When my friend’s US-based mom contracted COVID, she wasn’t admitted to the hospital. Instead, the hospital sent her an oxygen concentrator to use at home, and that’s what she used until she recovered.
When we think of oxygen, we think of those big tanks that store oxygen, and those are really the standard option. Hospitals use them on admitted patients because they can supply 100% oxygen at high flow rates.
But what if we can’t get into a hospital because the hospitals are all full?
Already, this is happening in our city. Quarantine classification notwithstanding, the fact is — the real story on the ground is — our hospitals are not only full, they’re overflowing. The waiting lists in some hospitals are a kilometer long. People are literally dying while waiting to be admitted. Even funeral homes are full. And while we’re trying our best to not get infected in the first place, there are still a lot of factors that are out of our hands.
Some are actually buying their own oxygen tanks — hoping they will never have to be used, but preparing for the possibility that a loved one might get infected, and might need oxygen supplementation because their oxygen levels are going down, but might have to face a long wait for a hospital slot.
An alternative to an oxygen tank is an oxygen concentrator.
It’s a machine that extracts oxygen from room air and concentrates it. From the machine, oxygen can be delivered to a patient through a nasal cannula / nasal prongs.
Earlier this year, the World Health Organization secured 50 oxygen concentrators for the Philippines, stating in their website, “Early initiation of oxygen therapy can help treat severe symptoms of COVID-19 and is associated with a decrease in loss of life among critical patients.” Oxygen concentrators are included in the WHO guidance on oxygen delivery devices, part of their document “COVID-19 Technical specifications for procurement of oxygen therapy and monitoring devices.”
The good thing about oxygen concentrators is that, unlike oxygen tanks, they don’t need to be refilled. They don’t run out of oxygen because they get their oxygen from room air. And that’s really important because, if oxygen supplies grow scarce, we can be pretty sure that oxygen suppliers will prioritize hospitals (as they should). And even if you have a super-big tank of oxygen on hand, if you face an even super-longer wait for hospital admission, there’s a good chance that oxygen will run out.
The disadvantages of oxygen concentrators include the following:
Having said that, with the Delta variant already here, it makes a lot of sense (for me, anyway) to go for an oxygen concentrator despite its limitations. Aside from the ones already mentioned in the previous section, the advantages of an oxygen concentrator include:
Besides — yes, oxygen concentrators are expensive, but let’s be honest — high-end phones cost even more even though they are supplanted by new models year after year and they don’t save lives.
If you’ve weighed things and made the decision to buy an oxygen concentrator, you can find below some of the facts and tips that I’ve gathered in the past couple of days that I hope you will also find helpful when you make your purchase.
Disclaimer: I am not affiliated with any oxygen concentrator manufacturer, distributor, or marketer, and none of them are incentivizing this article in any way whatsoever, so it has no impact on me whether or not you buy an oxygen concentrator, or whether you buy this brand or that. The only way it will benefit me is if it saves lives, contributes to eventually stopping this pandemic, and thus indirectly keeps my loved ones healthy and safe.
It’s recommended that you get one of the “branded” oxygen concentrators because there are quite a few unreliable ones from C***a in the market. Some of the brands I’ve seen that are generally considered reliable include Owgels, Yuwell, and Indoplas.
A friend whose company bought oxygen concentrators in NCR got Yuwell-branded machines from AVS Medical Equipment Trading.
If you’re living outside NCR:
If you’re living in Cebu and would like to deal with a supplier in person (as opposed to via Shopee/Lazada) a cousin and a friend got their Owgels oxygen concentrators from HLink.
One question that always comes up when talking about oxygen concentrators is what model to get. Usually, friends ask whether it’s better to get the 3L or the 5L model. The short answer: it depends on what you anticipate your oxygen needs will be.
Aside from the obvious differences like size and price and portability, different models have different capacities for oxygen flow.
For example, here’s a table comparing the different Owgels oxygen concentrator models.
Oxygen purity at 1 lpm
Oxygen purity at 3 lpm
Oxygen purity at 5 lpm
Oxygen purity at 10 lpm
Classic 603 (3L)
Heavy Duty 5L
Heavy Duty 5L Touchscreen
Heavy Duty 10L
You can see that the cheapest and most portable oxygen concentrator can supply oxygen at >90% purity at a flow of only 1 lpm. At higher flows — like my friend’s mom’s 2 lpm — the air that this model produces is only 62-68% oxygen.
With the 3L model, you can actually push the flow rate to 5 lpm BUT it will only be 62-68% oxygen at that level. The reason it’s called the 3L model is that it works best — that is, it produces >90% oxygen — at flows of up to 3 lpm.
The 5L models are much more expensive but they can give >90% oxygen at flows of up to 5 lpm.
So should you get the 3L model or the 5L model?
There’s really no right answer to this, because it depends on how much oxygen might be needed. In my friend’s mom’s case, she only needed oxygen at a flow of 2 lpm so she would have been fine with the 3L model. But if it’s a patient with slightly more severe COVID than hers, who’s waiting for a place to open up at a hospital, there *is* a chance they will need oxygen at higher flow rates. So it really depends on how much risk you’re comfortable with and also, of course, on your budget.
With oxygen tanks, prices might vary depending on where you get them. The cheapest one I saw was a 3.5 L (5 lb) tank for Php 3,400.
Update: Since this article was first published, I’ve had friends looking for oxygen tanks/concentrators, and they’ve passed on some of the prices they canvassed to me, so I’ve added a separate section on oxygen tank prices below, just to give you a better idea of the prices out there.
How much do oxygen concentrators cost?
Oxygen concentrator prices vary by brand, model and supplier:
Your upfront costs will be higher with an oxygen concentrator, while an oxygen tank will usually be cheaper but will need to be refilled.
Shipping cost for a heavy duty 5L oxygen concentrator to Cebu was Php 500+. Estimated delivery date was around 2 weeks after ordering, but I’m not sure if they can stick to that, especially if our quarantine classification gets “leveled up.”
Note: These prices were passed on to me on the first half of August 2021 and they may have changed since then. I’m only posting them here to give you an idea of the prices for oxygen tanks. I’m not connected with any of these suppliers, so please get in touch with them directly for the latest prices, availability, and details.
Oxygen tanks for RENT
Oxygen tanks for PURCHASE
I hope this post gives you the information you need to make a decision on whether or not to buy an oxygen concentrator and which one to buy if you do. For what it’s worth, our family went for a 5L Owgels oxygen concentrator; a friend went for a Yuwell 5L; while four friends/relatives (two of whom already have an oxygen tank) went for a 3L Owgels.
Keep healthy and stay safe!