What is an Oxygen Concentrator?
An oxygen concentrator is a machine that plugs in to the wall electrical outlet. The concentrator takes room air and passes it through the filtering system in the machine and converts it to more pure oxygen. In other words, it circulates the room air through and changes it from regular room air (around 21% oxygen) to around 95% oxygen. These machines can be run 24 hours per day, seven days a week, 365 days per year.
Because these are machines, the company providing the machine for you should perform routine checks (usually monthly or so) to make sure that the machine is performing as it should. These machines have factory recommendations regarding service and maintenance. You may be required to clean one of the filters of your concentrator on a weekly basis. If this is needed, the company providing your equipment will show you how to perform this task.
The company providing the machine for you should follow the manufacturers guidelines regarding the appropriate service and maintenance schedule for the machine.
The machine has a small “port” to which the patient attaches a “nasal cannula” or oxygen tubing. The oxygen flows from the machine to the patient and the prescribed liter flow. It is important that the patient not tamper with the prescribed flow rate because increasing the flow rate could actually be harmful to the patient. (Some patient’s condition can actually be made much worse by increasing the flow rate.)
Since the air coming out of the oxygen concentrator is the same temperature as room air, some patients feel that it is not as effective as oxygen coming out of the a tank. Rest assured that the effectiveness is virtually the same. In some cases a humidifier bottle is placed on the oxygen concentrator to help with humidification of the air. Sometimes this helps with the comfort level of the patient. However, these humidifier bottles must be cleaned daily in order to prevent them from clogging.
If the humidifier becomes clogged, they often cause the concentrator to malfunction and/or even set off the alarm or cause the concentrator to shut off. It is also best, if using a humidifier, to use distilled water when filling the bottle to help prevent any clogging that might occur. There is a line on the bottle to show how full to fill the bottle. Filling the bottle too full can cause the concentrator to malfunction. Remember! Daily cleaning and distilled water.
Oxygen Concentrator Electricity Usage
The amount of electricity that these units use is minimal. They use about the same amount of electricity as a refrigerator.
Oxygen Concentrator Accessories
Different brands of concentrators have different accessories. The company providing your concentrator should give you all of the information about your unit so that you feel comfortable with knowing about the use of your machine and any alarms or signals that would require attention.
NOTE: Usually when a company provides this type of unit, portable units are also provided in case of a power outage or machine malfunction.
For information regarding portable units, see the page on Portable Oxygen.