- Our top pick, this unit is the only in our comparison with a color LED screen that allows for easy-to-follow animated instructions. It is also the second most rugged AED in our comparison to boot.
- High dust proof and water jet proof ratings (IP55).
- Optional 5 and 7 year battery replacements (vs. 4 years for most AEDs).
- Reasonably priced replacement pads and batteries.
- Separate pediatric pads required.
- High list price (although frequently on sale).
- This unit is simple to use and has one of the lowest price points in our comparison, making it a great way to get one of these life saving devices into your home and our "budget" runner up.
- Second most affordable unit at the time of our comparison.
- Widely available replacement pads and batteries.
- Only unit on the market that doesn't require a U.S. prescription (not much of a hurdle as described below, but still a plus).
- Least rugged device in our comparison (while not ideal, this unit may still be placed in a vehicle if climatic conditions are appropriate—consult owners manual).
- No LED screen.
- The most rugged device in our comparison and the most inexpensive to boot. This lightweight unit is a great option to bring with you in a car, on a boat or even a plane, making it our "travel" runner up.
- High dust proof and water jet proof ratings (IP 56).
- Great for a vehicle or even a plane if purchased with the optional aviation pack (consult owner's manual).
- Battery and pads are combined in an innovative unit, making replacement quick, easy and inexpensive.
- No LED screen.
- Illustrated prompts are not intuitive.
- While this unit has interesting features such as non-polarized pads, it is not particularly rugged for this price range, has the shortest warranty in our comparison and requires pricey replacement batteries.
- Non-polarized pads allow for quick action when it is needed most.
- Comes in fully automatic and semi-automatic versions.
- LCD text display (no animation).
- Heaviest AED in our comparison (6 lbs vs. 3-3.5 lbs).
- 7 year warranty vs. 8 years for competition.
- Replacement batteries have a list price that is double that for many other AEDs.
How We Chose
Durability, Price, Instruction Prompts and Replacement Parts
Searching around the web, we found that most AEDs have batteries that require replacement every 4 years and pads that require replacement every 2 years. Because of this, our comparison did not focus on battery and pad life. Instead we looked to features such as ruggedness (in the event you wish to travel with the AED), the type of interface providing the operator with instructions and the duration of the manufacturer’s warranty. We also considered the cost of replacement batteries and pads. As you can see from the items in our comparison, we also didn't flinch to include more robust units typically designed for placement in public locations. The price differential with these is not significant compared with skimpier AED packages designed for "home" use and they come included with equipment that will also be useful for emergencies at home, such as CPR masks.
Ultimately, the Defibtech won out in our comparison because it is competitively priced, rugged and the only model that comes with an LED screen to provide visual instructions to the operator. The Defibtech also has some of the least expensive pads and batteries in our comparison.
We chose the Philips HeartStart Home Defibrillator as our runner up because it is one of the least expensive AEDs on the market and more than sufficient for most domestic uses. This device is also the only AED on the market that does not require a prescription in the United States (more on that below).
The HeartSine SAM 350 (manufactuered by Stryker and sold through HeartSmart) is also a strong option and is our "travel" runner up. It missed our top spot because it does not come with an LED screen and has illustrated prompts we find somewhat confusing. This unit is a great option for aviators if pared with an optional aviation pack or those who wish to leave a device in their vehicle (consult owner's manual for operating temperature and altitude ranges). It is also competitively priced.
The Cardiac Science Powerheart G3 has some interesting features such as non-polarized pads that allow for quick action (i.e. place either pad in the correct locations and go) and the option of going with a fully automatic device (be careful when selecting to make sure you get the version you want). At the end of the day we did not recommend this AED because it has the shortest warranty in our comparison and comparatively expensive replacement batteries.
Prescription Necessary? – Depending on the model you purchase and where you live, a physician’s prescription may be necessary. Specifically, the Phillips HeartStart is the only AED on the market that can be ordered without a prescription in the United States. If required, many online sellers of AEDs will include the prescription as part of the order to make the purchase seamless.
Make Sure to Speak to Your Doctor – If you’ve gotten this far, you’ve likely already spoken to your physician about the decision to purchase an AED. If you haven’t, make sure to check you with your physician to make sure you do not have a condition that would be aggravated by the use of an AED.
Training – It is highly recommend that you receive training on the use of any AED you purchase. Specifically, AEDs aren’t appropriate for all types of cardiac events—you want to make sure you know what to do if your AED is instructing you that a non-responsive person should not be shocked.
Replace Your Batteries and Pads!
