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Maintaining Your Portable Oxygen Concentrator

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Dear COPD Coach,
I recently purchased a portable oxygen concentrator. As you probably know, it was an expensive purchase. It is very important that it last for a long time because I will be paying for it for a long time. What advice would you give to make it last?

POC Buyer

Dear POC Buyer,
I was very happy to find your letter as it addresses a very important topic. As you said, the purchase of a portable concentrator can be an expensive proposition for many, and there are some definite things you can do to help keep it in good shape.

Here are some basic tips:

Portable O2 Concentrator

  • The unit and supplemental battery must be immediately charged after each use. Do not allow the unit or batteries to remain un-charged for any length of time.
  • The unit must not be exposed to any environment with tobacco smoke, wood smoke, or chemical fumes. The unit will pick up the odors and it is next to impossible to clean the order out!
  • The units are fragile. Do not drop or handle roughly! Take particular care in plugging in the AC adapter and your cannula, as these connection points are easy to break!
  • When you clean the unit, use a slightly damp cloth, and do not use strong cleaning products on it.
  • Check your manual to see where the filter is located, and if the filter is able to be cleaned or replaced. In either case, follow the manufacturer’s recommendations on cleaning and replacement.
  • Keep the unit stored in a safe and clean location.

The most common things that go wrong with concentrators are:

  • Batteries: The batteries are only good for a certain number of charges before they start to lose their capacity. If your batteries are not lasting as long as they once did, it is time to consider replacing them. External batteries can be purchased from your original supplier or elsewhere on the internet. Some units have internal batteries, and these must be replaced by the manufacturer. Batteries can be very expensive, so it might be a good idea to start putting aside some money for their eventual replacement. Most portable concentrator companies provide only a one-year warranty on batteries. By keeping the batteries charged when not in use, you will greatly increase their lifespan!
  • Sieve Beds: The sieve beds are the part of the concentrator that removes nitrogen from the air and allows you to get close to pure oxygen. Over time, the sieve beds can become saturated and might require replacement. This will usually be indicated by an alarm message from the concentrator. If you send your unit in for battery replacement or any other fault, ask them to check the sieve beds, and if necessary recondition them.
  • Broken connections: As mentioned earlier, the nozzle where your hose plugs in is often easy to break, as is the plug for the AC adapter. Take your time plugging in! Other than the batteries, most concentrators carry at least a three-year warranty.

I hope this answers your question, and please accept our best wishes for continued activity and better breathing!

The COPD Coach

Ask the Expert is aimed at providing information for individuals with COPD to take to your doctor, and is not in any way intended to be medical advice. If you would like to submit a question to the Coaches Corner email us at coachescorner@copdfoundation.org. We would love to hear your questions and comments. You can address your emails to any of the following: COPD Coach, Caregiver Coach, COPD Doctor or COPD RT.

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