Portable oxygen concentrators are medical devices used to treat conditions where people can’t get enough oxygen from the air, breathing on their own. Usually, the disease prevents the lungs from absorbing enough oxygen from the air, so the patient needs a higher concentration of oxygen to function normally. Some of those medical conditions are:
- Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)
- Sleep apnea
- Cystic fibrosis
- Chronic bronchitis
- Congestive heart failure
- Bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)
- Other lung diseases
In this article, you will find a detailed list of the best portable oxygen concentrators currently sold on the market, how they work, what type of oxygen concentrators exist, and answers to some common questions people have on this topic. You should know that these devices can only be obtained only through a doctor’s prescription. In order for your physician to determine whether or not you need a portable oxygen concentrator, he or she will run a series of tests and prescribe you the corresponding therapy. Our review are carefully created to help you make an informed decision.
How Do Portable Concentrators Work?
Air contains around 78% of nitrogen, 21% of oxygen and 1% of other gasses. Portable oxygen concentrator draws in the air and compresses it while the cooling mechanism keeps it from overheating. The concentrators contain zeolite materials that can adsorb nitrogen at a much higher rate than oxygen. The nitrogen stays while the oxygen passes through a component called molecular sieve to the breathing apparatus, which is usually in the form of nasal tubing or facial mask. The air delivered to the patient usually contains between 87% and 96% oxygen.
There are two methods of delivering air – continuous flow, which continually provides oxygen regardless of the user’s breathing rate; and intermittent or pulse flow, which only gives oxygen when the user is inhaling. While pulse flow option conserves oxygen, it is not recommended for those who need oxygen concentrator while sleeping, as some people might not inhale hard enough to trigger the pulse. Most concentrators have one or the other method, but some models have both.
Continuous flow portable oxygen concentrators deliver up to 3000 mL of oxygen per minute. They are usually heavier than pulse flow units and weigh around 10 to 20 pounds. They are recommended for use when sleeping or sitting still.
Pulse flow portable oxygen concentrators deliver between 450 mL and 1250 mL of oxygen per minute, based on the user’s breathing rate. They weigh 2 to 10 pounds and are recommended for the more active users.
Stationary vs. Portable Concentrators
When you think about oxygen therapy, the first thing that comes to mind are those huge oxygen tanks. Science has come a long way since the introduction of pressurized oxygen tanks in the 1970s, and the portable concentrators are a great option today for people who lead an active lifestyle.
The most apparent disadvantage of oxygen tanks is that they are relatively big and heavy, so you can’t go anywhere you want with them. They are usually installed in the house and come with very long tubes so that you can walk around the house and still get sufficient oxygen. Another downside is that when they run out of oxygen, they need to be replaced or refilled, and patients had to pay medical care suppliers for each visit, which was very cost ineffective.
When first introduced, oxygen concentrators were stationary, tall and heavy. The portable concentrators first appeared in the early 2000s, to help patients get the needed therapy when away from home.
In this table, we listed the advantages and disadvantages of portable concentrators compared to pressurized oxygen tanks.
|DELIVERY SYSTEM||PRESSURIZED OXYGEN TANKS||PORTABLE OXYGEN CONCENTRATORS|
|Height||5” to 52”||7” to 20”|
|Weight||1 to 114 lbs.||3 to 20 lbs.|
|Average operating time (Continuous Flow)||2 to 11 hours (lowest LPM setting)
20 minutes to 2 hours (highest LPM setting)
|2.5 to 6 hours (lowest LPM setting)
45 minutes to 1.5 hours (highest LPM setting)
|Average operating time (Pulse flow)||5 to 30+ hours (lowest LPM setting)
1 to 6 hours (highest LPM setting)
|4 to 10+ hours (lowest LPM flow)
1.5 to 4 hours (highest LPM flow)
|Oxygen storage||Limited; suppliers must replenish oxygen supply regularly||Unlimited; they don’t need to be replaced as long as they are working correctly|
|Power source||None; stored oxygen is delivered, and there is no need for electrical or battery power||Electrical outlet and 1 to 2 batteries|
Portable oxygen concentrators are mobile and provide access to a continuous supply of oxygen without the need to replace or refill the tanks. However, their disadvantage is the operating time, but it is not a severe problem as everybody has access to a power outlet.
Most Common Questions When Buying A Portable Oxygen Concentrator
If you have one of the conditions that require oxygen therapy, I’m sure you have a lot of questions about getting the best possible portable oxygen concentrator. We’ll try to answer them all.
- Are portable oxygen concentrators dangerous?
Oxygen is highly flammable, so the usage of this device poses a fire risk. That’s why you shouldn’t smoke when you use them and shouldn’t be close to open flames. Also, they shouldn’t be used in small unventilated rooms.
- What is the price of portable oxygen concentrators?
The price varies between $2000 and $4000, depending on the model. You can also rent one for a monthly rate of $200 to $350.
- Does my insurance cover the price of portable oxygen concentrator?
In most cases, the answer is yes, but you should check with your insurance provider.
- How much air does portable concentrator deliver?
It depends on the model and setting, but it’s usually between 0.5 to 3 liters per minute.
- What is the oxygen purity of the delivered air?
Most of the concentrators deliver the air that contains between 87% and 96% of oxygen.
- What is the size of portable oxygen concentrators?
They are usually small and lightweight, so you can always put them on a bedside table. Taller models can be placed on the floor next to the bed.
- How many batteries does a concentrator need?
One or two depending on the model.
- What is the operating time of a portable concentrator?