Battery Replacement – All of the items in our comparison come with batteries that must be replaced every four years. The AED you purchase will blink with a red light and/or have an audio warning notifying you when the battery needs replacement—make sure to plan for this and replace whenever indicated. Replacement batteries are typically $150 to $200 but can range as a high as $400 for some models.
If changing batteries every four years is just too much, the Defibtech can be paired with optional 5 or 7 year batteries.
Pad Replacement – All of the AEDs in today’s comparison require that the application pads be replaced every two years, with the cost of replacement pads typically running between $60 and $120 a set (pediatric pads being more expensive than adult pads). The pads require replacement because the manufacturers affix a gel to the pads which helps establish an electrical connection with the patient's body—if this gel dries-out the electrical connection will not be as strong reducing the AED’s effectiveness. Make sure to replace these before they expire.
Extra Batteries and Pads – While most of the AEDs in today’s comparison come with a single battery and set of AED pads, experts strongly recommend storing a backup battery and a backup set of pads with your AED. This will enable you to quickly provide lifesaving assistance if either the pads or battery malfunction when they are needed most.
An extra battery and set of pads is also beneficial if you have utilized the AED for an emergency and are waiting for a new set of backups. We all know the old adage that when it rains it pours—there have been incidents of AEDs being required for a second emergency shortly after the first.
Beyond Training - Be Prepared, Know Yourself
Keep Your AED Accessible – It is important that your AED is readily accessible so that it can be used in a time of need. If you are frequently on the road, consider purchasing an AED that can travel with you in your car so that it is close-by.
Semi-Automatic vs. Fully Automatic – All of the AEDs in today’s comparison are semi-automatic, with the exception of the Cardiac Sciences AED, which comes in semi-automatic as well as fully automatic versions. With semi-automatic AEDs, the operator is required to press the shock button when prompted by the AED’s instructions. Fully automatic AEDs, on the other hand, will automatically apply the shock when necessary. Fully automatic AEDs tend to be slightly more expensive then semi-automatic AEDs (though not necessarily). Ultimately, if you are concerned that you will hesitate under pressure, purchasing a fully automatic AED may be a good idea.
Instruction Prompts – When you open the AED, you will be instructed via voice prompts and a numbered diagram. Some models, such as the Defibtech Lifeline View, include an LED screen with animated instructions to walk you through the rescue.
Infant and Small Child Pads – If you have infants or children under 55 lbs in your home, it may make sense to order one or two extra sets of defibulator application pads rated for infants and small children. All of the AED’s in today’s comparison will will automatically lower the amount of defibulator energy output to an appropriate level for the infant or child. Higher end models will also adjust the instructions.
Certain defibulators on the market, such as the Philips HeartStart FRx (not in our comparison), do not require special pads for infants and small children. Instead, they utilize an “infant/small child key.” Instead of affixing separate pads, the operator simply inserts the key and the energy output will be appropriately reduced. Consider a model with this feature if you anticipate needing the device for pediatric applications.
Consider Going Refurbished – AEDs are a significant investment—the most expensive models in our comparison top out at around $1,600. If you need an AED but struggle to afford the cost, consider purchasing factory refurbished model, which can save you hundreds of dollars compared with a new model.
Travel – If you intend to place your AED in any type of vehicle, make sure that the vehicle's internal temperatures will not fall outside the AED's operating temperature range (consult the owner's manual or the AED manufacturer's customer service hotline for specific details).
Why Four Best?
But Seriously . . .
We started Four Best on the premise that a great deal of the information required to properly evaluate a given product is already right in front of your (and our) eyes. In fact there is too much information! A crucial skill necessary to picking the best products is instead the ability to cull through the available information, focusing on what should really drive a purchase decision.
To make those crucial determinations as to what matters and what doesn’t, we begin by thinking through what really matters to us when we use a particular product. We then use the that type of product to further refine the features we care about and that we think you will care about too. Next we search the web, looking to manufacturer’s websites, product specifications, consumer reports, expert blogs, research reports and the like to obtain crucial insights and the facts.
Finally, we distill the results of our research and combine it with our own experiences as consumers, professionals, techies, mothers, fathers, hobbyists, designers, software engineers, attorneys (sorry) and more. Ultimately, this process results in the reviews we present to you. We hope you enjoy!
- Image of AED training on beach from iStock.
- Background photo of electrocardiogram chart from Pixabay.
- Image of the survival chain from iStock.
- Photo of yellow paper on clothesline from iStock.
- Photo of prescription pad from iStock.
- Photo of men on ground from iStock.
- Photo of heart with stethoscope from Pixabay.
- Photo of doctor displaying computer by rawpixel.
- Photo of fists bumping by rawpixel.
*Images have been cropped and/or resized.