Oxygen Tanks vs. Oxygen Concentrators: Key Differences

What Is the difference between an Oxygen Tank and an Oxygen Concentrator?

Portable Oxygen Tank vs Portable Oxygen Concentrator, oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators

When you are in search of a small oxygen tank for breathing, you might find yourself wondering about the differences between an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank. What is the difference between an oxygen tank vs. concentrator, and how might you use them differently? Read on to learn how an oxygen concentrator and oxygen tank work when it comes to supplemental oxygen therapy treatments.  

Oxygen Tank vs. Concentrator

You might be aware that both devices can deliver medical oxygen to those that require it. However, the methods of delivery, as well as the device specifications, tend to differ quite a bit beyond that. Whether you are looking at a stationary oxygen tank vs. concentrator, or whether you are interested in lightweight portable oxygen tanks or portable oxygen concentrators, it is helpful to know the differences between the two delivery systems so you can make an educated decision with your doctor.

The main difference between an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank is in the way in which oxygen is provided. Whether it is a larger compressed oxygen tank or a small portable oxygen tank with liquid oxygen, oxygen tanks have a finite amount of oxygen within them, which is inhaled by the user until it runs out. Oxygen concentrators, on the other hand, filter and concentrate the surrounding air, generating medical-grade oxygen. Unlike an oxygen tank, an oxygen concentrator can provide an infinite supply of oxygen so long as there is access to power or the battery that powers the machine remains charged. Here are some additional details about using an oxygen concentrator vs. tank.

Oxygen Tank

Oxygen tanks can hold either compressed oxygen or liquid oxygen. They are available in large tanks, generally for home use, or small portable oxygen tanks for breathing when you are out and about or traveling. Regardless of whether they are stationary or portable, oxygen tanks for breathing hold a specific amount of oxygen, and that means all of the oxygen a tank will ever have until it is refilled is already compressed within it. The oxygen supply within a tank is gradually reduced with use until the tank runs out and needs to be refilled or replaced. In order to easily travel and move about with an oxygen tank, many people prefer to fill a small portable oxygen tank to take with them when they are out. However, a small oxygen tank for breathing only holds a small amount of oxygen, which can be problematic, particularly if the unexpected arises.

Worrying about running out of oxygen, along with managing the replacement or refilling of tanks, can become a source of anxiety for patients getting their oxygen via oxygen tank vs. concentrator. If you or a loved one needs oxygen therapy, it is important to consider whether you feel comfortable managing oxygen tank refills and filling a small portable O2 tank anytime it is necessary to travel with oxygen.

Oxygen Concentrator 

Alternately, an oxygen concentrator does not need to store oxygen, but instead uses the surrounding atmosphere to provide supplemental oxygen. So what is an oxygen concentrator? An oxygen concentrator works similarly to an air conditioning unit: it takes air in from the surrounding atmosphere, modifies it and delivers it in its new state. But instead of cooling the air, oxygen concentrators compress and purify the air, removing nitrogen or other agents that complicate breathing. The newly purified and concentrated oxygen is then delivered to the patient via a nasal cannula in the desired flow setting to improve the user’s breathing.

When looking at an oxygen concentrator vs. tank, oxygen concentrators provide an obvious advantage because they do not need to be refilled. As long as the user has a charged battery or access to a power source, they will have an endless supply of oxygen available to them. Moreover, portable oxygen concentrators, which are compact and lightweight but will not run out of oxygen like a small portable O2 tank, allow patients to go about their daily activities while getting the oxygen therapy they need.

In most cases, when considering an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank, an oxygen concentrator is easier to use and better able to provide a reliable source of oxygen for most patients. 

Things to Consider: Oxygen Concentrator vs. Oxygen Tank

The differences in oxygen supply management with an oxygen tank vs. concentrator also highlight the different dosage methods used by each type of device. All oxygen tanks deliver oxygen on continuous flow, which means you are using up your oxygen supply even when you are exhaling. With oxygen concentrators, it tends to vary by device, but many oxygen concentrator options operate on pulse-dose delivery. That means that a pulse-dose oxygen concentrator only provides oxygen on the inhale, meaning that no oxygen is wasted. It also means that there is a significantly lower risk of creating an oxygen-rich environment, which is a safety concern with many oxygen tanks. 

There are several other attributes that differentiate oxygen concentrators vs. oxygen tanks when it comes to oxygen therapy. For the majority of patients, oxygen concentrators offer several advantages over oxygen systems that rely on cylinders and tanks. These advantages include:

  1. Consistency – While oxygen tanks can run out of oxygen, an oxygen concentrator will never run out of oxygen as long as it has air available and a supply of power. An oxygen concentrator extracts oxygen from the air itself, making the supply unlimited and readily available.

