and easy to carry portable oxygen machine meets your needs.
The advantage of a portable oxygen generator is that you take it with you, but that means carrying it in a bag or perhaps a wheeled carrier.
Weight: consider how you are going to transport the device. If you are going to carry it all day, you need to consider if the load is manageable.
Size: compact devices are easier to fit into cars, offices, and anywhere else you want to go. A bulky device may make it difficult to carry even if the weight is low.
6.3 User friendly
A clear and understandable control panel is essential because you don’t want to be consulting a manual every time you need oxygen therapy – simple, intuitive controls mean you can operate the machine without fuss.
The display needs to be easy to read and give you helpful alerts for battery life and proper functioning.
6.4 Compatibility with Other Devices
If you need to combine your oxygen with CPAP, then you need a portable oxygen generator that will operate with these other devices. Your DME provider and physician will advise on the best approach and models for your needs.
If you are prone to allergies and irritated airways, you may find a humidifier function to be vital to your comfort in using a portable oxygen machine. Some models have humidification as an integral feature, and others use an external arrangement.
Battery life is crucial to giving you the maximum benefit from the machine. Check if the batteries are rechargeable or replaceable.
A fully charged battery provides between two and four hours of use. Consider your needs – do you need extra batteries, or do you always have access to a recharging point in the car or other places.
6.7 Noise Levels
Most people prefer a quieter machine to a noisy one – especially if you are using it overnight. No portable oxygen machine is entirely silent, but noise levels differ between devices – it depends on your sensitivity to noise.
Think about how often a suitcase or bag gets scuffed when you are carrying it. You need your portable oxygen machine to be robust enough to put up with the odd bump in passing.
Every portable oxygen machine has a filter to clean the air going into the device – it removes dirt and other particles from the air. This filter may be washable or replaceable. Check how often you need to replace or clean the filter and the cost of the replacement.
An antibacterial filter is a feature that provides an extra layer of cleanliness but is not available on every machine. If you are prone to respiratory infections or have a compromised immune system, this may be an essential feature for you.
6.9 Federal Aviation Administration Approval
Most portable oxygen machines are FAA approved, but you still need to check with your airline. If air travel is vital to you, it is worth checking with your preferred flight company on which models they accept as suitable for their planes before you invest in a portable oxygen machine.
The standard manufacturer’s warranty on these devices is three years but less for accessories. Check the terms of the warranty because it may be inconvenient for you to have to send your device away for repair and servicing. A POC that can be serviced by your DME provider or locally may make your life easier.
What do you get with your portable oxygen machine? A carrying case, spare battery packs, an extra filter – the amount and quality of included extras may make one device a better bargain than the portable concentrator with nothing else added to the box.
7. Frequently Asked Questions
What types of portable oxygen systems are available?
There are three ways you can carry oxygen around:
· Compressed Gas
· Portable Oxygen Generator
7.1 How safe is a portable concentrator?
A portable concentrator is very safe because it creates oxygen as you use it, rather than storing it in a tank as a potential explosive hazard. The device is small and compact and presents less of an obstruction than larger devices.
7.2 How much does a portable oxygen machine weigh?
The weight varies from as little as 3 pounds to the largest model weighing in at 18 pounds. You can carry a portable concentrator in a backpack (smaller models) or with a wheeled cart.
7.3 Does Pulse Mode work for everyone?
Some patients can’t trigger the on-demand pulse of oxygen with their inhaled breath—people with neuromuscular diseases or pulmonary fibrosis, for example.
7.4 How do I know if the portable oxygen machine is giving me enough oxygen?
You need to measure the oxygen saturation in your blood at rest and during exercise, to know if you are getting the therapeutic benefit. Your oxygen saturation needs to remain above 89%, and many people buy a pulse oximeter to monitor their blood oxygen levels.
7.5 I need a continuous flow of oxygen; can I still get a portable oxygen machine?
Some portable oxygen concentrators have a continuous mode. If you require oxygen therapy delivered at a higher rate than 3 LPM, then a portable oxygen concentrator will not meet your needs.
7.6 What is the difference between LPM and settings?
A continuous flow of oxygen is in liters per minute (LPM). A pulse gives a puff of oxygen on every inward breath, and although this setting relates to LPM, it is an equivalent, not a flow rate. A portable concentrator has settings, typically one to six, but some models go as high as a nine.
The amount of oxygen provided at any set level varies between devices, so your blood oxygen saturation level indicates if the prescribed setting is delivering what you need. The setting does not give an LPM equivalent, your prescription setting tailors to you.
7.8 How long does the battery last?
The battery life depends on the model and make. You need to assess how many batteries you need and how you are going to keep your POC powered.
7.9 Can I use a pulse dose at night?
You need to discuss your oxygen therapy with your physician – most recommend continuous flow overnight. Still, your therapist can assess if a pulse dose meets your overnight oxygen needs.
7.10 Can I use my POC outside the States?
You need to use the right adapter for the country you are visiting, but most POC will continue to function across the globe.
7.11 What about flying?
Even if your POC is FAA approved, you need to check with the airline. Most companies require you to have sufficient battery power to cover 150% of the flight time, so you need to plan and make sure you have everything you need for your POC before flying.
7.12 Can I use my POC in the car?
Most models come with an adapter so you can run your portable oxygen concentrator from the car engine for recharging and delivering oxygen therapy.
7.12 How affordable is a portable oxygen concentrator?
You can buy a portable oxygen concentrator for under $500, but a high-grade model with all the extra features can exceed $3,500.