Portable vs. Home Oxygen Concentrators
Medically Edited and Reviewed by Dr. Erin Zinkhan MD, BSBE
Portable Oxygen Concentrators vs. Home Oxygen Concentrator
Oxygen concentrators offer greater convenience and flexibility than oxygen tanks for patients who require supplemental oxygen. Oxygen concentrators are reliable and safe. There are two types of concentrators — home oxygen concentrators and portable oxygen concentrators. Portable oxygen concentrators are highly mobile and can operate from multiple power sources. This article will compare portable and stationary oxygen concentrators and discuss the top 3 ranking concentrators for each type.
What are the big difference between a portable oxygen concentrator and a stationary oxygen concentrator?
Important differences exist between portable oxygen concentrators and stationary or home oxygen concentrators. Although both types of concentrators are designed to provide concentrated oxygen to patients, the differences between portable and stationary oxygen concentrators are significant. The key differences between these two types of concentrators are four major factors— size and weight, oxygen output, power options, and price.
Size and Weight
Size and weight are significant factors to consider when you must carry your oxygen with you. Portable oxygen concentrators are nearly half the size of a home oxygen concentrator. The smaller size of a portable oxygen concentrator makes it easier to negotiate narrow doorways, crowded hallways, busy shopping aisles, and other tight areas. For portability, smaller is better. Traveling with a stationary concentrator is difficult.
Portable concentrators average only 1/3 the weight of a stationary concentrator. Portable oxygen concentrators that weigh less than 10 pounds are often carried in a backpack or shoulder bag. Concentrators weighing between 10 and 20 pounds are often pulled behind the patient in lightweight carts. Concentrators above 20 pounds are usually considered to be stationary concentrators. Although nearly all stationary concentrators have wheels to help move them from room to room, they are not intended to be used outside of the home or office.
Both the largest and the smallest oxygen concentrators are made by the same company, AirSep. The AirSep Intensity 10 has a size of 6488 cubic inches and a weight of 58 pounds while the AirSep Focus has a size of 76.8 cubic inches and a weight of 1.75 pounds, including the battery.
The trade-off between smaller size and lower weight is in oxygen output. Smaller portable concentrators produce less oxygen than the larger stationary concentrators. To reduce the weight and size of a portable concentrator, the oxygen generator is smaller. The smaller generators currently produce a maximum oxygen output of less than 3 liters per minute. Most home oxygen concentrators provide 5 to 10 liters of oxygen per minute, a two to five-fold increase in the amount of oxygen per minute compared to portable oxygen concentrators. Patients who require five or more liters per minute of oxygen need to have a stationary oxygen concentrator because a portable oxygen concentrator will not meet their oxygen needs.
Another consideration for oxygen output is continuous flow oxygen vs. pulse flow oxygen. Portable oxygen concentrators function by producing pulse flow oxygen to reduce the size and weight of the concentrator. Pulse flow oxygen delivers a puff of oxygen while the patient is breathing in and no oxygen while the patient is breathing out. Pulse flow oxygen allows a portable oxygen concentrator to conserve its concentrated oxygen. Continuous oxygen flows constantly during both breathing in and out. Most patients who require oxygen can use pulse flow, but some require more oxygen and must use continuous oxygen to meet their needs. You should speak with your physician about which flow of oxygen would be the most appropriate for your individual needs.
Oxygen concentrators capable of operating on multiple power sources allow greater flexibility in a patient's lifestyle. Some concentrators can operate from their own internal power source and only require recharging after two to nine hours of operation. Other concentrators also can operate from a car, boat or RV battery. Most stationary oxygen concentrators can operate only from an AC power source, while most portable oxygen concentrators can operate from a DC or AC power source.
A significant amount of technology is required to produce the smaller size and weight of portable oxygen concentrators compared to stationary oxygen concentrators. Manufacturing costs are higher for smaller and lighter oxygen concentrators. Portable oxygen concentrator prices are 3 to 6 times greater than the price of a stationary oxygen concentrator.
Stationary oxygen concentrators have higher oxygen output and are priced more economically. Portable oxygen concentrators are smaller and lighter and can be charged from multiple types of power sources. Patients requiring 5 or more liters of oxygen per minute require a home oxygen concentrator. For patients who live active lives and are often away from an AC power source a portable oxygen concentrator works well.
Many patients choose both a stationary and portable concentrator. Because the lifespan of a portable concentrator ranges between 800 to 1,500 hours, it is wise to use a less expensive stationary concentrator when at home and save the portable concentrator for when you are on the go. Most patients use their stationary oxygen concentrators at home more than they use portable oxygen concentrators away from their home. Using home oxygen concentrators while at home and saving hours on your portable concentrator for when you are travelling also saves money.
Best Oxygen Concentrators for Both Continuous/ Pulse Flow Oxygen and 24/7 Operation
Patients who travel frequently may want to consider one of the 24/7 capable portable concentrators. These types of portable concentrators can function well for several weeks with continuous use. Currently there are four 24/7 capable portable oxygen concentrators that can provide both continuous flow oxygen and pulse flow oxygen. Three of these concentrators are listed below.