The Caire FreeStyle Comfort vs. Oxygen Tanks: Which One is Right for You?
Last year, we were very happy to announce that we would be selling the Caire FreeStyle Comfort, the latest pulse flow portable oxygen concentrator by Caire, Inc. This concentrator was miles ahead of anything that Caire had manufactured in the past, and it even held its own against the most popular oxygen concentrator on the market: the Inogen One G5.
One of the reasons we continue to support the FreeStyle Comfort is that it’s backed by a company that prioritizes quality above all else. Whether you have COPD, cystic fibrosis, or any other chronic lung condition, you need an oxygen device that you can rely on wherever you go and for many oxygen patients, the FreeStyle Comfort has been the best oxygen concentrator for that.
If you keep up with our blogs, however, you know that we like to approach every subject from as many angles as possible in order to give you a better understanding of your needs and the industry as a whole. In this post, we’re going to be comparing and contrasting the Caire FreeStyle Comfort portable oxygen concentrator and standard compressed oxygen tanks. As always, if you have any questions, be sure to leave them in the comment section below, or feel free to give us a call and address them with one of our respiratory specialists.
Supplemental oxygen isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution. Every oxygen patient has varying degrees of lung function and as a result, everyone requires a different amount of oxygen in order to stay healthy. For example, someone with stage 1 COPD may only experience a small amount of airway obstruction, so they might only need to use oxygen for an hour or two a day. However, someone with severe stage 3 or 4 COPD may need to use oxygen 24 hours a day.
Another important factor to consider is the “grade” or “purity” of the oxygen you’re inhaling. Earth’s atmosphere is made up of only about 21 percent oxygen. The rest of the atmosphere is composed of various other gases including nitrogen, argon, and carbon dioxide. Medical-grade oxygen, on the other hand, always has over a 90 percent purity rating. This should not be confused with “recreational” oxygen which is sold in canisters and doesn’t require a prescription to purchase.
Both portable oxygen concentrators, like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort and oxygen tanks put out medical-grade oxygen. In fact, oxygen tanks are refilled with something called a HomeFill Station which operates like an oxygen concentrator. The main difference between the two is that an oxygen tank will allow you to put out oxygen at a higher flow rate. This is ideal for people with severe lung impairment, but it’s not necessary for the vast majority of respiratory patients.
Another thing to note is that the Caire FreeStyle Comfort is a pulse dose machine. What this means is that oxygen is only administered when the user inhales rather than continuously flowing out of the device like with an oxygen tank. Because of this, many people underestimate the value of pulse dose oxygen concentrators. The FreeStyle Comfort puts out 1,050 milliliters per minute of oxygen which is roughly the equivalent of 3 liters per minute on a continuous flow device such as an oxygen tank.
Ultimately, it will be up to your doctor or pulmonologist whether you should use the Caire FreeStyle Comfort or an oxygen tank. While oxygen tanks tend to be the default for many people, they are not necessarily the best option, especially for people who want to maintain their freedom, independence, and mobility while on oxygen.
If you think about it, “portability” has been a defining feature of this millennium so far. Ever since the early 2000s, we’ve seen technology become smaller, lighter, and more powerful than ever before; this is really no different when it comes to O2 devices. Just several decades ago, oxygen concentrators were mostly only used in the home. While there were portable versions, they were cumbersome and difficult to maneuver.
Fast forward to today and you’ll find that oxygen patients have a wide variety of lightweight portable oxygen devices to choose from. The AirSep Focus is the lightest portable oxygen concentrator ever produced, weighing in at just 1.75 pounds! However, it’s only able to go up to a pulse flow setting of 2 (330 ml/min), so it may not be enough oxygen for many patients.
The Caire FreeStyle Comfort, however, is the perfect balance of both portability and power. It weighs in at only 5 pounds and it’s able to output over three times as much oxygen as the AirSep Focus. Its dimensions are only 10” H x 7.3” L x 3.1” W, so it’s also very small, compact, and easy to carry. Whether you’re just going for a walk in the park or you’re going on a long vacation, you’ll find that the FreeStyle Comfort is as easy to transport as a small purse or handbag.
Unlike portable oxygen concentrators, oxygen tanks haven’t gotten any smaller in the past couple of decades. Oxygen can only be compressed a certain amount before it becomes too dangerous to use, so the size of your tank directly correlates with the amount of oxygen you will have access to. While there are “portable oxygen cylinders” they will only offer you several hours of freedom before they need to be refilled.
Safety should always be the first priority when choosing an oxygen device. Unfortunately, oxygen manufacturers have not always been able to provide this to their patients. Oxygen is considered by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be a controlled substance. First and foremost, oxygen is an oxidizer meaning it makes everything it’s exposed to more flammable.
Secondly, it is possible to overdose on oxygen and experience something called oxygen toxicity. This condition is characterized by lightheadedness, fatigue, muscle twitching, and nausea. Prolonged exposure to high levels of oxygen can even be deadly. This is why it’s so important that oxygen is used exactly as instructed by your doctor.
While oxygen tanks are mostly safe to use, they still pose more of a safety risk than pulse dose oxygen concentrators like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort. For one, oxygen tanks are stored at very high pressures of around 2,000 to 3,000 psi (pressure per square inch). This makes them a huge explosive hazard whereas oxygen concentrators do not pressurize oxygen at all.
