Know These 6 Troubleshooting Tips
For people with COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or other respiratory conditions, oxygen concentrators are a popular form of oxygen therapy.
Unlike oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators never need to be refilled or replaced. Instead, these electric or battery-powered devices separate nitrogen from the air surrounding you to deliver 90% to 95% oxygen. So you never run out of oxygen.
Although they are normally very reliable, sometimes your oxygen concentrator can malfunction.
Before calling a technician, here are some simple fixes to get your device working again. Keep in mind: Every oxygen concentrator is different. Check with the manufacturer for specific recommendations or you can find your device's product manual on Apria's resources webpage.
Remember, it is crucial you adhere to your prescribed oxygen therapy to help improve your quality of life.
First: Always Follow These 5 Safety Steps
Before you start troubleshooting your oxygen concentrator:
- Unplug it
- Be sure you have a backup oxygen source to ensure you can continue with your therapy
- Keep your device away from sources of smoke and heat as well as liquids, which can spill and damage your concentrator
- Never disassemble the oxygen concentrator; this poses safety risks and may invalidate your concentrator’s warranty
- Make sure you use genuine manufacturer accessories and service parts
1. If Your Oxygen Concentrator Won’t Turn On
If your device is working properly, you’ll see a green light. If you don’t and your device won’t power on, do the following:
- First, make sure your oxygen concentrator is plugged into a working electrical outlet. If it is and your device still doesn’t work, try a different outlet.
- Make sure the concentrator power button is in the OFF position and try to turn it on again. Some machines will reset and power back on. Other concentrators may have a power button that needs to be held down to power on. Regardless, you must always start in the OFF position. Check for any damage to the power cord and call your provider for a new one if it is damaged.
- If you’re using a portable oxygen concentrator, make sure the batteries charged and properly installed
- If your device stops due to a power outage, an alarm will sound; unplug the device and use your backup oxygen source until the power comes back on.
2. If You’re Getting Low or No Oxygen Flow
If your concentrator isn’t delivering the usual amount of oxygen or there’s no flow at all:
- Check the flow meter on your unit to ensure it is set to your prescribed flow
- Check the humidifier bottle for bubbling; if it’s not bubbling, disconnect and reconnect it
- Be sure the nasal cannula is properly inserted into your nose and the tubing is securely connected to the device; check for any kinks or knots in the tubing
- Replace the oxygen tubing
- Switch to your backup oxygen source and contact Apria or the manufacturer
3. If There’s a Low Oxygen Alert
Low oxygen levels can set off an alarm. Low oxygen may be due to blocked airflow.
- Be sure your concentrator has room to breathe. It should always be 12 inches away from walls, curtains, or anything else that could block the flow.
- Remove the filter and clean and dry it thoroughly before reinserting it
- Re-start your device
- Check for any kinks or blockages in the oxygen tubing
- Let the concentrator run for 5-10 minutes to allow it to level off or build up oxygen
- If the low oxygen alert remains, contact Apria or the manufacturer
4. If You See Yellow and Red Warning Lights and Hear Alarms
Yellow and red warning lights sometimes display for 10-15 minutes when you turn on your oxygen concentrator. But if they stay on, there may be an issue with your device.
If you see a constant yellow light:
- Ensure there are no kinks in the oxygen tubing and nasal cannula, which can restrict airflow
- It may be time to replace both the tubing and nasal cannula
If you see a constant yellow light and a flashing red light and hear an alarm:
- Check the oxygen tubing for kinks
- The oxygen flow meter may be too high or low; set it to your prescribed flow
- Move the concentrator away from walls or furniture to ensure proper airflow and prevent overheating
5. If the Humidifier Isn’t Working
Some people find that oxygen therapy can dry out their nasal passages. Humidifier bottles attach to your concentrator and add moisture to prevent dryness.
For the humidifier to work properly, it must be filled with distilled water. Tap water contains minerals that can clog your oxygen concentrator, causing it to malfunction.
If you’re having problems with your humidifier, empty the bottle, rinse and dry thoroughly, then fill with distilled water.
If your humidifier still doesn’t work properly:
- Make sure you have the proper amount of distilled water in the bottle; there are “minimum” and “maximum” lines on the bottle to show you the proper water level
- Ensure the bottle is properly connected and not cross threaded
- Replace the humidifier bottle, tubing, and nasal cannula
6. If Your Oxygen Concentrator Feels Hot
It’s normal for your oxygen contractor to feel slightly warm. But if it’s hot, that could be a problem. Check the following:
- Keep the concentrator less than 12 inches from walls, furniture, and curtains to ensure proper airflow
- Place the concentrator on hardwood floors rather than on carpet, if possible
- Ensure the concentrator is receiving the correct amount of electric current
We Hope These Fixes Help You Keep the Oxygen Flowing!
We hope these tips help you correct any problems you may be having with your oxygen concentrator. But if the problem continues, unplug your concentrator, use your backup oxygen source, and contact the manufacturer or Apria for more help.
1. How do I choose the right oxygen equipment for me? UCSF Health. https://www.ucsfhealth.org/education/your-oxygen-equipment.
2. (Updated 2022, June 6). Oxygen Therapy. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/23194-oxygen-therapy.
3. Starkman, E. (2021, July 29). What Is an Oxygen Concentrator? WebMD. https://www.webmd.com/lung/oxygen-concentrator-what-is.
4. (Updated 2023, August 4). Oxygen Concentrators. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/25183-oxygen-concentrators.
5. Home Oxygen Concentrator Troubleshooting. BJC Home Care. https://www.bjchomecare.org/Portals/0/PDFs/Home_Concentrator_Troubleshooting.pdf.
6. How To Use An Oxygen Concentrator. Apria Healthcare. https://www.apria.com/home-healthcare-insights/how-to-use-an-oxygen-concentrator.
7. Oguejiofo, N. (Updated 2017, September 30). How to Repair and Maintain an Oxygen Concentrator. azcentral.com. https://healthyliving.azcentral.com/how-to-repair-and-maintain-an-oxygen-concentrator-12280054.html
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