Oxygen: A User's Perspective
Portable & Transportable
The information here provided is for
educational purposes only and it is not intended, nor implied, to be a
substitute for professional medical advice. Always consult your own
physician or healthcare provider with any questions you may have
regarding a medical condition.
This article covers the basic workhorse for producing medical oxygen,
the concentrator. Concentrators
have been around and served oxygen patients since the 1970s.
Approximately 80 percent of oxygen users have a concentrator
in their homes.
A concentrator does not store oxygen. It produces and distributes it
continuously. It takes the air around it, which normally contains 21
percent oxygen, and removes the nitrogen. The theoretical result is air
that is 95.5 percent pure oxygen. In actuality, concentrators produce
oxygen that is generally between 87 and 95 percent pure--the higher the
setting, the less pure. Medicare requires the purity to be greater than
Throughout this article, you will find
links, in blue, just like the one above to Inspired Valley Products
Corp . Each of these links opens a new window in which you will
the image of a concentrator, a manufacturer's website, and other
you might want to know about.
Please close each of these new windows after viewing it. By so doing,
you will return to this window at the same point in the text that you
left it. You will also minimize window clutter.
The focus of this article is not on the home use of a concentrator but
on its use as you travel. It may be that the characteristics of a
concentrator you transport are different from those of your home
concentrator. For example:
transportability. Can you carry it? If
not, is it easily transportable at least between your car and a motel
By answering those questions, you should be able to select the
appropriate concentrator for your use. The rest
of this article contains abbreviated descriptions about more than
a dozen concentrators.
power. Does it contain its own power? Will a car's 12
volt DC battery power it? 110 volts AC in a motel room? All three?
flow. Does it have a continuous flow setting for
noise. Is it quiet enough to allow sleep in a motel
room? Can I carry on a normal conversation with it in a car or RV? (See
Sound Intensity .)
Portable Oxygen Concentrators (POC)
Webster's New World Dictionary defines "portable" in
Until recently, no concentrator could be "easily carried" and none
contained its own power. On March 18,
2002, AirSep introduced its LifeStyle™ (image). In 2004 Inogen
introducted its Inogen One (image). By 2006 three more POCs were introduced--AirSep's Freestyle (image), s Eclipse (image), and Respironics' EverGo
- that which can be easily carried or moved, especially by
- that whose power is self-contained.
These concentrators represent a technological breakthrough. There are
now concentrators that are powered not only by both AC and DC,
by its own self-contained battery. But, they are not all alike. There
is not one perfect one tht will meet all your needs. So, first let us
looks at a table that you can use to compare their features.
|Battery Life** (hrs.)
|Cont. Settings (Lpm)
||0.5 - 3
||1 - 3
||1 - 5
||1 - 6
||1 - 6
|Pulse Output* (cc/min.)
|Max Pulse Output* (cc/min.)
||40 - 48
|*At setting 2
**Add 1.8 lbs. for optional Airbelt
***Add 4 hrs. with optional Airbelt
is a POC that delivers oxygen in pulses. It delivers
oxygen in pulses through a single lumen cannula no longer than 7 feet.
(This is the specification of the user manual, however, the
manufacturer's representative assures me that tubing up to 35 feet will
work with the unit.) It noise level is rated at 55 dB, or about 5 dB
higher than the average of other concentrators. Its rotory pulse
selector switch has five numbered positions (1 - 5) and an off
position. It has green light indicator that flashes each time a breath
is detected. It has an audible alarm that sounds when the battery is
low, when no breathing is sensed, or when the unit is not operating
The Lifestyle has has its
own handle for carrying by hand. It comes with a carrying bag
with an over-the-shoulder strap. The bag has places for the AC
and DC adapters and an extra battery. A battery weighs about 1.5 pounds
and has a duration of about 45 minutes at both high and low pulse
This may be too much for some of us to carry, even for a short
distance. If this is the case, use an cart. Be certain that the cart
does not cover the the airflow vent. You will probably find the
LifeStyle easier to manage on a cart than an E cylinder because its
center of gravity is much lower.
