If you are on CPAP, what do you do if the power goes out?
Continuous Positive Airway Pressure (CPAP) machines have improved the health and quality of life for thousands of individuals who struggle with Obstructive Sleep Apnea (OSA). This condition is much more than just snoring; it is a major cardiorespiratory system stressor and puts sufferers at risk of long term physiological problems such as hypertension, diabetes, and risk of accidents from excessive drowsiness in the day (known as daytime somnolence).
CPAP is a key therapy for OSA. These simple ventilator units deliver pressurized air via facemask and have the effect of splinting the airway open so that breathing and sleep are not interrupted by apnea episodes.
The use of a CPAP machine is a nightly routine which initially can take some getting used to but soon becomes indispensable as it provides better-quality and safer sleep.
Keeping your CPAP machine going when there is no power should not be a worry or hold you back from getting the most out of life. As with many of life’s challenges, preparedness is key.
In this article, we share the essentials for preparing for and coping with either
- a sudden loss of power to your CPAP machine,
- or powering your machine in an off-grid setting.
We will also take a look at the types of power options available to you when you do not have access to mains power.
Why it’s vital to ensure that your CPAP machine is properly powered.
OSA has been attributed to the collapsibility of the soft upper airway structures in affected individuals. This tendency to collapse obstructs the movement of air and causes periods where breathing stops. CPAP counteracts this collapsibility by its sustained supply of pressurized air that helps keep the airways open.
For this reason, it is important that your use of CPAP is continual and sustained. Interruptions put you at risk of harmful apnea episodes and exhausting daytime symptoms. Ensuring that your machine is properly powered prevents sudden interruption of CPAP that can place you at risk.
Backup power also can open doors to the ability to travel and have overnight stays away from home. If you enjoy recreations such as camping or road trips in an RV, the power solutions we share should mean that the use of a CPAP machine will not hold you back.
CPAP power requirements
As your CPAP machine is a piece of medical equipment, it will have very specific power requirements and consumption. Most models run on AC power but have a DC socket that can be used with an adapter.
The amount of electricity these non-invasive ventilators use will vary with its ventilatory settings, additional features, and duration of use. CPAP machines typically have a wattage of between 60 and 90 watts.
But for portable power, you will need to know the machine’s consumption in ampere-hours to procure a battery pack of sufficient capacity.
- For example, A CPAP machine set to 20cm of water pressure draws 4.5 amps per hour will use 36 ampere-hours if run over an 8 hour period. Halving the pressure supplied to 10cm of water has a draw of around 2.5 amperes meaning the same 8 hour period will consume 20 ampere-hours.
What are the options for powering my CPAP machine?
You will be pleased to know that you have a variety of portable power options for CPAP machines that have the capacity to keep your breathing supported during overnight stays. To ensure that you are prepared for all eventualities, you may want to invest in either a single or multiple alternative power supplies for your CPAP machine as well as suitable adapters that can be used to connect your machine.
If you enjoy extended camping breaks or the RV lifestyle a decent portable generator will provide the clean consistent power that you need to confidently drive your CPAP for an uneventful night’s sleep. A generator is a worthwhile purchase as it can also act as a backup power supply in the event of a power cut.
With remote start, a generator can be a highly convenient option as you can start it up from over 80 meters away! Most portable generators run off propane or gas and can be hooked up to your RV or via the twist-lock outlet or you can plug your CPAP directly via a regular 120-volt household outlet.
CPAP manufacturers such as Phillips ResMed, Somnectics, and Z1 all provide battery modules that work with their line of CPAP machines. These battery packs when fully charged can provide up to 16 hours of running time for your machine. They are limited by their capacity and meaning they will usually only last for one or two nights and can be bulky.
Generic compact and streamlined CPAP batteries and power banks are also available which are compatible with multiple models of machine. The Medistrom Pilot-24 Lite is suitable for powering any 24-volt devices for several nights and has a 19,000mAh capacity. Suitable adapters usually need to be obtained at an additional cost.
Portable power stations
If you are looking for something with a bit more capacity on board than a spare battery or power bank and without the bulk and weight of a generator, you may want to consider carrying a handheld power station on your travels.
These units are capable of providing several night’s power (up to 144,000 mAh) leaving you confident that your CPAP will be more than adequately covered throughout your stay. They are large battery-powered generators that release sustained AC or DC current via a variety of outlets. You simply need to plug your CPAP in.
These powerful battery generators can be effectively charged using sunlight via connected solar panels. Solar generators are an ideal option for outdoor excursions as you can charge your generator during the day and use the stored power for CPAP at night.
Have you considered travel CPAP devices?
Travel CPAP machines lighten the load due to their compact size and lower energy consumption. If you have lower pressure requirements for your CPAP, it is well worth opting for one of these devices that can be as small as palm-sized. Most of these models are already ready to go cord-free with integrated battery packs providing up to 12 hours of ventilation when fully charged.
What should you do if you have an emergency power failure while on CPAP?
If you have an unexpected outage or battery failure while using your CPAP, the most important thing is not to panic.
As with any cardiorespiratory condition, your priority is Airway, followed by Breathing and Circulation (ABC). If you are able to sit up, remove your mask, and speak to or call someone nearby. If you are able to do this your ABC are intact and you need to keep calm and avoid anxiety.
Most CPAP machines used in the domestic setting run on room air so if you are awake the level of oxygen you are receiving will not significantly differ from what you were receiving via the machine. However, sleeping without the machine does raise the risk of sleep apnea episodes and their attendant problems. It is understandable if you do not want to attempt sleeping without CPAP.
If a loss of power has caused the machine to stop you have the following options:
- Spare battery? Now is the time to hook up an alternate charged standby battery for your CPAP. With suitable adapters, a power bank may also be used for a period.
- Charge or use the CPAP machine in your car. If you have a portable or travel CPAP machine, you may be able to charge or power it using your vehicle if you have a suitable adapter.
- Do you have a generator as a source of backup or emergency power? Depending on its size, connect your CPAP directly, or power your property and use your CPAP as normal.
- If you have no alternate power on hand, it may be best to sleep sitting up in an armchair or propped up with pillows. The upright position is known to improve oxygenation and aeration of the lower and back regions of the lungs.
- Cervical collars may have been prescribed by your physician to support your airway while you sleep. Nasal strips are also advocates but are unlikely to provide the support needed if you routinely use CPAP.
Final Thoughts: Generators for CPAP Machines
This is why planning and preparation are key in making off-grid CPAP work for you. The range of options and strategies available means that you should be able to arrange a cost-effective and safe backup power supply for your CPAP machine. As with all health matters, it is advisable to discuss the arrangements for using your CPAP machine away from a domestic power supply with your health practitioner to ensure that this is a safe option for you.