7 Reasons To Turn Off Your Oxygen Concentrator


The demand for portable oxygen concentrators is predicted to grow by 11% in 2023. The surge in demand also comes with several consumer queries. Because oxygen concentrators are designed to operate 24/7, many consumers question when they should switch them off.

An oxygen concentrator should be turned off during maintenance, smoking, non-use hours and in particular seasons. In general, an oxygen concentrator should be switched off after 7-8 hours of continuous use (or overnight) unless advised otherwise by your medical practitioner, or if you are on longterm or nocturnal oxygen therapy.

Regardless of the concentrators built-in features, it needs some down-time to ensure a trouble-free performance and avoid technical problems. This article goes through each of the times you should switch your oxygen concentrator off and discusses the pros and cons of leaving it on all the time.

When to Switch Off an Oxygen Concentrator

Although some manufacturers claim their oxygen concentrators can run consistently, switching them off after 7-8 hours of constant use is generally recommended. Not only does it increase the lifespan of the concentrator, but it also improves its functionality.

Provided below are some general recommendations regarding when you should or could turn off your oxygen concentrator – however, at all times operate your concentrator in accordance with your doctor’s advice, especially if you are on long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) or palliative oxygen therapy (POT).

Here’s when you should turn off your oxygen concentrator.

1. Night Time

You can switch off the oxygen concentrator before heading to bed, especially if you do not require oxygen therapy while you sleep – this is most common for people on short burst or ambulatory oxygen therapy (AOT).

In any case, if you are headed to bed without oxygen therapy be sure to turn off your concentrator to prevent it overheating.

Turning off your oxygen concentrator at night is not recommended for everyone, and certainly not for people on nocturnal oxygen therapy (NOT). Make sure you seek your doctor’s advice and follow their instructions.

2. Season

Summers bring high humidity levels and scorching heat. While this leads to exasperated breathing issues, it also poses a risk to your oxygen concentrator.

Blazing summer heat can be hard on the unit. Therefore, keeping them relatively cool and in an environment with optimal temperatures is essential.

Apart from placing them in well-ventilated areas and air-conditioned rooms, you can turn them off for a period of 20-30minutes to prevent overheating. This gives the internal components time to cool down.

Otherwise, it is common for oxygen units to heat up during constant use in summers. 

3. Maintenance

Maintenance of oxygen concentrators cuts the need for expensive repairs and increases their shelf life. Almost every oxygen unit brand recommends occasional or regular cleaning to keep the machine up and running. This may require cleaning the dust and debris off the concentrator’s filter.

Because the device constantly draws the outside air, the tiny dust particles tend to clog the filter. So, make sure you switch off the concentrator by unplugging it from the main power source. This will ensure hassle-free cleaning and keep the device and user safe.

Most oxygen unit brands recommend cleaning the device with a mild disinfectant and a damp cloth. Always unplug the machine and let it rest for a few minutes before cleaning.

Using a damp cloth and liquid detergents with an operational unit poses a risk to you and your system. It may lead to electrical shocks and unpleasant incidents. Therefore, turning off the device is clearly best before cleaning.

Plentiful Air has a complete guide to cleaning oxygen concentrators available here.

4. Filter Replacements

Trapped dust and debris obstruct the concentrator’s filter, reducing its capacity for proper airflow. Ultimately, it compromises the efficiency of the machine.

While regularly cleaning the filters helps unclog them and give passage to the air, you’d need to replace them every 6-12 months. So, filter replacements also require you to switch off the machine to ensure a seamless replacement. Working with a running system can lead to hazardous accidents.

5. Smoking

Smoking is the number one cause of fires related to oxygen services in the home.

Doctors prohibit smoking near the oxygen concentrator and recommend keeping the portable device in another room when smoking. However, you can also turn it off if you stay in the same room.

This would require you to remove the cannula and wait for at least 10 minutes after you’ve turned off the device. However, it’s still ideal to turn off the oxygen concentrator and leave the room if you are going to smoke or burn anything in the room.

6. Non-Use Hours

There’s no point in keeping the unit on when you aren’t using it. In fact, Hendrick Health, a non-profit health institution, warns about non-operational hours.