LifeStyle's battery life is about 50 minutes.When
the battery is low, you will hear the alarm telling you it needs
recharging. Recharge it by connecting it to either an AC or DC source
with the proper adapter. Recharging a battery takes about two and a
hours during which time the LifeStyle will continue to provide
For more information about the LifeStyle,
Inogen, Inc. announced its Inogen One
a POC that
9.7 lbs. and delivers oxygen pulses at nine settings from 1 to 5, in
increments of 0.5. The
concentrator has a noise level of 40 dB, or about 10 dB less than the
average of other concentrators. It warms up and is ready to use
in 15 minutes.
The concentrator is powered by AC, DC, or an internal battery. The
battery has a duration of 2 to 3 hours. The battery recharges in three
hours or less in whenever Inogen is connected to an AC source.
Batteries weigh about 1.5 pounds and their duration ranges from 2 to 3
hours, depending on whether the selected pulse setting is high or low.
external battery charger is also available.
|Marcia from Texas writes…
I just got back from a 2-week overseas
vacation. I bought buy O2 from the airlines at $100 per leg (American
Airlines and United). Lufthansa supplied only 2-1/2 hours of O2. After
that I had to use my Inogen One and that was OK with the airline - more
or less required as it was an over 8-hour flight.
During my travels on land I would plug into
the hotel electric source at night and set the machine to Sensitive (or
else it would beep several times during the night when I wouldn't
breathe deeply enough).
I would also plug into the car to recharge the
batteries. I had 2 batteries. As someone said before, the machine is
heavy even though it's only 10 pounds. After 10 minutes of carrying it
in the shoulder bag it felt more like 50 pounds.
I didn't take the cart that came with it but
bought a luggage cart at the airport that served very well. I did lots
of walking on cobbled streets and sidewalks and hauled the machine (on
the cart) up and down stairs and everything came through just fine.
I never did try the satellite, instead I had
the Inogen One on the floor by my bed with only a 4-foot hose and the
noise was minimal. Yes, the pulse is more noisy than the noise produced
by my home concentrator, but it is worth it.
I like the machine and will use it again when
we travel around a few states later this year. So much easier than
having to worry about lining up O2 in this city or that. I used 2 lpm
and up to 4 lpm when needed. So, anyone considering buying or renting
an Inogen One, go for it!
The Inogen can be carried
by its handle. There is also a carry bag with shoulder strap and a
two-wheeled cart available to transport it. Both are designed to keep
the unit's intake and exhaust ports clear of obstructions.
The Inogen operates in one
of three modes.
Mode wo/ audio alert. A green light flashes when a breath is
detected. If more than 30 seconds elapses between breaths, the
indicator flashes yellow. Other alerts cause the indicator to flash
red. When the indicator is green there is no message displayed in
the text display. When the indicator flashes yellow or red, an
appropriate message appears in the text display.
Default Mode w/audio alert.
A yellow flashing indicator is accompanied by three audible beeps every
25 seconds. A red flashing indicator is accompanied by five audible
beeps every 10 seconds.
Sensitive Mode. The
conserver operates with increased sensitivity to your breathing.
Audible alerts are disabled.
The Inogen conserver
delivers a fixed amount of oxygen each minute. When the 20 bpm user
sets Inogen to 2, the user
receives pulses of 15 ml. The slower breather receives proportionally
larger and the rapid breather, proportional smaller pulses, so that
everyone at setting 2 receives the same amount each minute. Users can
expect longer battery life as well as less heat and noise at lower
settings. Users who have more rapid breathing rates with increased
cautioned by the manufacturer to use a higher setting to compensate for
Oxygen stored in cylinders or liquid oxygen containers is over 99
percent pure oxygen. Concentrators like the Inogen produce oxygen that is 90
(± 3) percent pure. At setting 2, users can expect a pulse that
contains 13.5 ml of oxygen--that is 90 percent of 15 ml. Because
concentrator is less efficient at higher settings, users should expect
even less purity.
|To compare the pulse
volume of your conserver with that of Inogen,
go to Conservers
and Cannulas). For more information about a conserver like this one, search for "EasyPulse" at same
A nice feature of Inogen is
its "satellite" conserver. This conserver is about the size of a pack
of cigarettes and weighs 10.5 oz. with a battery inside. There are five
flow control settings from 1 to 5. It can be carried in a pocket,
clipped to your waistband, or worn around the waist. It permits the
user to be a far
as 100 feet from the concentrator and still receive oxygen. The
satellite uses a "C" battery that, when used 8 hours a day, lasts about
The satellite conserver has two ports, one for the cannula and the
other for connecting up to 100 feet of tubing to the concentrator. When
tubing connects the satellite conserver to the Inogen, the Inogen's selection switch is set to
"Satellite," and the power switch on the satellite is turned on, a
green indicator can
be see and a beep heard that verifies to the user that the satellite is
receiving oxygen. The user will receive oxygen when a cannula is
attached to the satellite. The indicator light will turn yellow then
indicate a low or dead battery, respectively.
