Updated: May 12th, 2022
When starting CPAP therapy, it’s important to get a machine that works for you. This article will assist you in what you need to know when buying a CPAP machine so you can begin your CPAP therapy. We’ll also discuss whether or not you should go through insurance or order your machine online, and what accessories are available.
I got diagnosed with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA) after my wife mentioned to my doctor that I had problems snoring. The doctor ordered a sleep study, and the results came back that I had mild Obstructive Sleep Apnea. Like many of you, the recommended treatment for my OSA was to start using a CPAP Machine. For most people, talking to the doctor is an important first step. In order to get a CPAP machine, you’ll first need to get a prescription for one. We’ll cover prescriptions next.
How to Get a Prescription for a CPAP Machine?
Before you can buy a CPAP machine, you’ll need to get a prescription from a medical professional that specifies which kind of machine you should get. It will also specify what pressure setting is needed to treat Sleep Apnea. Getting a prescription is not as simple as going into the doctor’s office and asking for one. A CPAP machine is a specialized medical device, and the doctor will need to conduct a sleep study to know if you even have Sleep Apnea, to begin with.
A sleep study measures the following:
- Heart Rate
- Blood Oxygen Levels
- How Many Times You Stop Breathing in the Night
- How Many Times You Wake Up at Night
If the results of the sleep study show that you have Sleep Apnea, they’ll prescribe a course of treatment, which may be done with a CPAP machine. The doctor could also prescribe BiPAP therapy, oral appliances, or recommend surgery.
How to Choose a CPAP Machine Manufacturer
When you get a CPAP machine through your insurance, you don’t get to choose your CPAP machine manufacturer or the specific features you want. Just like certain car companies rank higher in terms of overall satisfaction, build quality, or value for the dollar, CPAP manufacturers follow the same route.
Some of the top CPAP machine brands today are ResMed, 3B Medical, Fisher & Paykel, Somnetics, Philips Respironics, and Human Design Medical (HDM). Many of the names in the CPAP machine space have changed in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic and ensuing CPAP shortage. Here’s a quick breakdown of each manufacturer and what you can expect from their products:
ResMed: ResMed is considered to be a leader in innovation and consistently produces high-quality products that are well-liked by consumers. ResMed products are among the best in the business, and many people swear by ResMed’s quality. ResMed machines are among the most expensive, but most customers find that their products are worth the money.
3B Medical: 3B Medical is the company behind the widely popular Lumin UV Sanitizer, as well as the Luna II and Luna G3 CPAP machines. Their focus is to provide quality products at a fair price while being mindful of industry regulations and customer needs. Many customers have been pleasantly surprised by the capability of Luna CPAP machines.
Fisher & Paykel: Fisher & Paykel is the manufacturer of the Icon & Sleepstyle CPAP machines, and excel at making products that are as easy to use as they are innovative. They’re the makers of the popular Simplus mask and have quite a few masks with unique designs that address specific needs. On price, they tend to be a more expensive brand, but people really enjoy the level of quality.
Human Design Medical: Makers of the Z1 and Z2 series of CPAP machines, Human Design Medical manufactures less expensive machines with an emphasis on travel and minimizing machine noise. Customers have been surprised and impressed by the Z2 Auto especially, and praise the company for providing an affordable yet high-quality product.
Somnetics: Somnetics currently manufactures the Transcend series of machines, and has been around for a while. People seem to like Somnetics’ line of smaller travel machines, and their commitment to making CPAP smaller and easier to travel with is apparent in their products. On price, they’re mostly on the mid-to-lower end of the spectrum.
Philips Respironics: Formerly the largest manufacturer of CPAP devices, Philips Respironics produced the DreamStation line of machines in addition to the very popular DreamWear line of masks. Production efforts in 2022 have been largely focused on rectifying the machines of customers affected by the 2021 CPAP Recall. Philips is not expected to return to regular production before 2023.
Drive/DeVilbiss: DeVilbiss manufactured the IntelliPAP brand of machines which was popular, though their CPAP masks are more common these days. On price, their machines are somewhat less expensive, and so are their masks. Unfortunately, DeVilbiss no longer manufactures CPAP machines as of December 2021.
As with any big purchase, it helps to read the reviews. Customer reviews will tell you a lot about the machine, and our CPAPtalk forum is full of excellent reviews and insights from experienced CPAP community members!
Consider a Travel CPAP Machine
Unless you’re 100% certain you’ll never sleep in a bed other than your own, the portability factor is something to consider when looking to buy a CPAP machine. If you spend a good part of your life on the road, a specially-designed, travel CPAP machine may be the answer.
Even if you don’t travel often, there’s always going to be situations in which you’ll need to bring your machine to new sleeping environments. A machine that’s lightweight and portable is going to be a better fit than a large, bulky, heavy machine. Most modern CPAP machines are lightweight, and some even come with a carrying case, so there’s a chance you can find a highly portable machine even if it’s not listed as a travel machine. All it takes is paying attention to the weight and finding one that fits your needs. Read our Best Travel CPAP Machine Guide to find your perfect match.
Why is Humidification Important?
Not all CPAP devices offer a built-in or add-on humidifier, but this is an important accessory that should be considered by anyone looking for the most comfortable experience possible. When you’re starting out with CPAP therapy, you may not think you need a humidifier. In fact, the first couple of times I used my machine, I didn’t put water in it. Boy, was I surprised when I first used the humidifier.