  2. Safety – An oxygen tank could begin to leak, creating an oxygen-enriched atmosphere. Air saturated with oxygen increases the risk of a fire, so if a fire ignites under these circumstances, it is harder to extinguish because oxygen-induced fires burn hotter than many other kinds of fires. Pulse dose oxygen concentrators simply create oxygen as needed, minimizing the concern of leaks, and, therefore, the concern of flammability.

  3. Size When it comes to an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank, an oxygen concentrator is designed for convenience. Even lightweight portable oxygen tanks are generally both bulky and heavy while a portable oxygen concentrator can weigh less than 5 pounds. This makes an oxygen concentrator the perfect choice for those who want portability.

  4. Cost – While each device will be priced differently, it is important to remember that when buying oxygen concentrators, the price is largely upfront. For oxygen tanks, it may seem cheaper at first, but ongoing costs are incurred over time in the form of new oxygen tanks purchased as needed until oxygen is no longer needed.

An oxygen concentrator is a great choice for any of the above reasons, but it is important for individuals to consider any potential issues they may encounter. When you are choosing between oxygen concentrator vs. tank for your supplemental oxygen, consider how and when you will need the oxygen, as well as how portable you need your delivery system to be. If you use a stationary oxygen concentrator, consider having a backup supply of oxygen in a tank available for use. Additionally, it is always recommended that you keep additional fully charged batteries available if you use a portable oxygen concentrator, in case of a power outage. While there is a lot to consider when looking at an oxygen tank vs. concentrator, make sure you also think about what will be best for helping you live your life as normally as possible. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Is an oxygen concentrator the same as an oxygen tank?

No. In fact, there are quite a few differences between an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank.  An oxygen tank holds a finite amount of compressed or liquid oxygen, which can be used until it runs out, after which the tank must be refilled or replaced. Oxygen tanks provide continuous flow oxygen, which means that if the valve is turned on, oxygen is flowing continuously, even while you exhale or if you remove your nasal cannula or mask. An oxygen concentrator, on the other hand, compresses and purifies the surrounding air to provide an infinite amount of medical-grade oxygen to the user, as long as the oxygen concentrator has power. An oxygen concentrator can provide either continuous flow oxygen or pulse dose oxygen (depending on the model). With pulse dose oxygen, oxygen is created as needed and dosed to the user with the user’s inhalation. 

What is an oxygen concentrator and how does it make oxygen?

An oxygen concentrator is a medical device used to provide supplemental oxygen to patients. The oxygen concentrator works by taking in air from the surrounding environment, compressing that air, purifying the air by removing impurities and delivering the now purified oxygen to the patient via nasal cannula or mask. Electronic systems within the concentrator carefully monitor the purity of the oxygen and are used to adjust delivery settings, flow rate and more. Oxygen concentrators require power to work, so they must remain plugged in or be used with a charged battery whenever oxygen is required. However, as long as they have power, an oxygen concentrator can provide an endless supply of oxygen.

Do I want to rely on battery life or oxygen supply? 

You will be reliant on power or on oxygen supply, depending on which delivery system you choose. Consider whether you feel more comfortable recharging batteries and ensuring you have access to power, or whether you prefer regularly refilling an oxygen tank.

What is a portable oxygen concentrator and how is it different from a portable oxygen tank?

A portable oxygen concentrator is a smaller, portable version of an oxygen concentrator that runs on batteries to produce an endless supply of oxygen. Even a small portable oxygen tank is generally heavier and more awkward to carry than a portable oxygen concentrator, and carries a finite amount of oxygen. 

Is an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank used differently?

While they can be used in the same way—to provide supplemental oxygen to someone in need of oxygen therapy—they may be used differently based on the patient’s needs. Ask your doctor how they would be used differently in your case. 

In the end, it is about working with your doctor to decide whether an oxygen concentrator vs. oxygen tank offers you the best chance for better breathing and improved quality of life.

If you are interested in using an oxygen concentrator for your oxygen therapy, explore the Inogen oxygen concentrators for sale on the official Inogen online store and contact us for more information.

_______

 

Sources

https://preferredhomecare.com/respiratory-therapy/faqs/

https://www.inogen.com/oxygen-therapy/pulse-dose-vs-continuous-flow/

 Previous
Next 
View all of our Inogen One Systems   See what Inogen One customers are saying  

Inogen Call For Support View Cart
1-800-695-7915
Request a FREE Info Kit