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CPAP on a Boat

Updated: May 1, 2023

Over the years we’ve had a lot of questions come in about having a CPAP on the boat. I recently decided to upgrade my unit, so this seemed like the perfect time to answer those questions.

I’m pretty sure I’m one of the youngest guys on a sailing channel that has to use a CPAP, but thanks to the military, I have had to use this thing for years. I think I even needed it years before I was officially diagnosed with sleep apnea because Brittany always told me that I snore really loudly. I got diagnosed with sleep apnea because I developed AFib. After that, I had all the tests and sleep studies done to come up with a diagnosis, and as it turned out, the sleep apnea was the cause of the AFib.

Wearing this thing is quite the look-- the first night I put on the mask and my glasses so I could see the TV, then I turned to Brittany and she laughed and literally said “Are you kidding me?” haha, definitely not a sexy look. The machine the insurance company provided me with was a large, ResMed IP21. It has a big reservoir for water to act as a humidifier, which was frustrating because I don’t need that part but it won’t work without it being connected. It is SUCH a pain to travel with, not only is the machine big, but the mask, hose and carrying case are basically a mini suitcase.

Every 5 years you are able to get a new CPAP upgrade. I called the doctor and the insurance company and it turns out that in order for me to get a newer machine, I would have to go through all the tests and get a new sleep study done again. No one has time for that! So I found a website that has many different styles and would let you purchase a machine based off of your old prescription, so I did some research on the different choices and found one that seemed perfect. The only problem was that insurance didn’t cover this new machine which stinks, but it is literally a quarter of the size, way more comfortable and only gives me air when I breathe in. The old machine gave a constant flow of air. It took a few nights to get used to the new machine but I am really liking it now.

As far as cost, the new CPAP cost $800 and obviously I didn’t go through insurance, vs the old one was $500 but insurance paid for it. The new one is way smaller, more comfortable, and it didn’t require me to go through a sleep study again, so definitely worth it in my book.

A question we have gotten a few times is (since we are on a boat) how much power my c-pap pulls throughout the night. When you’re living on a boat you need to think about battery power when you’re not connected to dock power. The short answer is that I didn’t know exactly how much it pulled but that we have never had a problem with the CPAP draining our batteries. However, to answer your question better, we decided to do an experiment since we were connected to dock power.

What we did was check our amps before we plugged in the CPAP and checked again once it was plugged in and turned on. The old one is up first-- we started at 14.8 amps before plugged in, then we plugged in and turned on the old CPAP and the amps went up to about 17, so we will call that 2.2 amps.

Now for the new one. We started at 13.8 prior to it being plugged in, and it only got to 14.4 at the highest, so we will call that 0.6 amps. The reason it’s lower is because it only powers up to give me air when I breathe in, not all the time.

So, for ease, let’s call it a 10-hour night. For the old CPAP, it pulled 2.2 amps x 10 hours, so about 22 amps for the night. The new CPAP pulls .6 amps x 10 hours, so 6 amps for the night. That’s a pretty big difference. However, is that amp difference worth the extra money of the unit? I would say no, BUT the size, ease of use, and comfort of the mask are WELL worth paying for my own unit.

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