Resetting An Oxygen Concentrator – How And When To Do It

To reset an oxygen concentrator, switch it off, disconnect it from the power source, and remove the battery pack. After 30 minutes, place the battery back, plug in the device, and turn it on.

Oxygen concentrators provide uninterrupted and regulated oxygen to patients with various lung diseases. They are essential, life-saving medical equipment often required all day long. If a concentrator stops working, it is crucial to immediately fix the problem by resetting the device.

This article explains what oxygen concentrators are, how they work, and why they may start acting up. Then, to help solve each issue, we take you through a step-by-step reset process for different concentrators.

How Oxygen Concentrators Work

When we breathe in, our blood draws oxygen from the air. This oxygen is used to produce energy, which then carries out the body’s vital processes. Understandably, survival without a steady oxygen supply is not possible.

People with pulmonary (respiratory) disorders cannot inflate their lungs properly. Tissue damage, fluid buildup, spasms, infections, bronchitis, and several other conditions lead to impaired breathing.

This naturally disrupts the oxygen supply.

Oxygen concentrators are devices that extract pure oxygen from the surrounding air and supply it to the patient.

They consist of a compressor, sieve filters, oxygen tan, mask, and a pressure valve. Here’s how an oxygen concentrator works in more detail:

  • Once you turn the device on, the compressor pulls surrounding air inside the unit.
  • The compressor further adjusts the air pressure per the system settings.
  • Next, the air is passed through two sieve filters made of zeolite.
  • We know that air is a mixture of gases like nitrogen, oxygen, argon, neon, helium, etc. Since the patient’s lung absorption is already compromised, it is crucial to supply only pure oxygen.

Zeolite is a crystalline material that only allows oxygen to pass through. It is essentially a nitrogen scrubber that adsorbs all the gases from the air and only allows oxygen to pass through.

  • Pure oxygen is stored in the cylinder. The gas is then gradually supplied to the patient via a mask or nasal tube. The type of concentrator determines the oxygen flow.

In continuous flow, concentrators transmit a preset dose every minute until the device is turned off. Whereas, pulse dose machines sense the patient’s breathing pattern and accordingly adjust the flow, i.e., they release oxygen depending on your inhalation rate.

  • The extracted gases like nitrogen, helium, etc., are then emitted back into the room.

Who needs Oxygen Concentrators

Oxygen concentrators are advised for people that have lower than normal oxygen saturation (SO2) levels, i.e., SO2 < 95%. This condition is called hypoxia, characterized by wheezing, sweating, labored breathing, fast heart rate, confusion, etc. It may arise in the following diseases:

  • Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)
  • Asthma
  • Pneumonia
  • Bronchitis
  • Covid-19

It is crucial to restore the oxygen supply immediately because oxygen depletion can cause severe and possibly irreversible damage to the heart and brain if allowed to persist.

When To Reset An Oxygen Concentrator

Here are five reasons why your oxygen concentrator might need a reset:

1. Low Or No Oxygen Flow

Disruption in oxygen flow is one of the most common problems people face with oxygen concentrators. You will most likely need to reset the system after restoring the oxygen supply.

Usually, oxygen flow is adjusted according to your specific condition. Correct flow rate is critical for effective oxygen therapy, and it is always mentioned in LPM (liters per minute) on the doctor’s prescription.

Since lung diseases are often progressive, it is normal for the supplemental oxygen requirement to increase over time. However, if the patient complains of severe discomfort and fatigue and starts experiencing shortness of breath, it might indicate a low or severed oxygen supply from the machine.

Generally, concentrators have a green LED light to signal that the machine is working properly. If it is on, here are some external factors that might be causing the issue:

  • Cannula or tubing has come loose or is not properly secured
  • Oxygen is leaking out of the mask and/or tube through cracks
  • Dust or dirt buildup is blocking the inlet and obstructing the airflow

Some concentrators have a no-breath error display that signals when the device detects no breath for a long time.

Ensure that the mask (or cannula) has no leaks and is in the correct size. Its seal should not let oxygen escape into the room.

Then clean the concentrator and components to make sure that dust or dirt is not causing the problem. To clean an oxygen concentrator follow these steps:

  • Clean the exterior part with a soft cloth. Dampen the cloth and wipe the surface again. Follow it with a swipe of lint-free cloth to dry.
  • Refer to your user manual to locate and remove the sieve filter. Apart from separating other gases from oxygen, the filter also prevents airborne contaminants from entering the system.

Note: cleaning the filter regularly is essential to keep the dirt, debris, and other pollutants from building up inside the unit.

  • Gently dust it with a dry cloth to remove trapped particles. Then, rinse the filter to get rid of excess, hardened clogs.
  • Add mild dishwashing soap to warm water, and rinse the mask and cannula thoroughly.
  • Let everything dry before starting the machine again.

If the wheezing and discomfort do not resolve after all the troubleshooting steps and cleaning, discuss the symptoms with your physician as soon as possible. They will assess your oxygen saturation level, and upgrade the oxygen flow if need be.

2. Oxygen Error

An oxygen error implies disturbances in any of the five main steps of the concentrator’s operation, i.e.,

  1. Drawing in air
  2. Compressing the air
  3. Separating oxygen from the air
  4. Adjusting the oxygen’s pressure
  5. Transferring the gas to the patient.

These issues can arise from serious technical disruptions, so you may need professional help. However, before contacting customer support, it is recommended to reset the system to see if it solves the problem.

If you unsure what to set your oxygen concentrator at, Plentiful Air has more information available here.

3. Oxygen Purity Error

Oxygen purity error is one of the several control displays that help you run the concentrator smoothly. The treatment won’t be efficient if the oxygen supply is contaminated (with airborne pollutants or other gases).