Instruction manuals usually advise not to leave the nasal cannula on cushions or the bed covering when turned on and not in use. The health institution also recommends turning the device off during non-use hours.

There are other reasons for not running the concentrator when it’s not in use.

For instance, your pulse dose oxygen unit releases a puff of oxygen based on your breath rate. In doing so, it senses your breath via your inhaling air pressure. This informs the device about the time to release the oxygen puff or “bolus.”

The machine’s sensors are incredibly sensitive. If it fails to detect the patient’s breath, it won’t know when to release the bolus. Ultimately, its battery will deplete quicker than it actually should.

7. Oxygen Concentrator Type

The type of oxygen concentrator you own is a decisive factor for the unit’s usage. Stationary vs. portable concentrators have different requirements, given their functionality and design.

For instance, stationary concentrators weigh around 40-60 pounds, while portable ones only weigh 5-20 pounds.

Stationary oxygen concentrators are obviously heavier and naturally require more off-times to ensure smooth operation. The bulky device machinery needs to rest to avoid overheating.

While this does not imply portable units need to be switched off only occasionally, it simply means that stationary units are often high-maintenance.

Related Questions

Pros and Cons of Leaving an Oxygen Concentrator On Continuously

Leaving an oxygen concentrator constantly on during non-use hours doesn’t make much sense. However, keeping it on has its perks in certain situations. Below, we’ll discuss the advantages and disadvantages of leaving an oxygen concentrator on all the time.

Pros

1. Uninterrupted oxygen supply.

  • Leaving an oxygen concentrator constantly on provides an unobstructed oxygen supply. This is helpful for patients with more severe breathing issues. 

2. Better for emergencies.

  • Asthmatic patients that are on oxygen therapy may need an oxygen supply at any given time. A ‘turned-off’ machine may pose a risk to their health.

3. Oxygen supply during the night.

  • Doctors do not recommend all patients switch off the oxygen concentrator at night. Some may require oxygen supply even when sleeping. Therefore, turning the device off may deprive them of oxygen, risking their well-being.  

Cons

1. Increased risk.

  • Keeping the oxygen concentrator on can cause overheating issues. Consequently, the internal components of the device may damage beyond repair.

2. Compromised functionality.

  • Running a machine uninterrupted will reduce its functionality. After all, devices that run on electricity need down-time to keep them up and running.

3. Difficult maintenance.

  • Cleaning the concentrator and dusting the debris with a working machine can be incredibly challenging and dangerous. A liquid detergent spilling over its internal components can expire the machine.

4. Low shelf life.

  • Overworking a machine beyond its capacity will negatively affect its shelf life. Consequently, your device would need repairs and replacements sooner than it should.

Can An Oxygen Concentrator Run 24 Hours?

Oxygen concentrators are designed to run 24 hours a day and 7 days a week. Their in-built components are robust enough to tackle constant operational hours. This is especially true for portable units delivering pulse-flow oxygen during sleep.

However, you may encounter overheating problems and unexpected stopping of the machine. Therefore, experts recommend turning off the unit after 7-8 hours of use. Let the device rest for up to 20-30 minutes before turning it on again.

Your doctor may suggest a constant oxygen supply, given the severity of your health problem. If that’s the case, a patient can alternatively use the standby cylinder during non-working hours of an oxygen concentrator.

This will enhance the unit’s compressor lifespan.

How Long Can An Oxygen Concentrator Run Continuously?

Oxygen concentrators can run nonstop all day and night long. Patients with hypoxemic chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) need long-term oxygen therapy (LTOT) to increase their survival time. This may require them to use oxygen 15-24 hours a day.

Because oxygen concentrators are the primary oxygen source for acutely ill patients, the units are designed to keep up with the patient’s oxygen needs.

Therefore, the system can run for long hours. But, giving rest to the machine time and again is crucial to improving its average lifespan. A patient can always switch to a standby cylinder when turning off the concentrator after hours of continuous use.

Is It Ok to Leave an Oxygen Concentrator On All Night?

