Do you ever wonder: What’s the difference between a “portable” oxygen tank and a portable oxygen concentrator?
You might be aware of both as devices that deliver medical oxygen to those that require it. But the methods of delivery, as well as the device specifications, tend to differ beyond that.
The main difference between the two is in the way in which oxygen is provided. Oxygen tanks have a finite amount of oxygen compressed within them, inhaled by the user until it runs out. Oxygen concentrators filter and generate medical grade oxygen, at an infinite supply so long as the battery that powers this mechanism has life.
An oxygen concentrator is akin to an air conditioning unit: takes air in from one system, 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 new oxygen is then delivered via a nasal cannula in the desired flow setting to enhance the user’s breathing.
Tanks accomplish the same end through different means. All of the oxygen that a tank will ever have is already compressed within it. That supply is gradually reduced until the tank runs out and needs to be refilled or replaced.
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:
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.
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, eliminating the concern of leaks, and therefore the concern of flammability.
Size – An oxygen concentrator is designed for convenience. 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.
Cost is another factor to consider. While each device will be priced differently, it is important to remember that when buying oxygen concentrators, the price will be largely upfront. For oxygen tanks, costs will be 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 having a backup supply of oxygen in a tank available for use, as well as additional fully charged batteries in case of a power outage.
Do I want to rely on battery life or oxygen supply? What size device am I looking for? What are my intended uses for my medical oxygen? These are all questions that any medical oxygen user should be asking when deciding between a portable oxygen concentrator and an oxygen tank. It’s a decision that will affect one’s lifestyle moving forward.
In the end, it’s about deciding what offers the best chance for better breathing.