The causes include:

  • The sieve filter is saturated and unable to function properly. You would need to either clean or replace the filter.
  • Mask or tube has a crack that allows external air to mix with pure oxygen. This calls for a change of mask and/or tube.

Once the issue has been addressed, you need to reset the system to get it running properly again.

4. Overheating

Oxygen concentrators are electrical devices that can go into overdrive and heat up (especially if used for more than 15 hours a day). This is dangerous for other components, as overheating prevents it from working properly and damages the wiring.

To prevent any irreversible secondary complications, turn your concentrator off whenever it feels abnormally hot to touch. Then, once the machine cools down, reset it before using it again.

Plentiful Air has a detailed guide to knowing when to turn your oxygen concentrator off available here.

5. Charging Error

All oxygen concentrators have a specified runtime (mentioned in the product description). If your device runs out of charge quickly or refuses to turn on, you might notice a charging error on display.

This might occur due to an improperly plugged power cable. Switch off the concentrator, unplug it, and then plug it in again.

Make sure the power source (socket) is actually working. You can confirm this by connecting other devices to the switchboard and seeing if they are working.

If the issue persists, you might need to replace your battery or charging cable. After doing so, you need to reset the concentrator before using it again.

How To Reset An Oxygen Concentrator

Oxygen concentrators usually do not have a reset button. However, you can hard reset them by using the power button and removing the battery. Here are the steps:

  1. Turn the concentrator off. Ensure to also remove the plug from the outlet.
  2. Remove the battery back.
  3. After 30 minutes, put the battery back.
  4. Reconnect the concentrator to the power supply, and turn it on.

These four easy steps complete the hard reset. Ensure to fully charge the battery after the reset.

If you have done adequate troubleshooting of the device, the error messages will disappear after the reset. However, if they stay as is, contact customer support for your specific brand for help.

For more information, you can refer to the user manual of your concentrator. Here are some of the best oxygen concentrator brands and their manuals:

InvacareInvacare Perfecto2 V Oxygen Concentrator 
DevilbissDriver Devilbiss 10 L Oxygen Concentrator
VisionAire 5AIRSEP VisionAire 5 LPM Oxygen Concentrator
InogenInogen One G3 Oxygen Concentrator
PhillipsPhilips EverFlo Oxygen Concentrator

How To Keep An Oxygen Concentrator From Malfunctioning

Strictly following safety and maintenance guidelines is essential to keep the oxygen concentrator up and running optimally for a long time.

  • Don’t smoke near or around a concentrator. While all airborne pollutants are risky for a person with impaired breathing, tobacco smoke’s toxins are a serious concern and can severely debilitate health.
  • Clean your device regularly. It is generally recommended to thoroughly clean a concentrator at least once monthly. However, you need to clean more frequently if you live in a poor AQI (Air Quality Index) area.

If your user manual does not advise against it, you may also disinfect the cylinder and sieve filter once in a while with a vinegar solution (1:1 White vinegar and water).

  • Replace your filter regularly. Sieve filters typically last a year. However, this may vary depending on the filter quality and pollution.
  • Change your masks and cannula after a month or two of use. Ensure to always buy a mask that fits your face and completely seals the airflow. The type of mask also influences oxygen flow, so check with your physician beforehand.

Also, examine the tube and mask regularly for possible leaks. In case of cracks or bends, change them immediately.

  • Let the concentrator’s battery charge completely before removing it from the power source.
  • Only get the original brand’s customer support to service the machine.

What Does The Yellow Light On An Oxygen Concentrator Mean?

A yellow light on an oxygen concentrator indicates low oxygen purity. A beeping noise often accompanies the yellow light. Error codes or signs are also usually displayed on the concentrator screen to identify the specific issue.

Here are some of the reasons why your machine might be acting up:

  • The damaged compressor motor is preventing adequate air inflow and pressure adjustments
  • Airborne contaminants have clogged the system and are hampering adequate oxygen separation.
  • The concentrator is turning on and off automatically, either due to battery error or voltage fluctuation, interfering with the process.

If the yellow light and alarm stay after resetting the concentrator, turn the concentrator off and immediately call customer support.

What Does The Red Light On My Oxygen Concentrator Mean?

The red light on oxygen concentrators occurs when there is critically low or severed oxygen flow or purity. This should immediately rectified for the safety of the patient.

What Does The Green Light On An Oxygen Concentrator Mean?

A Green LED on a oxygen concentrator illuminates if the internal system, i.e., charging, air compression, pressure adjustment, etc., is working well. However, in some portable devices, a green light accompanied by a beep also signals a low battery.

If your concentrator lights up green and is beeping simultaneously, connect the device to a power source, and let it charge completely. Once done, reset the device. If the error still shows, check with a professional and ask if the machine’s battery needs replacement.

Other than battery issues, this error might also arise due to damaged internal wiring. Several factors like voltage fluctuations, frequent overheating, impact, or incorrect placement and connection of wires during repair can harm the wiring, and prevent the device from charging.

What Does Blinking Red Or Yellow Light With Intermittent Alarm Mean?

Oxygen concentrators blink red or yellow and intermittently set off an alarm to indicate issues with internal sensors. This might occur due to water seepage or dust buildup.

Oxygen concentrators have sensors that detect inhalation. In the pulse dose concentrators, this is used to regulate the process. Whereas in the continuous flow machines, the sensors help the device detect and signal any issue with the oxygen flow or patient’s breathing.

Russell Singleton

Russell holds a Bachelor of Science (Environmental and Marine Geoscience) with Class I Honors. He is currently completing his doctorate in science and is passionate about all earth processes, especially isotope geochemistry and paleohydrology.

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