If your oxygen saturation is 94% or less, you need immediate treatment with consistent use of the device. This may require you to use the concentrator during the day and night to meet your oxygen needs.

Therefore, leaving an oxygen concentrator on all night is ok to keep the patient in good health. However, make sure you purchase the concentrator from a reputable brand that can withstand long running hours.

On a side note, oxygen saturation below 90% signifies a clinical emergency, and you may need treatment beyond a concentrator to recover.

What Factors Determine an Oxygen Concentrator’s Ability to Run for Long Hours?

The quality of an oxygen concentrator’s components significantly impacts its capacity to run consistently. The better the devices components, the higher it’s chance to run efficiently for long hours. Therefore, we recommend purchasing your device from a reputable oxygen concentrator brand.

Other influencing factors include the level of oxygen required as this impacts the load on the concentrator, and its location – ensure it is well ventilated to help avoid overheating issues.

What Are the Two Main Types of Oxygen Concentrators?

Although all oxygen concentrators cater to your oxygen needs, their operation differs. The two primary types of oxygen concentrators include the following:

  • Pulse dose. Pulse doses are often referred to as smart oxygen concentrators because they can detect your breathing pattern and release oxygen accordingly. Therefore, its oxygen release differs per minute.
  • Continuous flow. This oxygen unit does not detect the pulse but supplies consistent oxygen every minute – so long as it’s switched on. It will stop providing oxygen only when you’ll turn it off.

How Many Hours a Day Should I Use My Oxygen Concentrator?

How many hours a day you should use the oxygen concentrator depends on the severity of your illness and the doctor’s advice. However, individuals needing a constant oxygen supply (or on longterm oxygen therapy (LTOT) must use it for at least 15 hours daily.

But again, this varies depending on the patient’s case. A few patients need oxygen only during exercise hours (exertional oxygen); others require it at night (nocturnal oxygen).

Besides, you may need oxygen the entire day to stay active and feel better. Therefore, it is best to talk to your doctor to determine the precise hours you need oxygen supply.

How Do You Turn An Oxygen Concentrator Off?

To turn off an oxygen concentrator remove the mask/nasal cannula and turn the power switch on the concentrator to “off”. Do not adjust the liter flow switch when turning off the device.

The power switch’s location may vary depending on the concentrator type and brand; the location can usually be found in the user manual if you are unsure.

Can An Oxygen Concentrator Explode?

An oxygen concentrator cannot explode because the oxygen is not flammable. However, the oxygen may burn a fire quicker.

The Island Home Medical enlists a few precautionary measures to avoid the spread of fire.  

  • Avoid smoking near an oxygen concentrator.
  • Place your electric equipment 5 feet away from your oxygen concentrator
  • Avoid using oil or grease on your oxygen unit. In fact, keep your device away from oil, grease, gasoline, paints, and aerosis.
  • Steer clear from using petroleum jelly with a switched-on oxygen concentrator. You can always use water-based lubricants to moisten your skin.
  • Avoid using open flames near the oxygen unit. This means you must not place the device in the kitchen.
  • Make sure you never store the concentrator in your car’s trunk
  • Place the oxygen concentrator in a ventilated area and avoid keeping it in an enclosed space or closer to the heater.
  • Place it cautiously in a safe space to avoid the risk of knocking it over.
  • Keep out of children’s reach.

Can an Oxygen Concentrator Overheat?

Although all oxygen concentrators equip a heat safety feature, it isn’t uncommon for the device to heat up after long hours of operation. Therefore, the key is to turn it off every 7-8 hours. You can always turn it on again after 20-30 minutes of rest.

Does Using an Oxygen Concentrator Mitigate the Feeling of Shortness of Breath?

An oxygen concentrator helps provide extra oxygen, but does not always mitigate the feeling of shortness of breath. In fact, if symptoms are severe, additional treatments may be needed alongside a concentrator to feel better.

This may include:

  • Taking your rescue medications that contain bronchodilator medicine
  • Using special breathing exercises
  • Speaking to your doctor about the walking aids.

You can always refer to the fact sheet of breathing exercises from the American Lung Association.

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