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, 7 days a week, 365 days per year.   

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, room temperature 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, room temperature 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.

Basic Troubleshooting Questions for Concentrator "Failures"
      1.  Is the concentrato plugged in?
            -Sometimes concentrator can be accidentally unplugged. 
      2.  Is the switch on the concentrator turned on?
            -Sometimes people can accidentally turn off concentrator.
      3.  Are the lights on the concentrator on? 
           -Sometimes electrical failures or blown fuses in the home can cause concentraors to work improperly.
      4.  What is your prescribed liter flow of O2?  
      5.  Where is the black ball located on the Liter Flow Indicator?
            -If the ball is at the bottom and the concentrator is running there may be a problm with the humidifier or oxygen flowing properly through the tubing.
      5.  If you have a humidifier bottle:
            -Are there bubbles in the bottle?
                 -If there are bubbles in the bottle concentrator should be functioning properly. There may be a flow issue. Make sure the humidifier bottle top is securely                     screwed on.
            -Have you changed the bottle recently?
                 -A common problem is a cross threaded humidifier lid.
            -What kind of water are you using? (Should be distilled, room temperature water)
                 -Tap water can retain sedements that can cause restrictions in the humidifier.
      6.  Put the nasal portion of the cannula. in a glass full of water. Does it bubble?
            -If it bubbles the concentrator should be functioning properly.
      7.  Is there electricity flowing through the socket the concentrator is plugged into? Can you plug something else in and check?