Since medical grade O2 devices are regulated by the federal government, a prescription by a licensed physician is required in order to purchase any medical oxygen concentrators for sale. A non-medical device is often referred to as an oxygen bar and is most often used for "recreational" O2. These types of oxygen machines do not require a prescription from a doctor. The SeQual Regalia is an example of an non medical devices.
Types of Concentrators: Portable vs. Home
The two types: a Portable and Stationary Units. A stationary or home device usually features built-in wheels to move from room to room and is powered by AC current (plugging it into the wall). They are able to operate continuously 24/7 and produce higher liter-per-minute flows than their portable counterparts.
A portable machine is smaller, lightweight and runs off of a battery rather than just AC current. They operate from AC current and in-fact, they charge their batteries from household AC current. Portable oxygen machines also come with a DC power cord to operate in your car or RV. The DC power cord allows you to use breathing therapy while in a vehicle, conserving your battery power for when their is no external power source.
How Oxygen Concentrators Work: Continuous Flow vs Pulse Flow
A O2 concentrator filters air from its surroundings, compresses it and then dispenses it in a continuous flow or a pulse flow. A continuous flow device continually delivers a concentrated flow of oxygen to the patient. Continuous flow oxygen is measured in liters-per-minute (LPM). These devices provide continuous flow oxygen. Only a few portable machines can provide continuous flow and these oxygen machines are slightly larger than the "carry type" travel units that accompany the patient in a backpack or handbag. The continuous flow portable devices usually have built-on wheels or a cart for easy transport.
A pulse flow unit is usually associated with the "carry type" oxygen machines. A pulse flow unit delivers concentrated bursts, or pulses of oxygen, every time you inhale. These pulse doses are measured in what is called a bolus output. Pulse flow O2 concentrators are usually smaller in size and weight less than 10 pounds.
Challenges for Oxygen Therapy
There is always a demand for a lighter, smaller, quieter oxygen machines. The problem is that the quieter the machine, the bigger it usually is. The smaller devices typically aren't capable of continuous flow at all and they are louder than bigger concentrators. The reason being that the compressor has to work harder if it is a smaller. If the patient needs a liter-per-minute flow of 6 or more, there are only a few machines capable of this and they are bigger and louder than 5 liter concentrators. Another consideration is the aesthetics and look of the unit. Since a stationary unit is designed for the home, many customers have come to regard it as a piece of furniture, rather than just a tool for providing oxygen. The Caire Companion 5 was designed to be more aesthetically pleasing than some other competing models.