Contingency Planning for C-Pap / BiPap Users

By Cheryl Switzer

If you depend on a C-Pap or BiPap to support your respiratory system during sleep, you will want to consider putting together some contingency plans.  Any kind of storm or other disaster, which can easily interrupt electrical service to homes for hours or days at a time, can be very stressful times to those of us dependant on medical equipment.  If you’ve ever had to do without your machine for a night or two, then you know first-hand how essential nighttime ventilation is for your health.  You should also keep in mind that equipment failures do occur and your DME (durable medical equipment) supplier will probably not have a loaner machine to offer immediately.  Can you really manage for a week or more without your unit while a new one is ordered for you?  It can take that long or longer to repair or replace a machine that has malfunctioned.

There are lots of things you might consider in establishing a plan for yourself. You might purchase a second C-Pap or BiPap machine to keep on hand in case of sudden equipment failure.  You might purchase a generator to use around the house in case of an interruption in electrical service in your area.  You should always keep an inventory of important little gizmos and gadgets on hand – at least one backup sleep mask, mask parts, oxygen connectors, backup tubing and other essentials - that can be replaced quickly when needed.  You also should identify a safe place you can go to wait out a storm or it’s aftermath that is capable of accommodating your equipment.  

Here’s an idea that perhaps you have not considered.  Set up a battery backup system for your C-Pap or BiPap that can be connected in minutes and keep you breathing well at night for up to four (4) days even in the worst storm.  Unlike a generator, a fully charged battery runs quietly, requires no special ventilation, is non-polluting and can be placed beside or under your bed for easy access.  If a storm takes out your power at 3 a.m. you can hook up your backup system in less than a minute and be back to sleep.

There’s not much to it really.  Here is what you need to know and to do.

Step one – Check Your Machine
First, you need to know if your machine is equipped to use a 12-volt system.  There should be an inlet for a 12-volt adaptor on the back or on one side of your machine.  If you cannot find one, consult your owner’s manual, call your DME provider or look for your model’s specs online.  Most machines will have this inlet.

Step two – Your Shopping List
•    A 12-volt power adaptor for your C-Pap specific to the make and model
•    A Deep-Cycle Battery
•    A Battery Clip Adaptor
•    A Battery Charger

Power Adaptor (12V)
If your CPAP is set up to run on 12-volt power, you will need to order the adapter for your specific CPAP from your DME (Durable Medical Equipment) company or from an online store making sure the one you order is meant for use with your specific make and model.  Costs for these will vary widely but usually start at around $25.00.
This adaptor will allow you to:
•    Plug your machine into the cigarette lighter outlet in your car
•    Connect a12-volt battery to your C-Pap or BiPap.

Deep Cycle Battery
The cost for a battery will run from $50.00 to $425.00 retail, depending on the type and size you want.
Michael Nickerson in his article “Battery Backup for your CPap” published on the website “Talk About Sleep” (link below), recommends a deep cycle, sealed Group 27 Gel battery.   This battery will run most C-Pap / BiPap machines for 3 to 4 days and if necessary can be taken to a gas station for a recharge in the event the power outage is ongoing.   For a more in-depth information on batteries including battery basics, read Mr. Mckerson’s complete article

Battery Clip Adaptor
The cost for a battery clip adaptor is minimal and can be purchased from any auto or hardware store.

Battery Charger
The cost is around $50.00 for a good home battery charger.  You will want to read the suggested charging rate on your battery before you choose a battery charger as some chargers allow for variable rates and some do not.

Putting it All Together

The cost for a good, long-lasting battery and the rest of the equipment required will run about $200 - $400 total with the battery being the largest investment.   Keeping in mind battery cost is directly correlated with the size and useful life of the battery, you will want to think of this as an investment in your health.  Some of the larger batteries will run your C-Pap or BiPap for 3-4 days (8 hrs/per) and give you from 5-7 years of useful life if properly charged.

If you have experienced power outages or think you might as storms line up to slam your area, putting a battery backup system into place is a very good idea.  With a fully-charged battery beside your bed, you can be assured that no matter how long your power is out – 15 minutes to 32 hours (over 4 days) – you don’t have to be without your trusty C-Pap or BiPap. 

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