How to Know When You Should Replace Your CPAP Equipment
When it comes to sleep apnea therapy, quality CPAP equipment will make all the difference for the effectiveness of your treatment. As with other medical devices and machinery, however, your CPAP machine and its various accessories do not last forever. Eventually, they will need to be replaced.
Because there are so many interconnected parts involved in CPAP therapy, it can seem a bit intimidating to keep track of when different items need to be replaced. By understanding the general guidelines for replacing your equipment, you will be able to keep everything up to date so you can maximize the efficiency of your treatment.
Why is Replacing CPAP Equipment So Important?
CPAP equipment replacements are primarily focused on the user’s overall well-being. Over time, CPAP masks and tubing become harder to keep clean — even if you are following maintenance guidelines. Studies have actually found that the same cleaning techniques that effectively eliminate bacteria in a new CPAP mask will no longer be effective once the mask is several months old. Following replacement guidelines could help you avoid respiratory illnesses, skin irritation, and other issues.
An even bigger concern is how deteriorating equipment can affect the quality of your sleep apnea therapy. For example, as masks and tubing age, they are more prone to developing minuscule cracks and holes that allow air to leak out. This could keep you from receiving the prescribed level of air pressure, which would decrease the effectiveness of your therapy.
The replacement timelines given by manufacturers is based on how long this equipment will typically work as it should. Once CPAP equipment reaches its replacement threshold, you can no longer count on it to deliver the results needed for you to control your condition.
While most CPAP equipment is given a specific timeline for when it should be replaced, there are additional factors that users should be aware of. If you experience performance problems before the recommended replacement schedule, you’re better off replacing the defective equipment early.
As the main element of any sleep apnea therapy program, it should come as no surprise that your CPAP machine is designed to last a long time. Most CPAP machines have a “life expectancy” of five to seven years, with some type of warranty coverage for the first one to three years after you buy the machine.
Once your CPAP machine reaches five years old, it is well worth looking into a potential replacement or backup device. This is especially true if you have noticed unusual grinding sounds or seen warning lights turn on when the machine is in use. This way, you will be prepared for when your current CPAP machine stops working. If you frequently use a travel CPAP in addition to your standard CPAP device at home, you might get some extra life out of your primary machine thanks to reduced wear and tear.
If your CPAP machine suddenly stops working, however, don’t immediately throw it out and order a new one. Call the manufacturer first. Even if your device is no longer covered by the warranty period, the manufacturer’s customer support team could walk you through various troubleshooting steps to get it to function normally again. Just make sure your CPAP machine is actually connected to a power supply before you decide something is wrong with it!
If troubleshooting efforts don’t work, then it’s time to replace your machine. Most insurances that cover CPAP equipment allow you to replace your CPAP machine every five years. If your machine gives out before the replacement period, check with your manufacturer or insurance provider to see if you can get any help. Regardless, you should never just stop doing your treatment.
Talking about the CPAP mask can get a little confusing, since masks are made up of several connected components — each of which has different timelines for replacement. When manufacturers talk about the “CPAP mask,” they are typically referring to the hard plastic portion of the mask. This is the part that covers the nose (and possibly mouth), and is the most visible portion of the mask.
The hard plastic portion of the CPAP mask should usually be replaced after three months. If not replaced in a timely manner, the mask becomes more likely to develop leaks that keep you from getting the pressurized air that you need. The plastic may become yellowed or cracked.
Your comfort level is another important element to consider. A mask could be perfectly functional, but if you can’t get it to fit comfortably against your face, it should probably be replaced. An uncomfortable mask greatly reduces your likelihood of staying compliant with your treatment program. You might even take off your mask in your sleep.
If adjusting the headgear and fit doesn’t solve your comfort issues, you should switch to a different style of mask so you will be able to stick with your therapy.
Mask Cushions & Pillows
The next part of your CPAP mask to be aware of are the mask cushions and pillows. These are the soft portion of the mask (typically made from silicone) that rests against your skin. Mask cushions and pillows are also responsible for helping create an airtight seal between the mask and your face.
Because these parts come in direct contact with the oils of your skin, they need to be replaced much more frequently. It is generally recommended that full face mask cushions be replaced after a month, while nasal pillows and cushions often need to be replaced after two weeks.
With extended use, the cushions and pillows could become softer, increasing the likelihood of air leaks and skin irritation. You might need to tighten the mask more to maintain a proper fit. The edges of worn out cushions may appear stiff and cracked. The cushion could also begin to change color.
