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Oxygen Concentrators FAQs
- What is an Oxygen Concentrator?
Instead of having a refillable tank of O2 that the user uses and refills once empty, a concentrator takes in ambient air and concentrates it into pure O2. As the concentrator takes in ambient air, it uses internal components to filter out nitrogen, which makes up the majority of ambient air. Once the nitrogen is filtered out, 90% oxygen is left, along with a few other ambient gases.
Once the concentrator has built up enough O2, it will begin providing it through the therapy tube to the user. The nitrogen that is filtered out is released back into the air, and this cycle continues. A concentrator has internal reservoirs that continue to store and provide O2 at at least 90% concentration. Concentrators can provide continuous flow or pulse dose flow.
- What's the Difference Between Continuous Flow and Pulse Dose Flow?
Depending on the type of concentrator, it may provide "Continuous" or "Pulse Dose" oxygen therapy:
- Continuous therapy will provide a steady stream of oxygen at the flow level the concentrator is set to. Continuous flow will ensure that there is always oxygen flowing to the user, even during exhalation.
- Pulse Dose therapy provides the stream of oxygen during inhalation only. This flow setting allows concentrators that are powered from a battery to have longer run times than if set in a continuous mode.
- What Types of Concentrators Are Available?
There are two main types of oxygen concentrators: stationary and portable.
- Stationary Concentrators
- Stationary concentrators are larger units meant to be used exclusively at home.
- Due to their larger size, they are capable of providing continuous oxygen flow, some even as high as 10 LPM (Liters per Minute).
- When paired with long oxygen tubing, the stationary concentrator can allow the user to move around the home while receiving oxygen, without carrying anything other than the tubing.
- Portable Concentrators
- Portable concentrators are smaller units meant to be used both at home and taken along with the user outside of the home.
- Portable units vary in size, with some being transported on a cart with the user, and others small enough to be carried with a shoulder strap or in a backpack style bag.
- In order to be smaller in size, portable concentrators have smaller reservoirs, and as a result mainly provide pulse dose therapy. Some portable concentrators do offer continuous flow, but only up to 1-2 LPM.
- Stationary Concentrators
- Do Concentrators Use Filters?
- Most oxygen concentrators have internal filters which are intended to last the lifetime of the unit without having to be changed or replaced. Some have external filters which would need to be changed if damaged in some way.
- How Much Do Oxygen Concentrators Cost?
For most individuals, an Oxygen Concentrator is a major purchase. It's because Oxygen Concentrators generally cost about $1,000 - $3,000 depending on a few different factors, including portability and whether or not the device is pulse dose or continuous flow. Lightweight, portable concentrators with pulse dose flow are the most expensive concentrators on the market. Stationary, at-home concentrators with continuous flow are the least expensive.
- How Much Electricity Does an Oxygen Concentrator Use?
Oxygen concentrators use electricity to generate the oxygen you need to treat your respiratory condition. Because the concentrator may need to be running almost 24/7, there will be an additional increase to your electric bill. It's estimated an oxygen concentrator can add almost $700 annually to a person's electric bill. If you take that figure and divide it by the number of months in a year (12), that works out to an additional $58 to a person's electric bill a month. For most people, that figure represents a substantial increase to the total electric bill each month.
The figure could be more or less, depending on the age, type, flow setting of the machine and whether the concentrator is pulse dose or continuous flow. These settings are determined by the type of machine you have and the doctor's requirements. It's not a good idea to reduce the flow rate as a way of saving money, as this put you at risk for ineffective treatment.
- How Long Does an Oxygen Concentrator Last?
How long an oxygen concentrator lasts really depends on a few different factors. A home concentrator will last about 5 years, and a portable one will last roughly 800 to 1,500 hours. The actual lifespan of a device depends on a few things, including altitude (the higher the altitude, the harder the device will have to work) and humidity. It goes without saying, the number of hours a day the machine is used will also have an impact on the lifespan of a device. If the oxygen machine is only used to recover from a moment where a person feels breathless, the machine will last a lot longer than someone needing to run the machine 24/7.
Generally, it makes sense to have a home oxygen concentrator and a portable one, as having two different machines will help reduce the amount of hours each machine is used. It will also helps keep up with a healthy active lifestyle, as the portable concentrator can provide much-needed oxygen while out and about. Many are lightweight enough to be carried on the shoulder, or can be worn as part of a backpack. Having both types of machines will help a person go a long way to improving the overall longevity of both devices.