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BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.
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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

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We purchase every product we review with our own funds — we never accept anything from product manufacturers.

Why trust BestReviews?
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We only make money if you purchase a product through our links, and we never accept free products from manufacturers. Read more  
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing, and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers. We buy all products with our own funds, and we never accept free products from manufacturers.

Buying guide for best portable oxygen concentrators

Last Updated October 2019

Portable oxygen concentrators have become increasingly popular over the past few years, which is no minor feat considering they didn’t exist 20 years ago. They have become an important component of supplemental oxygen therapy, offering up a convenient and reliable source of oxygen to those who need it without the bulk or safety issues associated with oxygen tanks.

Portable oxygen concentrators can be an important element in the lives of the elderly and those suffering from respiratory problems, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), allowing them to receive supplemental oxygen while still maintaining an active and independent lifestyle. These devices also provide a variety of benefits for others who are searching for better alertness, improved blood circulation, less chronic fatigue, and overall faster recovery from any kind of physical exertion. They can even help with hangovers!

Portable oxygen concentrators differ in significant ways, and this guide can help you sort through some of the features, specifications, and other factors you need to consider to find the right one for you. We’ve also included several models that we think stand out from the rest.

A portable oxygen concentrator can be a big help to people who like to vacation at higher altitudes.

Key considerations

How it works

A concentrator uses a complex set of processes to remove nitrogen from the air to create a purer oxygen stream. The air around us contains about 21% oxygen, with the rest largely made up of nitrogen. An oxygen concentrator is able to pull this air in, concentrate it to 90% or more of pure oxygen, and then deliver it to the user via a nasal cannula or mask. This helps to improve the oxygen saturation level of the user, providing greater comfort and a variety of other benefits. The machine also incorporates a cooling system to keep it from overheating.

Size and weight

The lighter and less bulky a concentrator is, the more portable it is.

  • Size: Portable oxygen concentrators are available in a variety of sizes, from compact models a few inches high that can be strapped to your waist to larger, heavier units nearly two feet high that are still lightweight enough to be easily moved around the house.

  • Weight: These machines weigh from a few pounds to 30 pounds or more. For larger models, the portability is more in terms of the freedom to move around your house rather than out in the world. It can be done, but it’s harder to be active with a 30-pound machine in tow.

Pulse dose vs. continuous flow

Portable oxygen concentrators offer two different types of air delivery: pulse dose and continuous flow. Knowing the difference between the two is important when you’re searching for the right concentrator for you. Many premium portable oxygen concentrators offer both pulse dose and continuous flow options.

  • Pulse dose: The machine monitors your breathing rate and uses it to deliver the proper amount of oxygen to you. This method uses less power and is generally better for those people with a higher activity level.

  • Continuous flow: As the term implies, this delivery method involves a steady, continuous stream of oxygen to the user. This method uses more power and results in more wasted oxygen. Continuous flow is generally better for a less active patient whose breathing remains constant.
DID YOU KNOW?

Some concentrators can be used with CPAP machines so long as you have the correct adapter.

Portable oxygen concentrator features

Oxygen rate and concentration

  • Rate: The oxygen rate refers to the amount of oxygen the concentrator can deliver, measured in liters per minute. Most of these devices deliver one to five or one to six liters per minute, with some capable of two to nine liters per minute. Any portable oxygen concentrator should allow you to easily adjust the airflow from the low end to the high end.

  • Concentration: You should also know what the oxygen concentration is at the different rates. For example, a concentrator should be able to hit 90% or more oxygen concentration at the low rate, while higher rates will tend to be more in the 30% range. The best concentrators deliver a higher concentration level at a higher flow rate.

Noise level

It’s a good idea to find out how loud the machine is before you purchase it. Is it quiet enough to seem like white noise in the background, or does it make a constant racket that will slowly drive you crazy? Check user reviews for each product to find any potential noise issues. Also verify if the concentrator has a sleeping mode, which can result in much quieter nighttime operation.

Maintenance

You also want to know how much maintenance your portable oxygen concentrator requires before you buy it. Does it need periodic cleaning, and how extensive is that cleaning? Elements you might be regularly cleaning include filters, tubes, water tank, and nasal cannula.

