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Buyer's Guide - How to Buy A CPAP Machine

Welcome to the buyer’s guide for CPAP Machines. This short introduction to CPAP Machines should help you understand how to buy a CPAP machine, the differences between the types of CPAP Machines, and the features involved.

Do I Need a Prescription?

Whether you just started CPAP therapy or you are a veteran, you should know that all CPAP Machines and CPAP Masks, from any online vendor, require a prescription. Our Prescription Policy is pretty simple. Prescriptions can be faxed to us at 1-804-271-4715, or emailed to We accept scanned copies, photocopies, and even pictures from your cell phone or camera.

But, I Don't Have My Prescription!

If you don't have a copy of your prescription, we can help. You must have had some contact with a physician in the past who did prescribe CPAP therapy. We can contact your doctor on your behalf and attempt to get a copy of your prescription for you. All we need is your name, your date of birth, and your doctor's phone number. We have had great success with this process.

Types of Machines

There are three basic types of machines, CPAP, APAP or Auto CPAP, and BiPAP. Let's discuss them in depth:

  • Example of a CPAP MachineCPAP Machines - The most basic machine. Essentially a "fan in a box". A CPAP machine delivers a consistent amount of air pressure, measured in centimeters of water pressure or cm/H2O, via a CPAP mask. The air pressure helps to push back the soft palette of a patient and maintain an open airway. A basic CPAP machine is all most patients need to accomplish this. Different machines have different features and abilities.
  • APAP Machines or Auto CPAP Machines - Titration is defined as the process, operation, or method of determining the concentration of a substance in solution by adding to it a standard reagent of. Nice, huh? Titration, for our purposes, is the process of determining the correct amount of air pressure a patient needs for effective CPAP therapy. This process of titration was performed during your sleep study. An APAP, or Auto CPAP, or Auto-Titrating CPAP has the ability to "titrate" air pressure throughout the night to determine your optimum level. The machine can auto adjust up or down depending on your needs that night. Alcohol consumption, opiate use, and other factors can greatly effect your therapy. An Auto is a luxury, but one that many patients enjoy and depend on. Another note about the APAP Machines, they usually have the ability to record a great deal of data. Since the machine is making decision by itself on your behalf, those decisions are recorded and can reported to your doctor.
  • BiPAP Machines - BiPAP, or bi-level positive airway pressure helps keep the upper airways of the lungs open by providing a flow of air delivered through a face mask. With BiPaP, a doctor prescribes specific pressures that alternate: A higher pressure is used to breathe in (called inspiratory positive airway pressure, or IPAP) and a lower pressure is used when breathing out (called expiratory positive airway pressure, or EPAP). BiPAP Therapy is very popular for COPD patients over CPAP Therapy.

Data Recoding and Compliance Reporting

Various machines on our website offer data recording of your nightly activity and usage parameters. Some record only usage hours, while others can be very detailed in their data recording including actually monitoring hypopneas and your sinus rhythm.

Data recording is usually performed by request of your sleep doctor or PCP. Some manufacturers offer the ability for a patient to view the data via software or a website, while others restrict the data to doctors only.

For example, most of the Respironics System One devices have data recording capabilities. The depth of recording changes depending on the model. For example, the Basic CPAP has no ability, but the Plus and Pro models have progressively more ability.

The type of data recorded, the method, and the physical media all change between manufacturers. If your doctor has requested data for compliance information, please check with us before purchase to ensure you are getting the right type.

If a CPAP or BiPAP can record data, that information should be noted in the product description. If you have questions, please call us at 1-888-494-4647.

Do I Need A Humidifier?

Humidification is pretty standard these days. No, you don't have to have humidification, but it makes CPAP therapy so much more comfortable to use warm and moist air than cool dry air. All machines have the option of using a heated humidifier and it is by far the most popular choice. Plus, all machines have the option of either separating the CPAP from the humidifier, or turning off the humidifier if needed.

Feature Definitions

  • Leak Compensation - Small leaks in your mask can cause a pressure drop. CPAP machines with this feature can compensate for those small air leaks to help keep the prescribed pressure at all times.
  • Mask On/Off Alert - A small beep, or at the least a message on the LCD will alert you if the mask is off. This is especially helpful for patients who involuntarily pull the mask off during sleep.
  • Altitude Adjustment - The altitude you live in can cause changes to the air pressure being delivered. Most all CPAP machines either automatically adjust for high altitudes, or have a manual switch.
  • Heated Tubing - A small heating element is placed in the tubing to keep the air at a constant temperature. This helps prevent condensation in the tubing or "rain-out". Only two manufacturers have this feature, ResMed and Fisher & Paykel.
  • Voltage Selection - Most machines have the ability to switch from standard US voltages to international voltages. Some can automatically switch and others have switches to make the change.
  • Ramp - Patients with higher pressures appreciate this feature. Over a short period of time at the start of therapy, the CPAP machine will start a low pressure and slowly ramp to the prescribed pressure. This helps you fall asleep faster under low pressures, or simply to adjust to the higher pressures while reading or watching television before sleep. Ramp times are usually set between 0-45 mins.
  • Warranties - All CPAP machines and humidifiers carry at least a 2 year warranty. TheCPAPPeople handles all warranty claims for devices that we sell. If you experience a problem with your machine, you need only to call our helpful Customer Care representatives.

Pressure Relief - C-Flex, A-Flex, EPR, SmartFlex

Exhalation relief is the ability of a CPAP machine or BiPAP machine to reduce the inspiratory pressure during exhale, making it easier to breathe out against the pressure. Manufacturers have different names for exhalation relief, but they mostly work the same way. Pressure can be adjusted up to 3cm for comfort.

Respironics calls their pressure relief C-Flex, A-Flex, or C-Flex+. C-Flex lowers the pressure on exhale and quickly ramps back up to the prescribed pressure. A-Flex, available on Auto CPAP machines only, lowers the pressure on exhale and gradually increases the pressure during inhale. This allows for a more fluid breath. ResMed uses EPR for pressure relief. Pressures are decreased up to 3cm during exhale and quickly increased back to prescribed pressure when inhale is detected. DeVilbiss SmartFlex is similar to Respironics C-Flex and ResMed EPR.

MSRP Products

Some of our manufacturers require us to advertise their CPAP machines at a certain price. With some machines, we are able to offer a discount code to be used on the site to show your SALES PRICE on that machine. Follow the directions on the product pages to contact us for this discount code, or call us at 1-888- 494-4647 to speak to a customer care representative, 9am-5pm Eastern.


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