What’s the Difference Between an Oxygen Concentrator and Oxygen Tank?

When people think of portable oxygen, a traditional large oxygen tank often comes to mind. These tanks are generally made of steel or aluminum and the oxygen comes in the form of pressurized gas, which needs to be handled with care and kept upright. The size of the tank gets larger as the flow rate that a patient requires increases. These tanks are usually quite heavy, have to be changed frequently, and the pressure valves attached to the tanks must be checked consistently. The gas oxygen inside the tank is delivered at 100% concentration.

Sometimes oxygen tanks contain liquid oxygen, which allows for a smaller, lighter tank. Smaller, portable tanks can be filled with the oxygen from the larger tanks for use outside of the home. Liquid oxygen is also delivered at a concentration of 100%. In addition, liquid oxygen can be delivered at a higher rate of flow for a much longer period of time than a gas system. However, liquid oxygen is much more expensive than gas. Like gas, liquid oxygen tanks need to be kept level. Sometimes a bottle is attached to the tank to collect water vapor, which needs to be emptied and cleaned as necessary.

Traditional tanks that contain compressed or liquid gas are advantageous because they do not need to be plugged into an electrical outlet. Instead, oxygen is released based on the pressure coming from the tank. However, they must be replaced as they empty out.

Educate yourself with our Free Oxygen Therapy Guide

Concentrators differ significantly from traditional oxygen tanks. While large units are available for home use, concentrators also come in much smaller sizes and can weigh quite a bit less than a standard tank. Oxygen concentrators work by converting air in the surrounding area into concentrated oxygen. They deliver air via continuous or intermittent flow. Continuous flow oxygen concentrators provide a consistent amount of oxygen regardless of how many times a patient breathes per minute. Due to the fact that they deliver a specific amount of oxygen per minute, oxygen concentrators are usually recommended for patients that require a lower flow of oxygen.

Oxygen units do not require refilling. This is a major advantage, because the user doesn’t have to be concerned with changing the tank when the oxygen runs out, as with a traditional tank. They do, however, require a power source. Oxygen concentrators are battery powered, and come with adapters so that they can be plugged into a car or run on AC or DC power. These units can be a little louder than you're used to, but can be set up in a separate room with a length of tubing that allows the patient mobility around the home.

Portable oxygen concentrators allow patients much more mobility than a traditional tank due to the concentrator’s significant difference in size and weight. In addition, patients who require continuous oxygen or a high flow rate will find concentrators advantageous because they never run out of oxygen.

Oxygen concentrators can be rented for travel use. They are also allowed on airplanes as long as the particular model is FAA and TSA approved and can fit under a seat or in an overhead compartment.

When choosing between a traditional oxygen tank and a standard or portable concentrator, there are many things to take into consideration. These include how much oxygen the patient has been prescribed, how often he or she will leave home and what types of activities will be engaged in. You should also consider how much the unit weighs and balance that with personal strength so that the oxygen tank or concentrator can be moved with ease when necessary. Finally, you may want to choose a system that can grow with you if you anticipate that your oxygen needs may increase in the future.

About Scott Ridl: Scott joined American Medical Sales and Rentals in 2008 as a Web Manager and Content Writer. He is a writer and designer. He is extensively trained on oxygen therapy products from leading manufacturers such as Inogen, Respironics, Chart, Invacare, ResMed and more. Scott works closely with respiratory therapists and oxygen specialists to educate the community about oxygen therapy products, COPD, asthma and lung diseases. He writes weekly columns and is passionate about educating the community on oxygen therapy and respiratory issues.

27 thoughts on “What’s the Difference Between an Oxygen Concentrator and Oxygen Tank?”

  • Adolf H.

    Why Oxygen concentrated is 87%?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason March 23, 2017 at 2:03 am

      Medical grade oxygen is considered any concentration of oxygen above 85%. Oxygen concentrators will provide anywhere from 90% to 95% pure oxygen while running properly.

      Reply
  • Eileen

    Pleas send me estimate of considerate stationary and portable for travel in oxygen .Right now I use the tanks and I am at #2 and I was told that near future I will be going up on the number that why I want to pay once.Thank You Eileen

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason
      Danielle Jason March 28, 2017 at 1:43 am

      Hello Eileen, thank you for your comment. Go ahead and give our Oxygen Specialists a call at 888-360-9879 and they'll work with you to find a stationary and portable unit to fit your needs.

      Reply
  • Harper Campbell

    My grandmother has recently been put on an oxygen support, and we need to decide which method would be the right one for her once she leaves the hospital. It's interesting to know that the concentrators that there are two kinds that we can get, the large unit for the house and smaller ones to making it easy to carry around. I like how you also made the point that this will allow a consistent amount of oxygen regardless of how much she breaths per minute.