Generally, the higher settings drain the battery faster than the lower settings. On average, during continuous flow, it will deliver oxygen for 2 hours on the highest setting, and up to 6 hours on the low settings. When on pulse flow, the battery will usually last 2 hours on the high and 9 hours on low settings.
- How long does it take to charge the batteries?
Usually, it takes 2 to 4 hours, but some can take up to 8 hours.
- How loud is the concentrator?
Depending on the model and the settings they can make a noise of 65 dBA, which is the volume of a normal conversation.
- Can I take my concentrator on a plane?
They are designed for air travel, and most portable concentrators can be transported at up to 14,000 feet.
- How do I store my portable concentrator?
The portable concentrators should only be used and stored in specific ranges of temperature and humidity, and both ranges are in the product’s manual.
- How do I maintain my portable concentrator?
The portable concentrators are easy to use, and they need weekly maintenance. You’ll usually need to wash it with a damp cloth and gentle detergent or inspect the tubes to make sure that everything is alright, but the exact instructions are always in the product’s manual. Also, don’t use it until it is completely dry.
- Does my concentrator have a product warranty?
Yes, most of them have a warranty of 3 to 5 years. Specific components, such as molecular sieve or batteries can have a separate warranty that can last anywhere from 1 to 5 years.
- Do I need a portable oxygen concentrator?
If you suspect that you have trouble breathing, you should pay a visit to your doctor who will run a series of tests and determine if you need oxygen therapy. Doctors will give you all the information you need.
Best Portable Oxygen Concentrator Brands And Models
We have gathered user reviews and made a list of the best portable oxygen concentrators. Here are the prices and specifications of our top five models.
|BRAND||SEQUAL||INOGEN ONE||RESMED||RESPIRONICS||OXLIFE INDEPENDENCE|
|Model||eQuinox (24-cell battery)||G3 (16-cell battery)||LifeChoice Active Ox 4L||SimplyGo Mini (extended battery)||O2|
|Size (HxLxW)||13.6 x 10.6 x 7.4||8.3 x 8.8 x 3||7.9 x 9 x 4.4||10.2 x 8.3 x 2.6||20.2 x 10.9 x 8|
|Weight||16 lbs.||5.8 lbs.||4.8 lbs.||6 lbs.||18 lbs.|
|Oxygen Purity||90% ± 3%||90% ± 3%||90% ± 3%||87% to 96%||87% to 95.6 %|
|LPM Range (Continuous)||0.5 to 3||No continuous flow setting||No continuous flow setting||No continuous flow setting||0.5 to 3|
|LPM Range (Pulse)||1 to 9||1 to 5||1 to 4||1 to 6||1 to 6|
|Number of Batteries||1||2||1||1||1 or 2|
|Battery Life (Continuous)||4.84 hours (1)
2.75 hours (2)
1.83 hours (3)
|N/A||N/A||N/A||5.75 hours (0.5)
5.25 hours (1)
3.5 hours (1.5)
2.5 hours (2)
2 hours (2.5)
1.5 hours (3)
|Battery Life (Pulse)||5.94 hours (1)
5.39 hours (3)
3.85 hours (6)
|9.5 hours (1)
8.5 hours (2)
6 hours (3)
4 hours (4)
3.3 hours (5)
|10.25 hours (1)
8.25 hours (2)
5 hours (3)
4 hours (4)
|9 hours (1-2)
5 hours (3)
4 hours (4)
3 hours (5)
|6.25 hours (0.5)
6 hours (1-1.5)
5.75 hours (2)
4.75 hours (2.5)
4 hours (3)
3.5 hours (3.5)
3 hours (4)
2.5 hours (4.5)
2.25 hours (5)
2 hours (5.5)
1.75 hours (6)
|Battery Recharge Time||1.5 to 3.5 hours||9 hours (2 batteries)||2 to 4 hours||4 to 8 hours||1.5 hours (1 battery)
2.5 hours (2 batteries)
|Noise||37 to 46 dBA||55 to 65 dBA||41 to 48 dBA||43 dBA (2)||40 dBA (2)|
|Maximal Altitude||Not disclosed||10,000 ft.||13,000 ft.||10,000 ft.||13,123 ft.|
|Operating Temperature||50ᵒF to 104ᵒF (10ᵒC to 40ᵒC)||41ᵒF to 104ᵒF (5ᵒC to 40ᵒC)||40ᵒF to 105ᵒF (5ᵒC to 40ᵒC)||41ᵒF to 95ᵒF (5ᵒC to 35ᵒC)||50ᵒF to 104ᵒF (10ᵒC to 40ᵒC)|
|Storage Temperature||Not disclosed||-13°F to 158°F
(-25°C to 70°C)
|30°F to 140°F
(0°C to 60°C)
|-4°F to 140°F
(-20°C to 60°C)
|-4°F to 140°F
(-20°C to 60°C)
|Operating/ Storage Humidity Range||Not disclosed||0% to 95%||15% to 93%||15% to 93%||0% to 95%|
|Warranty||Device: 3 years||Device: 3 years||Device: 3 years
Sieve: 3 years
Battery: 3 years
|Device: 3 years
Sieve: 1 year
Battery: 1 year
|Device: 5 years
Battery: 1 year
We have given you an objective review of the best portable oxygen concentrators on the market. Be sure to check with your doctor, and pick the one that is best suited to the therapy they prescribed.
Dusan is a biologist, a science enthusiast and a huge nature lover. He loves to keep up to date with all the new research and write accurate science-based articles. When he’s not writing or reading, you can find him in the kitchen, trying out new delicious recipes; out in the wild, enjoying the nature or sleeping in his bed.