While washing your face before bed and regularly cleaning the mask cushion can help extend its lifespan, these parts should still be replaced often. Be careful when touching the cushions — you don’t want to accidentally tear them!
The headgear uses head straps (and sometimes chinstraps) to keep your CPAP mask securely attached to your face. Proper adjustment of your headgear is essential for achieving a comfortable, leak-proof fit.
CPAP headgear usually needs to be replaced after about six months of use. This is because the nightly use causes the headgear to lose its elasticity and get stretched out. This will make it harder for the headgear to keep your mask firmly pressed against your face. Continued exposure to the oils in your hair and skin can also cause discoloration of the straps.
If your headgear looks saggy or you need to get your mask uncomfortably tight to keep it in place throughout the night, it’s most likely time to replace the headgear. You can also extend your headgear’s life by washing it by hand, as sticking it in the washing machine could stretch it out.
CPAP tubing connects your mask to the CPAP machine itself. Like the hard plastic portion of the CPAP mask, manufacturers recommend that it be replaced after three months of use.
The biggest concern with CPAP tubing is that over time, it will develop minuscule tears or holes. These most often form between the coils, and can often be quite difficult to detect unless you are looking at it extremely closely. This hard-to-spot damage causes air to leak out before it reaches your mask, which keeps you from getting the prescribed air pressure needed to prevent sleep apnea incidents.
Another concern with CPAP tubing is the potential for bacterial buildup, particularly if you use a humidifier. The tubing should be cleaned and allowed to air dry each day, but condensation buildup can create the perfect breeding ground for bacteria, increasing your risk for illness. Specialty cleaning brushes or sanitizing equipment will make it easier to clean your tubing so you can prevent excessive bacterial buildup.
If the tubing smells bad even after intensive cleaning and has turned opaque, it should be replaced.
Most CPAP machines contain both disposable and reusable filters to remove allergens, dust, and other airborne contaminants from the air before it is delivered through your mask. While reusable filters can be washed out and typically only need to be replaced after six months, disposable filters should be replaced every two weeks. You should check your user manual to see which types of filters are included in your CPAP machine.
A visual inspection is the best way to see if your filters have become clogged or worn out. If they look dusty, discolored, or worn, they need to be replaced or washed to ensure that you get clean air.
Your home environment will play a big role in determining how long your filters last. Excessively dusty or humid areas will put greater strain on the filters, which may cause them to wear out faster than usual. Check your filters often to make sure they are still in good shape.
Humidifier Water Chambers
Many CPAP users rely on a humidifier to make their treatment more comfortable. This CPAP component makes the air delivered by your CPAP device warmer and more humid, which can reduce the risk of a sore throat or dry nose. Many CPAP devices rely on a water tank to generate the humid air.
As with other plastic materials, repeated use will cause the water chamber to gradually wear down over time. Users should periodically check for cracks or pitting, as these can trap bacteria and lead to water contamination. Mineral buildup can also cause discoloration and reduce the humidifier’s efficiency. Generally speaking, the water chamber should be replaced after six months.
Using distilled water is extremely important for the longevity of your water chamber. This water is free of minerals and other contaminants that could damage the water chamber or contribute to respiratory illnesses. Using regular tap water is not recommended, and could create additional problems for your equipment.
Keep Everything Safe and Effective
By replacing CPAP equipment when necessary, you can have confidence that your treatment will proceed according to plan and that you can avoid any potential negative side effects. It’s always best to check your device manufacturer’s guidelines so you can keep everything running smoothly.
Of course, knowing that you need to replace CPAP equipment is one thing. Actually replacing it can be quite another — especially if you don’t have health insurance to help you cover the costs. With some equipment needing to be replaced every three months or even more frequently, ongoing maintenance expenses can add up quickly.
This is where No Insurance Medical Supplies can make a difference for your sleep apnea treatment. We offer a wide range of CPAP accessories and replacement parts at affordable prices. We even have bundle replacement packages for brands like Philips Respironics so you can combine multiple needed replacements into one affordable package. Free shipping is available for all orders over $89.
If the time has come to replace your CPAP machine, we have you covered there, too. Our affordable bundle packages come with replacement filters, tubing, and more to help you get started with using your new machine, while also enjoying significant discounts in comparison to buying everything separately.
Whether you’re just beginning CPAP therapy or you’ve been using a CPAP machine to control your condition for years, you can count on No Insurance Medical Supplies to provide stellar service and prices so you can make the most of your therapy. Place your order today to keep your equipment working like it should!