Also check whether some elements, such as filters, need to be changed regularly. The manufacturer can provide you with a full cleaning/maintenance schedule.

Power

Larger models are powered through a wall plug, while many of the more compact and portable concentrators use both AC power and rechargeable batteries. If a unit uses batteries, know how long a charge lasts and how long it takes to recharge. If you plan to use your portable oxygen concentrator in the car, check that it either ships with a car adapter or that you can easily purchase one.

Control panel

Some oxygen concentrators have an LED control panel. Check that the screen is easy to read, including at night. If the machine will be used primarily by an older person, make sure the font size is easy to read.

Humidifier

Some portable oxygen concentrators include a water reservoir, which provides a simple way to keep nasal passages from drying out (a common problem with nasal cannulas). If an oxygen concentrator does have this feature, you should still be able to use the machine even when the water reservoir is empty.

Alarms

A quality portable oxygen concentrator should include an alarm system that alerts you when it malfunctions, when the cannula is disconnected, when the battery is low, and other status issues. Some also remind you when maintenance is necessary.

Timer

Most portable oxygen concentrators have a timer, so you can easily set it to shut off after a certain period of time, for example, so it won’t run all night. The amount of time you can set varies from machine to machine.

Accessories

Any included extras vary depending on the portable oxygen concentrator you purchase, but some to look for include a remote, wheels, user guide, and oxygen tubing and breathing devices such as masks and nasal cannulas.

EXPERT TIP

Verify whether regular oxygen tubing will work with your concentrator or if you need to use special tubing available only through the manufacturer.


Staff  | BestReviews
EXPERT TIP

If your portable oxygen concentrator includes a humidifier, be sure the unit can still work if the water reservoir runs dry.


Staff  | BestReviews

Portable oxygen concentrator prices

Portable oxygen concentrators are complex machines and are priced accordingly. They start at around $300 and run up to $1000 or more, with the average in the $350 to $500 range. Expect higher-quality and advanced features at the higher price point, including a higher flow rate, improved concentration percentages, and even a choice between pulse dose and continuous flow delivery. Take into account any extras that ship with the unit – everything from tubing to a car adapter – because you’ll have to pay extra for anything not included in the price. And check the company’s warranty and refund policies, too.

Tips

  • Never allow smoking or open flames around your portable oxygen concentrator.

  • Choose an active carbon mask to filter out mold, pet dander, and odors.

  • Don’t overfill the humidifier reservoir. This can cause water to back up the hose and choke the person using it.

  • Check that extra parts are readily available if you need them. These include replacement filters, nasal cannulas, and extra air tubing.

  • Don’t block the heat dissipation port. If your concentrator has a heat dissipation port, be sure it isn’t blocked in any way. A blocked port can lead to heat buildup, which can harm the machine.

  • Never leave your concentrator in the car. This is especially important during hot summer months. In addition to the possibility of theft, high temperatures can easily damage the concentrator’s circuitry.

  • Choose nasal cannulas over oxygen masks. Nasal cannulas restrict the user less, making it easier to talk, eat, and drink.
Wearable compact, lightweight units offer the greatest degree of portability.

FAQ

Q. Can I use fragrance or essential oils in my concentrator?
A.
The use of any kind of aromatherapy oils with these machines is not recommended.

Q. Can two people use an oxygen concentrator at the same time?
A.
Check with the manufacturer as to whether this is recommended for your specific concentrator. Some concentrators are able to be used by two people at once, but these are usually ones that can produce a higher volume of concentrated oxygen. You’ll probably also need to order additional hose and nasal cannulas.

Q. Can I take my portable oxygen concentrator on a plane?
A.
This varies machine to machine. The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) maintains a list of machines approved for commercial air travel. Portable oxygen concentrators that are too large or don’t have a battery option probably won’t be on the list.

The team that worked on this review
  • Ana
    Ana
    Writer
  • Bronwyn
    Bronwyn
    Editor
  • Devangana
    Devangana
    Web Producer
  • Eliza
    Eliza
    Production Manager
  • Enid
    Enid
    Editor
  • Melinda
    Melinda
    Web Producer
  • Rich
    Rich
    Writer

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