Another reason oxygen tanks are more dangerous is that they are continuous flow. When you release the pressure valve on an oxygen tank, oxygen will constantly flow out of the nasal cannula until you turn it off. This is dangerous because if it were exposed to fire it would oxidize it making it burn more. This can be somewhat remedied by using a pulse dose conserver which can be attached to the top of the tank, but there’s still a chance it could be leaking oxygen.
Finally, the weight and size of oxygen tanks are a potential hazard. Oxygen tanks are made of metal and they’re usually very heavy and bulky. If one happens to fall on you while you’re removing it from storage it could cause serious injury. Its bulkiness can also make it a tripping hazard and make it difficult and stressful to transport.
The Caire FreeStyle Comfort doesn’t have most of these issues because it’s so light and portable. You can easily carry it on one shoulder without it causing back pain and you’ll never have to wheel it around using a rolling cart. Since it’s so small, it’s very easy to store and keep somewhere that you’ll remember where it is.
When money is tight, every financial decision you make counts. On the surface, it may seem like oxygen concentrators are the cheapest form of supplemental oxygen. But when you take into consideration long-term costs, they’re actually one of the more expensive options out there. Conversely, portable oxygen concentrators, in general, are designed to save you a significant amount of money over time.
The Caire FreeStyle Comfort has a Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) of $2,495, but it comes with a battery, AC and DC charger, carrying case and strap, and a 3-year warranty. What this means is that if anything that comes with your POC breaks or isn’t functioning properly within 3 years, you can have it replaced free of charge. This warranty can be extended to give you even more coverage and security.
Even if you don’t choose to extend the warranty, Caire builds their portable oxygen concentrators to last. On average, a new portable oxygen concentrator will last 5 to 7 years depending on how well the user takes care of it, and we’ve even seen them last much longer than that in certain cases. If you’re interested in learning how to clean and maintain oxygen equipment, we wrote a great post on this subject a couple of years back. You can find it here.
Another thing to note is that the Caire FreeStyle Comfort requires very little long-term maintenance. Whereas oxygen tanks need to be filled up every time they run out, oxygen concentrators simply need to be plugged into a wall outlet to recharge. You’ll never need to go out of your way to find an oxygen supplier to refill it and you won’t have to invest in a HomeFill Station which can break the bank.
Even if you purchase your Caire FreeStyle Comfort at the suggested retail price of $2,495 that works out to about $41 per month over 5 years or $30 a month over 7 years. However, if you take advantage of a sale, it will be even less than that! There are also a whole host of financing options you can use to make payments easier and you can even trade-in your oxygen concentrator whenever you’d like if you’re thinking of upgrading. On the other hand, you likely won’t get anything for trading in an oxygen tank and you may even have trouble finding someone to take it.
In this day and age, it’s more important than ever to simplify your life. No matter whether you’re old or young, poor or wealthy, most people just have too many things on their plate to worry about. For some people, simplifying could mean downsizing by getting rid of things that you don’t need or it could just mean replacing those things with ones that are easier to manage.
When most people try a portable oxygen concentrator like the Caire FreeStyle Comfort for the first time, they find that it’s much easier to manage for several different reasons. First and foremost, they work great as an all-in-one oxygen machine. Rather than using a portable oxygen cylinder while you’re out of the house and then having to switch over to your home oxygen tank when you get home, the FreeStyle Comfort can be used as both a portable and home unit.
Another factor contributing to its ease-of-use is the interface. Just like the concentrator itself, the interface is electronic and there are no knobs that you have to turn or worry about. Simply turn the device on and select the flow setting that you would like to use. If there are any problems, the device uses an alarm to notify you.
Respiratory patients depend on their oxygen. But what happens if you accidentally drop your oxygen device or bump into something? While the Caire FreeStyle Comfort may not look durable at first glance, you might be surprised to find that it’s very compact and solid. All of the delicate electronic components that keep the device running are protected by a hard outer shell that will protect from scratches and dents. The carrying case that comes with the device will also give some added protection. And since it’s light enough to carry on your shoulder, you’ll be able to navigate more easily without the chance of dropping it or bumping into anything.
While oxygen tanks are mostly made of metal, the nobs and nozzles on top of the tank are plastic. If any of these things are damaged, it could lead to a leak in the tank. Oxygen tanks are more prone to damage when you use a rolling cart because you aren’t always able to see what obstacles are in your way without looking behind you. Oxygen tanks also have an awkward shape that can make them difficult to handle.
It’s not always easy to make decisions about your health as a COPD patient. There are many different oxygen devices for seniors and you may have no idea where to begin when it comes time to choose one. While oxygen tanks have been used for many years, they’re certainly starting to show their age when it comes to portability, cost, and general ease-of-use.
Portable oxygen concentrators, however, are more technologically advanced and offer you more freedom for you to live life on your own terms. The Caire FreeStyle Comfort is one of the newest POCs the industry has to offer and it doesn’t disappoint. Weighing in at only 5 pounds with a maximum oxygen output of 1,050 ml/min of oxygen, it will meet your needs wherever you are in the world.