Oxygen Tanks Vs. Oxygen Concentrators: Which Are Better

Oxygen therapy is essential in cases of obstructed breathing, lung diseases, and general breathing difficulties. Oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators both fall under the umbrella term of oxygen therapy and have the purpose of enabling easier breathing.

For example, patients with obstructive pulmonary disease of obstructive sleep apnea are generally in need of such medical devices, which surely provide beneficial results.

Both medical devices provide long-term oxygen therapy to patients in need. They can often be portable but also serve as stationary devices. These devices are incredible because they don’t only provide oxygen to the patients, but also remove dust, bacteria, and other harmful particles from it.

But, no matter how similar these devices seem to be, they are different. In the following paragraphs, we’ll compare oxygen tanks and concentrators and see where they compare and where they differ. So, let’s get started!

Oxygen Tanks: What You Need to Know

Oxygen Tanks
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN

What Are Oxygen Tanks?

Oxygen tanks, also known as oxygen cylinders are metal tanks that contain pressurized air. These devices are generally used for medical purposes, in cases of patients with pulmonary diseases. They are relatively inexpensive, but surely are required for continuous re-buying or refilling, because patients need to always have a tank or two by their side.

Oxygen tanks are limited by capacity or the size of the tank, so they don’t additionally produce oxygen, only provide as much as they already contain. Oxygen tanks are usually personalized, so they feature a troller or similar wheel-based option to help easier transportation, whether for the patient, medical staff, or caregiver.

How Do Oxygen Tanks Work?

To understand how oxygen tanks work, it is essential to first mention that there are two types of oxygen tanks, which surely work differently.

  • Oxygen tanks with compressed oxygen – these tanks contain oxygen which is compressed at high pressure. Because of this, the oxygen is delivered through a specialized regulator which ensures proper oxygen flow rate. Oxygen tanks with compressed oxygen deliver oxygen at a 99.5% purity level (which is in line with the USP or Unites States Pharmacopoeia standards of 99% oxygen purity of such medical devices).
  • Oxygen tanks with liquid oxygen – these tanks contain liquid oxygen, a form of oxygen that is cooled at -297°F. Because of its form, the oxygen is stored in specialized vacuum insulated containers. This way the oxygen maintains its form and takes less space than compressed oxygen. So, the liquid oxygen tanks work by exposing the liquid oxygen to room temperature, where it takes a gaseous form and is ready to be used by patients. Just like the compressed oxygen, liquid oxygen is also required to have a 99.5% purity level.

Oxygen Tanks Advantages

Oxygen tanks have numerous advantages, which surely include their portability and the fact that they can always be rolled along with the patient. Let’s look at some other advantages patients find useful;

  • They don’t require power to work – oxygen tanks don’t require the use of a battery or an electrical outlet to provide the therapy to the patient. Because the oxygen is either pressurized or in liquid form in the tank, it is released at stable optimizable rates whenever the patient requires the therapy. So, the oxygen tank provides oxygen until it runs out.
  • They don’t create distracting noises – unlike other devices, oxygen tanks are completely silent and don’t create distracting noises. With oxygen tanks, there won’t be any beeping sounds or loud air-releasing noises that can wake the patients up or disturb other people in the room.
  • They are initially inexpensive – oxygen tanks are initially inexpensive, and generally have the lowest cost on the market when it comes to oxygen therapy devices. However, the initial price may become a concern in regards to how many tanks a patient requires for their therapy. But, if the low initial cost is a primary concern for the patient, then oxygen tanks are surely the right choice.

Oxygen Tanks Disadvantages

Just like with advantages, oxygen tanks can cause some concerns with their disadvantages. Let’s also take a look at the cons so that we can paint a clearer picture in regards to the efficiency and benefits of these devices;

  • They are rather heavy – sure, oxygen tanks feature a wheeled device that you can use to roll them around with you. However, oxygen tanks can be heavy, especially if they feature compressed oxygen. So, patients and caregivers should be aware that oxygen tanks are heavy to lift, move around without a wheeled system, and generally are hard to carry up a staircase or to put in a car, for example. For weak and sick patients, who live alone, for example, this can be a major disadvantage.
  • They have limited oxygen supply – oxygen tanks can contain only limited amounts of oxygen. Once they run out of oxygen, they generally need to be replaced, but some tanks can be refilled. Nevertheless, this can create a fuss for patients who require regular oxygen therapy and cannot be bothered with regular tank replacement or refilling.
  • They are long-term expensive – initially, oxygen tanks are low cost. However, they need to be frequently replaced or refilled, which can be rather expensive. The cost adds up, which makes oxygen tanks expensive considering the long term investment.

Oxygen Concentrators: What You Need to Know

Oxygen Concentrator
Image Source: Terry Cralle, RN

What Are Oxygen Concentrators?

Oxygen concentrators are medical devices utilized in cases of oxygen therapy for patients with breathing-related disorders. They can be used in cases of pulmonary diseases or obstructive sleep apnea, depending on the conditions and their severity. Compared to oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators are highly efficient, and because of that and the way they work, also more expensive.

Oxygen concentrators can come in form of stationary devices that can be used at home or in hospitals and medical care centers. However, there are also portable versions with additional powering and charging options, which are incredibly useful to patients. Oxygen concentrators cannot be purchased without a prescription and are personalized for each patient’s therapy requirements and need.

How Do Oxygen Concentrators Work?

Oxygen concentrators work by filtering the surrounding air and compressing it to the required density. Then, the concentrator delivers the compressed and purified oxygen into the pulse-dose or continuous flow delivery system, where it is ready for the patient to consume.