Unlike the conserver in the Inogen,
the satellite conserver dispenses a fixed pulse at each setting. At
setting 2, this pulse is 17.5 ml of which 16 ml, or about 90 percent,
is oxygen. The amount of oxygen in a satellite pulse is less than that
for any conserver reported at this website (see Table 1 at Conservers
and Cannulas.) Presumably for this reason, the manufacturer
recommends the use of the satellite when "a user is not highly
The manufacturer recommends that you be titrated using both the Inogen
and satellite conservers. As I always recommend, a titration is valid
if it is done under rest and activity conditions you normally
experience. For this reason, it should occur in and around your home
while you are doing the resting and activities you normally do.
If you are purchasing a used unit, you can check its total usage by
holding down the Mode Button for five seconds. Displayed will be the
hour meter, the serial number, and the software version. Recommended
first servicing is at 18,500 hours or 28 months.
In addition to keeping track of system diagnostics, the Inogen also accumulates and
reports on the breathing rate and user flow settings. This information
is accumulated for two or three months, after which it is overwritten.
Software is available to oxygen providers to access this data, data
that should be interesting to both the user and the prescribing
For more information about the Inogen
One see Table
In November 2005, AirSep's FreeStyle portable
concentrator become available. Put two 1 liter bottles filled with
water next to each other. That is the size of the portable (8.6 x 6.1 x
3.6 in.). Now, pick up the 2 bottles. That's the weight (4.5 lb.),
including a battery that lasts up to two hours. A battery belt that is
worn around the waist, adds up to 6 hours.
The FreeStyle has audible and visual indictors for low battery, cannula
disconnected, and system overdraw.
Uses of POCs
There are some special uses for these concentrator. Here
- A POC can provide an airline passenger
with a source
of oxygen in the terminal, either by battery when moving about or by
plugging the unit into the nearest airport electrical outlet. Since it
is a concentrator and stores no oxygen, a passenger can carry it onto
aircraft and place it in an overhead compartment. Someday, we may be
able to use it on a flight, using batteries to power it.
- A POC is
ideal for short trips. For example, use
it on a trip to the doctor's office. Plug it into the cigarette
lighter port while driving. Once at the doctor's office, use the POC as
a portable during the walk into the office. Then
plug it in. The doctor will never notice an increase in the office's
- POCsn are useful for travel, with two cautions. Be
aware that as you travel into higher altitudes the oxygen you receive
from the atmosphere is less and less, so you may have to increase your
oxygen setting. Additionally, neither of these concentrators should be
used at night without your physician's concurrance.0
All other concentrators described below would have to be classified as
"transportable," not "portable." None have an internal power source and
none are light-weight enough to be carried, especially by a person
dependent on oxygen.
Transportable concentrators have a lot in common. They have wheels and
a handle or two so they can be moved about. Some have a way of securing
the power cord so that it is not stepped upon while the concentrator is
being moved. All have an on/off switch and a switch to select a flow
rate. All have an audible and visual alarm which alerts you when there
is a power fluctuation or failure. Most
come with an oxygen purity sensor which also has alarms. For some
concentrators, the oxygen purity sensor is an option.
No transportable concentrator has an internal source of power. One
operates on 12 volts in your car through its cigarette lighter port and
has an adapter for 110 volts. All other transportable concentrators
require 110 volts.
Some of these concentrators can be used in a car when powered by the
car's battery through an inverter. An inverter takes some of the power
generated by your car and converts it to 110 volts. To learn more about
inverters, see Using an Inverter. Be sure to check with the
manufacturer of your concentrator before using it with an inverter.
Some can be powered by the auxiliary generator of an RV. Be
certain that the generator is regularly maintained and is running at
capcity. Be aware that as the fuel is depleted from your RV, the
auxiliary generator will run out of gas before the truck engine does.
