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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. You might be aware that both devices can deliver medical oxygen to those that require it. But 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, oxygen tanks have a finite amount of oxygen compressed 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

Portable oxygen tanks for breathing hold a specific amount of oxygen and all of the oxygen that a tank will ever have is already compressed within it. That supply 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. 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.

Things to Consider: Oxygen Concentrator vs. Oxygen Tank

That difference also highlights the dosage methods used by each type of device. All oxygen tanks deliver oxygen on continuous flow. With oxygen concentrators, it tends to vary by device, as some of the more portable options operate on pulse-dose delivery.

There are several other attributes that separate oxygen concentrators from oxygen tanks for oxygen therapy. Oxygen concentrators offer several advantages over oxygen systems that rely on cylinders and tanks. These advantages include:

  1. Consistency – Whereas 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 atmosphere that includes oxygen-enriched air. Air saturated with oxygen increases the risk of a fire. 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 – 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 a 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, costs are incurred over time in the form of new oxygen tanks purchased periodically as 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.

Frequently Asked Questions

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.





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