Oxygen concentrators also feature filters that help the device purify the air and remove all the dust and harmful particles. Not to mention that levels of oxygen concentration and delivery setting can be adjusted and that patients have several inhaling options; from special facial masks to the nasal cannula.

Oxygen Concentrators Advantages

Just like oxygen tanks, oxygen concentrators have their own set of advantages. Let’s take a look at what they have to offer to their patients;

  • They have unlimited oxygen supply – what is the disadvantage of an oxygen tank is the advantage of oxygen concentrators. Namely, these devices provide unlimited oxygen supply mainly because they continuously filter the surrounding air, without the risk of running out or needing refilling. This is probably the main advantage of these devices and the reason why so many patients opt for concentrators instead of tanks.
  • They are lightweight and easier to move – because concentrators rely on filtering air, rather than carrying pressurized air, they are more lightweight and easier to move around than the tanks. This allows them to be easily transportable and portable. That is why portable oxygen concentrators are such a huge success among patients, especially those who travel a lot.
  • They are customizable – oxygen concentrators are designed to fit every individual patient and their needs. That is why each of the concentrators can be adjusted, bought in different sizes and styles, with different pressure levels, etc. They can be stationary or portable and have different inhalation options.
  • They don’t require long term investment – the initial cost of oxygen concentrators may be higher, but these devices don’t require long term investment and expenses. They also don’t require long term, expensive maintenance, and other additional purchases. The initial cost is all there is to pay.

Oxygen Concentrators Disadvantages

Even though oxygen concentrators have incredible advantages and beneficial properties, we cannot look away from the main concerns patients usually emphasize after their use of these devices. So, let’s see what the main concerns with oxygen concentrators are;

  • They are loud and noisy – because oxygen concentrators actively and continuously filter, purify, and compress the air, they tend to be loud and noisy in that process. This is the most common patient complaint, even though modern concentrators are built to be quiet.
  • They require charging – with oxygen concentrators, batteries and electric power are indispensable. This can be a major disadvantage because if the battery isn’t charged or if there isn’t a power outlet, you can’t use the device. So, not only a major disadvantage but this can also be a real danger for patients who require oxygen therapy.
  • They are initially expensive – oxygen concentrators are initially very expensive. They often exceed a thousand dollars, and the high-end devices can go up to several thousand dollars. So, even though the initial price is the only investment, that can still be a major problem for the majority of people.

Oxygen Tanks Vs. Oxygen Concentrators: Which Are Better

To know which are better, tanks or concentrators, let’s compare them side by side and see what they offer and who may find them more suitable.

1. Size And Weight

Oxygen Tanks – these devices tend to vary in size and weight. However, a typical oxygen tank provides 680 liters of oxygen when at full capacity. With this capacity, a tank can provide oxygen continuously for 5 hours (at a rate of 2 liters per minute). Also, a typical oxygen tank is over two feet at length and weighs between 20 and 130 pounds.

Oxygen Concentrators – these devices also tend to vary in size and weight because they can be stationary and portable. Stationary, home devices can weigh up to 30 pounds and deliver oxygen up to 10 liters per one minute. Portable devices, however, are much smaller and tend to weigh between 3 and 6 pounds, depending on the model. Portable models can last between 4 and 10 hours.

2. Mobility And Portability

Oxygen Tanks – these devices are generally portable, and they can be carried around. They usually have a wheeled system of transportation or a cart that is used to carry the tank. However, because the tanks can be heavier, it can be a little difficult to lift the tanks. Moreover, oxygen tanks are not allowed by the Federal Aviation Administration for air travel; so, compressed or liquid oxygen tanks cannot be carried and used on commercial aircraft.

Oxygen Concentrators – these devices, especially portable concentrators are designed to be portable and easy to use while traveling. Because they filter the air and run on batteries, oxygen concentrators are perfect for traveling. They often come with useful travel bags and additional charges. They are even allowed for aircraft traveling, as approved by the FAA.

3. Cost

Oxygen Tanks – these devices don’t require a large upfront cost. They usually cost up to a hundred dollars, which is acceptable for most of the users and patients. However, long term investment with oxygen tanks is expensive, considering that patients and users need to frequently change and refill these tanks.

Oxygen Concentrators – these devices have a high upfront cost. They can cost from one thousand to several thousands of dollars, depending on the model and portability. However, these devices do not require an additional purchase, additional maintenance cost, and constant refilling. So, concentrators are a long term investment that doesn’t add up cost over time.

Read More: The Best Portable Oxygen Concentrators 2020

4. Safety

Oxygen Tanksreports are stating the oxygen tanks can start leaking. This can result in a room being saturated with pure oxygen, which increases the risk of fire. Moreover, there is an additional problem if a fire occurs. Fires that are induced by pure oxygen burn hotter, faster, and are more difficult to manage and put out.

Oxygen Concentrators – these devices are generally safe. Because concentrators use the surrounding air and filter it, there is almost no risk of leakage and possible fire outbreak.

Final Verdict

Considering all the information, we can only say that oxygen concentrators seem to be much better than oxygen tanks. Fairly enough, oxygen tanks seem a bit outdated and even though cheap, can pose a certain harm risk, or risk of fire.

On the other hand, oxygen concentrators are expensive, but they are an excellent long term investment. Not to mention that they’re safe and extremely useful for patients who travel, or require oxygen therapy at work or some other places.

Nevertheless, we’re leaving you with all the information you need in this article, so you can decide for yourself. Some people may find oxygen tanks better, while others may do the opposite.

Either way, always make sure to talk to your doctor about these devices and oxygen therapy options before you make a final decision.

Also Read: Increase Oxygen Levels While Sleeping: 12 Tips to Follow

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