It’s official. We are 2-3 weeks into winter, making blizzard conditions possible for much of the northern and midwestern parts of the US. In fact, our very own Dr. Carleara Weiss lives in Buffalo, NY; she just saw over 8 feet of snow fall the day after Christmas!
Snowstorms, freezing temperatures, and high wind gusts leave us vulnerable to power outages all season long. So, what happens if a major power crisis occurs while you’re on CPAP? Let’s take a look at 5 ways to power your CPAP machine when the power goes out.
CPAP Power Sources That Aren't A Wall Outlet
Sleep apnea patients like you need a power source in order to maintain your CPAP therapy, especially if you’re still in the compliance period. When wall outlets aren’t being powered, there are other CPAP power sources available to you. These are the 5 ways to power your CPAP machine when the power goes out:
1. Portable Power Stations
Portable power stations or power banks are kind of like car batteries. The difference is that they are portable and can be plugged into directly. Some even run on solar power. What you need to look for is how many amp hours (AC power) or watt hours (DC power) your power bank holds. Most run on DC power, and the power usage of a CPAP machine is typically 30-60 watts. If you’re running an inverter, add 10% to be safe.
2. DC Power & Car Chargers
Your car battery is an untapped power supply, running on direct current energy (DC power.) Purchasing a DC power adapter or car charger for your CPAP machine will allow you to power the device from the vehicle’s cigarette lighter. Of course, you do need gas in the car or, if you drive electric, a fully-charged battery to power it, but this is a great solution for more than just power outages; like when you’re off the grid, on a camping trip.
3. CPAP Battery Backups
Speaking of solutions that extend beyond power outages, you can run a CPAP machine on a portable battery while traveling. CPAP battery packs are special, lithium-ion batteries that can power your CPAP device overnight (up to 8 hours) via USB ports. Extended-life batteries might even last two nights! Plus, they are FAA-approved, so you can bring them right onto the plane with you.
4. Solar Power Panels
We digress—traveling is not often the concern when experiencing a power outage, so what else can be used at home? Try solar power panels! Yes, you can use a CPAP machine with solar power, and that makes CPAP users with solar-powered homes lucky; they certainly aren’t worried about power outages anyway, but there are also portable solar chargers anyone can use.
Solar chargers capture sunlight from mirrors and convert it into electricity, just like solar panels, and most will recharge a CPAP battery pack in as little as 12 hours. The one caveat is that solar panels cannot be used as the power source for your CPAP machine; just as the charging station for battery power. Plan accordingly to get the most battery life.
5. Travel CPAP Machines
Finally, the tried and true solution to achieving CPAP therapy without power is travel CPAP machines. Traveling may be the intention behind these portable CPAPs, but with built-in USB connections, they’re perfect for plugging into all kinds of batteries during power outages. Some can accept DC power without an adapter too. Not to mention, the best travel CPAPs are small, lightweight, and auto-adjusting. We’re partial to the ResMed Airmini.
How To Prolong Your Backup Power
Now that we’ve covered the 5 ways to power your CPAP machine when the power goes out, there are additional things you can do to prolong your backup power. After all, you never know if an outage will last one day or one week. One YouTuber, TheUrbanPrepper released a video on “how to most efficiently use it to power your CPAP during power outages or while on the go.”
A CPAP user himself, TheUrbanPrepper is plugging his ResMed AirSense 10 CPAP Machine into the Jackery Explorer 500; a power bank that only consumes 1.25% of power per hour to run. However, plugging into the AC power port (like you would a wall outlet) only gets you 22 hours worth of power. Alternating currents (AC) are best for long-distance power transmissions but do not power really high voltages, and high voltages are needed in scenarios like ours.
To get the most out of your power bank—in TheUrbanPrepper’s case, the Jackery Explorer 500—you need a DC power adapter (a car charger) to plug into the DC port. That gets you 4.5% more power per hour.
How To Maximize Your CPAP Runtime
There are also precautions you can take to maximize your CPAP runtime by adjusting certain settings. For example, if you use a heated humidifier and/or heated tubing, switching back to standard accessories or disabling the heating elements will get you 10-12 days worth of power out of the Jackery Explorer 500. Be aware that you may experience some side effects without the heat; such as dry mouth, headaches, and nosebleeds.
You can also lower your pressure settings, but that should be your last resort. CPAP stands for continuous positive air pressure and, as any seasoned sleep apnea patient knows, your machine produces that pressure, pushing air into your upper airways so they don’t collapse. The higher the pressure setting, the stronger the airflow and the more power being used. Obviously, your pressure setting is very important and unique, so don’t take this trick lightly.
CAUTION: Aeroflow Sleep does NOT recommend maximizing your CPAP runtime when plugging into a wall outlet. Furthermore, adjustments (especially to your pressure settings) should NOT be made without the help of a physician. Talk to your doctor first.
Don't Stop Your CPAP Therapy For A Power Outage
With so many battery options, adapters, and portable power sources available, don’t let your CPAP use rely on electrical outlets. There’s no need to stop your CPAP therapy for a power outage, so you can continue to meet compliance if you have to and, more importantly, treat your sleep apnea. So, sleep well and live better with the peace of mind that Aeroflow Sleep is on your side.
Andone, Dakin, et al. “Snow-Inundated Buffalo Faces More Challenges in the Aftermath of Storm That Left 31 Dead in Area.” CNN, CNN, 27 Dec. 2022, https://www.cnn.com/2022/12/27/weather/arctic-winter-storm-new-york-blizzard-tuesday/index.html.
“How to Power Your CPAP During a Power Outage.” TheUrbanPrepper, YouTube, 6 Feb. 2022, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_8PatF2dQjk. Accessed 5 Jan. 2023.