I found that I didn’t get a severely dry mouth from using my machine, and the difference was as dramatic as light and dark. I soon learned that the humidifier keeps nasal passages and your mouth from drying out during CPAP use. Humidifiers also help lower the chance of bloody noses, nasal infections, or other more common CPAP side effects.
A humidification unit that disconnects from the main CPAP machine comes in handy when traveling, as the user then has the option of leaving the often-bulky humidifier section home for a night or two. For me, humidification is a must-have when using a CPAP machine.
Find a Quiet CPAP Machine Under 30 dB
Yes, you’ll be sleeping while you use the CPAP machine, but you have to be able to fall asleep in the first place. And, anyone you share a bed with will certainly appreciate a CPAP machine with a low noise level. You can find the noise rating in the specifications section for any CPAP machine, and the magic number you’ll want to keep in mind is 30.
Any unit rated at 30 dB or lower operates at what is generally referred to as a “whisper-level”. Here are some tips to keep in mind when evaluating noise:
- Even just a few decibels above the 30 mark can indicate a noisy machine.
- a CPAP machine in the 25-28 dB range is an exceptionally quiet unit.
Learn About the Ramp-up Feature and Whether You Need It
When I first started using a CPAP machine, I found the pressure to be very difficult to get used to. I recall a meeting in the doctor’s office, ready to give up when he told me about the ramp feature that my machine had. What’s a ramp feature? It’s the ability of a CPAP machine to start out at the lowest pressure, and gradually, over the course of 45 minutes or so to reach the recommended pressure for CPAP therapy.
Being advised to use the ramp feature was a big help, and one of the reasons my treatment has been a success. When the machine starts off at the low pressure, you’ll barely notice it. Once you fall asleep, the machine increases to the recommended pressure. This way, you’re asleep before you would normally notice the pressure.
Most of the CPAP machines available have the ramp feature, and it’s becoming more and more common in the marketplace today.
Consider the Smart Data Recording Features
Modern CPAP machines that include some type of onboard data recording feature enable the user to conduct their own makeshift “sleep studies” at home. This provides relevant and important data gleaned during the patient’s sleep cycles. Some record basic information only – like how long the individual slept or how long the machine was in use. Others offer detailed readings like:
- leak rates
- pressure changes
- apnea events
- snoring episodes, and more.
Some CPAP machines will send this data to a device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, while others record data to a memory card to be analyzed through a computer.
For some of the most popular machines, you’ll have a downloadable app that you can use to check your sleep. For my machine, the app tells me how long I used it; how many times I experienced blockages; and whether my mask is leaking.
All of this is very helpful. If I see that I had a lot of blockages during the night, it would tell me that something wasn’t right, and to consult with my physician. It can also help me troubleshoot some issues that I may have with my sleep at home.
What Does a CPAP Machine Cost?
Getting a CPAP Machine on the cash market (like buying from CPAP.com or other online retailer) is going to cost less than what it would cost through the insurance company. CPAP machine cost also varies throughout the year, as machines go on and off sales, but generally:
- A CPAP machine is the most basic of the three types, and costs between $500 – $1,000
- APAP machines have greater sophistication and cost between $800 – $1,500
- BiPAP machines are the most complicated, and cost between $1,300 – $2,600
Prices between different models of CPAP machines tend to fluctuate a lot, as different machines have different features. There’s a big difference in the degree of sophistication between a machine that costs $300 and a machine that costs $1,000. As is true of almost any product, you do get what you pay for, and the best CPAP machines are among the most expensive.
Where Can You Buy a CPAP Machine?
Most people that are new to treating Sleep Apnea may not realize that they have options when it comes to starting CPAP therapy. It may seem like the only option is to go through your insurance company to get a CPAP machine. But there are other options available!
You could visit a local CPAP shop, but you may find the selection to be lacking.
One of the best ways to get a CPAP machine is to order online.
There you’ll get the opportunity to get the exact quality and type of machine that you need for your therapy, and not get bogged down by insurance red-tape and regulations. If you want a travel machine, you can get a travel CPAP machine. If you want a top-of-the-line machine, you can get one. If you want built-in humidification, you can get that too. As long as your prescription calls for it, you can order it.
When you go through insurance, they choose the machine and give you the mask they think works the best. You have very little say in the type of machine you get. Since the insurance company gets reimbursed the same whether you get a great machine or an average machine, they have little incentive to give you the highest quality machine.
They give you the machine that works for them. The best way is to get the machine that works for you. This is why the cash market for CPAP machines has grown rapidly over the past decade. Customers find that they don’t have to compromise.
You’ll also save on rental fees when you get a CPAP machine through the cash market online. Typically, when you get a CPAP machine from your insurance company, you’re actually renting it. If you go through a period where you don’t use the machine, the insurance company can take it from you. This is possible because the insurance company is able to monitor machine usage statistics through the modem on the machine. If they notice usage slows or stops, many insurers will no longer cover their portion of the rental and demand you send the machine back. When buying a machine on the cash market, the retailer won’t track or report on the data coming out of it. This is another reason to buy online, that most people may not know about.
Don’t forget! CPAP machines don’t come with masks so if you need to, read up on our “different types of CPAP masks” to make the best decision!