What follows is a brief description of more than a dozen transportable
concentrators. These concentrators with maximum settings from 1.2 Lpm
to 10 Lpm, weights between 22 and 70 pounds, and noise levels from 40
to 8 Db.. Links to its image and the manufacturer's website is also
provided. Table provides more specifications on each
manufactures three concentrators. Two of these concentrators are the L-3,
a 3 Lpm unit and the L-6 (image), a
6 Lpm unit. These two are standard home concentrators advertised as
being the lightest (about ten pound lighter than their competitors in
the same class). See Table
3 for more information about the L-6.
(image) by Oxlife, Inc., also marketed by Medline, Inc. as
the OxyExcel™, is a 3 Lpm concentrator which is designed for both home
and travel. While it takes up about
the same space as its 3 Lpm cousin, it weighs 7 pounds less. It comes
with a carry case that fits easily into the overhead bin of an
aircraft. For more information see Table
Sim's Travelsome™ (image) is a concentrator designed to be used in
a car by users with prescriptions which call for flow/pulse rates under
2.5 Lpm. It can either be plugged into the cigarette lighter of
your car or, with an adapter, plugged into house current. It can be
pulled along on its wheels, using it luggage-type handle. The noise
level of the Travelsome is not reported by its manufacturer.
One of the distributors I spoke with about this unit
said that it seemed to be less noisy than the Oxlife Excel
. For more information see Table
Technologies Integra™ comes in 5, 7, and 10 Lpm
(image) models. The 10 Lpm unit is the only concentrator I know of
which accommodates users with prescriptions above 6 Lpm. The first
thing you notice when you plug it in is how quiet it is. While its
noise level, rated at 51 Db, is about the same as other concentrators,
it lacks the periodic purging sound, making it appear less noisy.
like most other transportable concentrators,has a suspended ball flow
meter gauge. Unfortunately, the ball is smaller than a
marble, but since it is silver, it can be seen in a well-lighted room.
A key chain flashlight helps illuminates the ball and gauge very well.
For more information see
Tables 2 and 3.
A division of Sunrise Medical manufactures the DeVilbiss™
3 Lpm and 5 Lpm concentrators. (image). The 3 Lpm unit is advertised as compact
and easy to transport. It has a lower noise and power consumption
levels than other concentrators which deliver the same flow rate. Both
concentrators have an optional oxygen purity sensing device. For more
information see Tables 1 and 2.
The Total O2™
(image) , manufactured by Chad
Therapeutics , is a 3 Lpm concentrator that fills compressed oxygen
cylinders in your home. Since it also contains the compressor that
fills the cylinders, it weighs more and uses more power than
concentators in the same class. For more information about this
Making O2 at Home: The Total O
2 . For more information see Table
(image) is a 5 Lpm concentrator that can be
adapted to fill oxygen cylinders in your home. For more information
about this concentrator, see
Making O2 at Home: The HomeFill. For more information see Table
Besides the LifeStyle, AirSep also manufactures the 5 Lpm QuietLife™ (image) and several models of the NewLife
Elite™ (image) . The QuietLife's advertised
advantages include lower power consumption (285 watts) and lower noise
level (40 Db). The NewLife Elite can be upgraded to be a
6 Lpm concentrator. For more information see
Tables 2 and 3.
Your concentrator's instruction manual will tell you what
maintenance is necessary. Here are some additional reminders.
Your concentrator should have an oxygen sensing device. This sensor
monitors the level of oxygen produced by the concentrator and warns you
with both visual and audible alarms when
that level falls too low. It is a option on some concentrators. If
yours has this device, you will see its visual indicator on the face
of your concentrator. If yours does not, you should have your
concentrator tested for its oxygen output on a quarterly basis.
- Operate the concentrator in a well-ventilated area. It
needs good, clean air to operate properly. In a small room, car, or
recreational vehicle, keep a window open.
- Wash filters weekly and replace yearly.
- Have an oxygen provider examine your concentrator at least
once a year.
- Rebuild the compressor every five years.
Email me. Let's talk.
Tell me about your experiences with using portable and transportable
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© 2003 Copyright
Peter M. Wilson, Ph.D.
Founder of PortableOxygen.org
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