Oxygen concentrators are a more portable option than traditional oxygen tanks. Most models are lightweight and have a handle or a slim carrying case. They provide a steady airstream and don’t require a refill. Unlike traditional tanks, concentrators run on batteries. Because they are smaller than oxygen tanks, they are ideal for helping you maintain your mobility while you use supplementary oxygen. By finding the right balance of features – such as battery, weight and size – you can get the best oxygen concentrator for your needs. Here are some standout products in a number of important rating areas.
Best Oxygen Concentrator for Versatility
A concentrator with versatile options allows you to travel or run errands without stressing about your oxygen. For example, a device with several battery options can keep you from worrying about running out of power mid-trip. The InogenOne G4 has multiple battery and charging options available – more than any other product we evaluated. When you buy this concentrator, you can opt for a single battery, a double battery or one of each. Additionally, you can recharge your battery via AC or DC power supply. A single battery can last up to about 5 hours.
Inogen’s One G4 is a pulse flow oxygen concentrator that’s designed to complement your active lifestyle, not be an imposition on it. One of the concentrator's most impressive features is the variety of battery and power options it gives you. You can choose the single-battery or double-battery model, or the model with one single and one double battery for added portable run time. It also comes with both AC and DC power supply adapters.
Best Oxygen Concentrator for Battery Life
The ActivOx 4L by Inova Labs has an impressive battery capacity, lasting up to 10.25 hours on the lowest flow rate setting. Such extensive battery life gives you time to enjoy your life instead of spending your entire day worrying about the remaining battery life. If you spend most of your time at home, this may not be the most important feature, but if you work full time, travel frequently or are otherwise busy, having a battery that can keep up is important. Many other concentrators have batteries that last 3 or maybe 5 hours, so the ActiveOx has the best battery life by a long shot.
Just because you require supplementary oxygen doesn’t mean you have to be tethered to an outlet or spend your day out watching the battery meter. The ActivOx 4L from Inova Labs has the most powerful battery around, lasting around 10.25 hours on a single charge. Where the batteries of some systems last just a few hours, the ActivOx 4L helps you enjoy several hours out of the house or at work. You can also purchase an additional external battery that can provide you with three more hours of run time, in case you need to travel or spend time away from an outlet.
Best Oxygen Concentrator for Portability
As the name implies, portable oxygen concentrators are ultimately all about portability. The Airsep Focus by Caire Medical is both the smallest and the lightest of all the devices on our list. Weighing 1.75 pounds, this concentrator won’t weigh you down. For comparison, the average weight of the concentrators we’ve looked at here is 10 pounds. A lightweight oxygen concentrator is also convenient if you need to carry it with you frequently for things like work or shopping, or if you simply don’t want the hassle of hauling around a larger machine. For added portability, it comes with a carrying case.
If having a lightweight portable oxygen concentrator is important to you, then the Airsep Focus is definitely an option you should consider. Weighing only 1.75 pounds, it’s the smallest concentrator in our comparison, making it a great option for users with an active lifestyle or who simply don’t want a bulky oxygen delivery system weighing them down.
Best Oxygen Concentrator for Stylish Options
There’s no reason you can’t still be fashionable while using supplementary oxygen. The Philips SimplyGo Mini offers multiple carrying case colors – including brown and black – as well as different strap options, so your concentrator blends into your personal style seamlessly These choices can make your concentrator’s carrying case look like a simple and stylish backpack or sling bag. Many other concentrators limit you to a single carrying case option, typically a black nylon bag, but you don’t have to be limited to that. You can even buy both a black and brown case and switch them out every day if you’d like.
Just because you and your doctor have decided you should use an oxygen concentrator to help you breathe easier, it doesn’t mean you have to lug around an unattractive device. The Philips SimplyGo Mini comes with a variety of stylish carrying cases that discreetly look like most garden-variety bags.
Oxygen Tanks vs. Concentrators
Tanks are small metal canisters that are typically lugged around on a cart. These are what most people think of when you say “portable oxygen.” Concentrators are a newer technology, becoming increasingly popular due to their lightweight portability and the fact that they never need a refill, unlike tanks.
Portable oxygen tanks have a finite storage capacity, and once you use up the compressed oxygen within, that tank is done and you’ll need another one. Tanks weigh more than concentrators and are generally less portable, as well. In most scenarios, tanks of any size can only last up to a few hours, though that will depend on your prescribed flow rate and the size of the tank.
Concentrators, on the other hand, have an infinite supply of oxygen as long as they have access to air, meaning you’ll never have to worry about refills. However, the caveat is that they run on batteries. Some systems have large internal batteries, while others have smaller ones. Generally speaking, models with small batteries allow you to switch out a secondary, fully-charged battery. You’ll always need to ensure that you have enough battery power to last through your trip to the store or Sunday drive.
Tanks are cheaper than concentrators, but refill costs can add up. Concentrators represent a one-time, upfront cost of anywhere from $2,000 to $5,000, though private insurance may cover some of the cost. If you are partially or fully covered under Medicare, you can be set up to get oxygen equipment for three years from a supplier. Your monthly payments, in most cases, cover oxygen delivery and accessories like tubing.
Oxygen Flow Options
Regardless of whether you end up with a tank or a concentrator, your doctor determines whether you need a continuous or pulse flow set up. As the name states, continuous flow is always pumping oxygen to you, regardless of your breathing rate. This method is ideal for any user, though it means you’ll burn through oxygen quickly. Alternatively, pulse flow only releases oxygen as you inhale. While this method conserves oxygen, it is generally not recommended for those who need to use oxygen while sleeping, as some users may not breathe hard enough to trigger the necessary pulse. Many concentrators offer one method or the other, but some offer both.
Your doctor will also determine your oxygen flow rate. The majority of users will only need rates of about 2-4 liters per minute (LPM) of oxygen. Those that need more will likely need to use a face mask.
Talking to Your Doctor
Considering how and when you’ll be using oxygen can help you find the right system. Will you be using it just in the daytime or also at night? Will you need to bring it with you to work or when you travel? Do you only need a small amount of supplementary oxygen, or a large constant dosage?
Your doctor should discuss these questions with you in order to determine which oxygen device is the best for your lifestyle. In most cases, your doctor will then write a prescription, stating the brand name and model they recommend as well as the flow type and rate. Your doctor can also help you find a device that’s complementary to your CPAP or Bi-PAP devices, if you happen to also use one of those.
Travelling with Oxygen
If you need to take your oxygen on a flight, you’ll need a device that is FAA approved. Additionally, be aware that airlines require oxygen users to have enough battery life (for concentrators) or air capacity (for tanks) to last one and a half to two times the length of the flight.
General Safety Tips
Though portable oxygen concentrators are generally low maintenance and worry free, there are still some important points of safety to keep in mind. The biggest safety concern is close proximity of to open flame, as oxygen is a fire hazard. Do not use your oxygen delivery system around lighters, gas stoves, fireplaces or lit cigarettes to avoid any damage or injury. If you’re using a tank, you’ll also want to ensure your tank stays upright at all times. This will ensure all tubes and ports stay working properly, and prevents a tripping hazard for you.
Some systems also have a variety of built-in alarms that can give you peace of mind. A few of the alert options include low battery, low oxygen output and high temperature. These alerts come in handy in case any issue arises with the machinery, giving you time to find a solution.