Buying a second hand oxygen concentrator? Think again...

You are starting to feel a bit breathless as you climb the stairs, maybe you get tired more easily and find doing daily tasks more and more difficult because you find yourself struggling to obtain enough oxygen. These types of scenarios are all too common. A second hand oxygen concentrator appears to be an attractive solution.

However, it is extremely important that you understand some of the ‘hidden’ problems that may occur as a result of buying a second hand concentrator.

Owing to supplementary oxygen being prescribed more frequently over the last few years, there is a strong supply of second hand units available for purchase on a number of popular websites as well as privately. The reduced price is clearly very attractive to anyone on a tight budget, but buyer beware!!

patient assessed by doctor

Being assessed by your doctor or specialist

First and foremost, you should be assessed by a medically qualified person. Your breathlessness may not be because of insufficient oxygen. It may be related to an underlying problem with your heart. Your heart may not be efficiently pumping the oxygenated blood from your lungs to the rest of your body. It is extremely unwise to go and purchase an oxygen concentrator without seeing the appropriate doctor/specialist first.

It is a legal requirement in Australia that all businesses selling oxygen concentrators require an oxygen prescription for every customer. Supplementary oxygen is considered to be a medication/prescribed drug. This requirement is to protect people and ensure that their overall health has been checked and that supplementary oxygen will be of benefit to them. This requirement is imposed by the Therapeutics Goods Administration (TGA). As an oxygen concentrator is determined to be a ‘medical device’ all oxygen concentrators sold in Australia must be assessed and approved by the TGA to be included on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG).

A thorough assessment will:

  • Determine your overall health
  • Determine if you need or would benefit from supplementary oxygen
  • Determine the dose/script
woman taking supplementary oxygen

Can too much oxygen be a health risk?

Taking in supplementary oxygen when you do not need it, can in effect be detrimental to your health. There is a percentage of people who are carbon dioxide retainers. The condition is mainly found in people who are already suffering from some form of lung incapacity. Taking in more oxygen means that a person produces more carbon dioxide as a result of cellular metabolism (activity). As the lungs are already impaired, the body is less effective at removing the carbon dioxide on exhalation.

second hand oxygen concentrator units

Second hand units and warranty

Second hand units seldom come with a warranty. All you have is the information supplied by the seller. It is very much like buying a used car. Unless you know the history of a particular car, you don’t really know how it has been treated, serviced etc.

Generally, a warranty applies to the original purchaser and is not transferable. Servicing costs and replacement parts can prove to be very expensive. What is not widely known or understood is that all POCs require the sieve bed/filter to be replaced on or near to an annual basis. The time frame may vary according to usage, but an oxygen concentrator is a mechanical device and will show wear and tear over time much like a vehicle.

Matching your oxygen needs to the oxygen concentrator

Moreover, the main health concern is that you may be buying a product that is not suited to your particular oxygen requirements and lifestyle. Sometimes people purchase units that turn out to be completely unsuitable for them. Examples include someone who purchased a POC that produces pulse delivery only. This person was a mouth breather and found the unit didn’t really suit them. You will most likely not get your money back. It doesn’t mean there is anything wrong with the actual unit. Rather the unit is not right for you!

Medical grade oxygen

It is a complete waste of time buying a concentrator that does NOT produce MEDICAL GRADE oxygen. That is 90% or greater, pure oxygen. There are many cheaper concentrators available on the internet and consequently finding their way onto the second hand market. Some of these units barely produce more than ‘fresh air’. Normal air has an oxygen concentration of 21%, where some of these concentrators claim to produce oxygen levels at 25%. If you have been assessed and do require supplementary oxygen, you require medical grade oxygen!

That is why there is a vast price difference between the cheaper units available and those units manufactured by reputable companies.

supplementary oxygen requirements prescribed by doctor

To summarise

Firstly it is wise to be checked by your doctor before you decide to purchase any form of supplementary oxygen. You do need to have a very clear understanding of your supplementary oxygen requirements. Some people are on oxygen permanently – 24 hours a day. Many people are prescribed oxygen 16 hours per day, whilst other people may only require oxygen on exertion. The prescription will vary according to the individual person’s physical health.

Secondly it is far smarter in the long run to take the time to inform yourself about the different products in the marketplace. Buying on price alone is very unwise and you may well find yourself with a ‘lemon’. You may well be unable to have your second hand unit serviced let alone have any capacity to claim any problems under warranty.

Finally, please don’t expect trained oxygen specialist staff to answer your questions when you have absolutely no intention of buying from them or any other company.

The internet may have changed many things in our lives, but the costs and pressures of running a business are real.

The benefits of buying an oxygen concentrator from a reputable company

So, take time to have a think about why you might buy from a company that:

  • Works with you to identify the best oxygen concentrator to meet your script and lifestyle needs
  • Provides specialist support and
  • Assists you if your unit needs servicing. Oxygen concentrators are like any other piece of machinery. They will require servicing from time to time.