Portable Oxygen: A User's Perspective

Portable Oxygen: Weights & Durations


Portable Oxygen: A User's Perspective

Portable Oxygen: Weights & Durations

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.   

I have often been asked to identify a portable oxygen system that is both light in weight and long lasting. I recently completed an analysis, based on information from manufacturers, that I would like to share with you. The report shows that for the typical setup most portables meet a minimum requirement of weighing under 5 pounds and lasting 5 hours or more.

5 x 5 Portables
First of all, consider portables that weigh less than 5 pounds and have duration of more than 5 hours. These portable are light enough to be carried by most people. Heavier portables, weighing more than 5 pounds, are too heavy to carry and, for long distances, should be transported in a carrier. Let us also consider portables that have durations of 5 hours or more. Those with less than 5 hours duration will run out during extended shopping at the mall or a sightseeing excursion.

I call portables that weigh less than 5 pounds and last longer that 5 hours “5 x 5” portables. Such portables deliver oxygen in pulses through a device called a conserver. A conserver delivers a pulse of oxygen only when the user is inhaling. Such a device can save for later delivery the oxygen that might otherwise be dispensed when the user is not inhaling. A typical conserver has a savings ratio of 3:1; that is, it makes a cylinder of compressed oxygen or a container of liquid oxygen lasts three times longer than would be the case on continuous flow. The typical setup is a conserver, which has a 3:1 ratio, dialed to the 2 setting. I will use this typical setup in this report.

Conservers on both portable oxygen concentrators and liquid oxygen portables are built into the units. Only with compressed oxygen portables is the conserver separate from the oxygen source. At my website I report on more than a dozen such conservers, with saving ratios ranging from 2:1 to 6:1. In this report, I use the savings ratio 3:1, the savings ratio of the typical conserver.

Portable Oxygen Concentrators
Portable oxygen concentrators, like AirSep's Lifestyle and Inogen's Inogen One, can be powered by house current, an automobile’s electrical system, or by a self-contained battery. These concentrators weigh about ten pounds and have durations of 1 to 3 hours on their own batteries. To be out and about for five or more hours would require additional fully charged batteries to replace those as they become fully discharged. These portables are not 5 x 5 portables.
Compressed Oxygen Portables
Compressed oxygen portables consist of a conserver and an oxygen cylinder. Oxygen cylinder come in several sizes, identified with the letters between A and E. The B cylinder is also known as an M-6.

The D and E cylinders with a conserver have weighs of 6 and 9 pounds, respectively. With a 3:1 conserver, they have durations of 10 and 15 hours respectively, when the conserver is set to 2. The C cylinder weighs 5 pounds and has a duration of 6 hours. The B cylinder weighs 4 pounds and has a duration of 4 hours.

Of the four cylinders reported above, only the C cylinder is a 5x5. The duration of the B is low and the weight of both the D and E cylinders is high. The D and E cylinders should be transported in a carrier. A rolling duffle bag can be used to carry two B cylinders, doubling the duration.

Liquid Oxygen Portables
 Whereas, oxygen cylinders weight about the same, full or empty, liquid oxygen containers loose more than a quarter of their weigh by the time they are empty. For this report, I will use the weight when they are half full rather than their full or empty weight.

Liquid oxygen portables come in three sizes. The largest in size includes Caire"'s Stroller and  Puritan-Bennett's Companion 1000, have a mean weight of 6 pounds when half full. They do not have conservers. When set to 2 Lpm continuous flow, these portables last 8 hours.

Midsize liquid oxygen portables, including Puritan-Bennett's Companion 550 and Tyco's Helios Marathon, weigh 4 pounds. They have durations from 8 to 17 hours.

The small liquid oxygen portables, including  Tyco's Helios Plus, Caire's Spirit 300, Penox's Escort weigh 3 pounds and have durations from 7 to 10 hours.

All liquid oxygen portables last longer than 5 hours. Both the small and midsize liquid oxygen portables weight less that 5 pounds, but the largest size ones do not. Large size liquid oxygen portables should be transported in a carrier.

The weights of these portables are easily verified. They will weigh the same in your house or mine. The duration of each will probably differ when you use one, as compared with my usage because we have different breathing dynamics. In this report are manufacturer’s data about duration.

What this report should show you is that there are a lot of 5 x 5 portables and, when you find what you believe is the best one for you, take a “test drive” before committing to it.

Have questions?

Email me. Let's talk. Tell me about your experiences with using portable and transportable concentrators.

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© 2003 Copyright 
Peter M. Wilson, Ph.D. 
Founder of PortableOxygen.org

You have permission to print this document for your personal use. You also have permission to print, copy, and distribute this document to oxygen users and their caregivers.

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