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Harper. Do not hesitate to reach out should you have any further questions regarding your grandmothers oxygen support. We've also passed along your information and will have someone reach out via email with some further information.

      Reply
  • ellen skinner

    are there payment plans available

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Absolutely, Ellen. For information regarding payment plans please contact one of our Specialists at 877-774-9271.

      Reply
  • Ericka Mae Bayona Mangahas
    Ericka Mae Bayona Mangahas October 1, 2017 at 6:38 pm

    Hi there! My mom is currently using oxygen tank at home. She is having a lung complication. Her oxygen tank is 15 lbs. She uses 2x a day that's why she needs 30 lbs a day. just want to ask if oxygen concentrator is good for her?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Hello Ericka, thank you for your comment. If you'd like you can reach out to one of our Oxygen Specialists at 877-774-9271. They will be able to work with you to find the right solution for your mother and her condition.

      Reply
  • Louise knepple

    How many hours can I get if I am at 4Is
    I am going to a meeting and am not sure of access to an outlet Ihave a portable and need more time for this event Is there a bigger battery pack or a bigger unit that I can rent for theday

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      That is a great question, Louise. The answer all depends on the type of unit you have. If you'd like you can give one of our Oxygen Specialists a call at: 877-774-9271 and they can walk you through your available options.

      Reply
  • Cynthia

    Are their filters, water etc, maintenance on an oxygenator?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      That's a great question, Cynthia. The components of oxygen concentrators do vary based on the model and brand. There are many oxygen concentrators that do have filters, humidifier attachments, and required maintenance. Is there a brand in particular you are looking at? Feel free to give one of our Oxygen Specialists a call to discuss your options at 877-774-9271.

      Reply
  • Mary Jo cappuccilli
    Mary Jo cappuccilli November 13, 2017 at 11:12 pm

    Hello. When the concentrator is turned off, is there no oxygen stored in the system?

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Mary. When the concentrator is turned off it will not be producing oxygen. Check out our page here: https://www.oxygenconcentratorstore.com/reference-material/how-concentrators-work/ for an in-depth breakdown of how oxygen concentrators operate

      Reply
  • Mel

    I use a machine for concentrated oxygen. I use it every night. Today I see an ad on the Internet about liquid oxygen drops that can be dropped into you water or other beverage. It is somewhat expensive but makes you feel that it is the bet thing you can use for oxygen therapy. It speaks about feeling different the same day or two, etc. Which is better, the liquid for 50 bucks or the machine my doctor recently sent to my home and was paid for by Medicare. It is on wheels and sits next to my bed. The machine itself produces heat in the room, comfortable enough to not have to always use central heating. The ad claims this liquid oxygen can almost cure anything, which is hard to believe. I cannot remember the name of it now, but can you send me some information about the concentrated oxygen vs. the liquid oxygen which calls for three drops a couple times a day. I have not talked to my doctor, not until my next appointment in four weeks. He just prescribed the machine and had it sent to me and always said I do not have enough oxygen in my blood. Will this concentrated oxygen help to possible reduce the cancer that has been found in my prostate gland though surgical biopsy? I am 77 and have diabetes which gives me low testing numbers. Thanks for your help. Mel Toadvine, [email protected]

    Reply
    • Danielle Jason

      Thank you for your comment, Mel. We suggest, as always, consulting your physician regarding finding an oxygen solution that is right for you.

      Reply
    • Natasha

      You cannot put liquid oxygen in a bottle and put drops in your drink. That supplier should be shot. Liquid oxygen is liquid because it is extremely, extremely concentrated. First, the bottle would break. Second, say you had an aluminum bottle. When you opened the top, the oxygen would expand and yo would have a lot of oxygen in the room but not in an eye dropper.

      Really, Ms Jason could have answered that!

      Reply
  • Rose Rafferty

    My mom needs oxygen but from experience with it in hospitals is not willing to agree because it makes her nose and throat so dry that her nose bleeds and she cannot eat or drink. Do the concentrators retain the humidity in the air or is the humidity removed when the oxygen is concentrated and cleaned?

    Reply
    • Margaret Goodman
      Margaret Goodman March 26, 2019 at 5:38 am

      You can add a humidifier to some of the concentrators and there are also solutions for dry nose and throat as well. We have a great blog post you can read here about it https://www.oxygenconcentratorstore.com/blog/prevent-dry-nose-throat-mouth-oxygen/

      Reply
  • Cathy

    Which unit can be used with an O-Zone device please?

    Reply
  • Johnie Wood

    I tried to discuss the Inojen with my Dr. and she refused even to discuss it. I think it was because they have their own preferred vendor.
    I have already talked to one of your specialists.

    Reply
  • Emmanuel

    Is the oxygen concentrators better than the oxygen tanks

    Reply
    • Ed Rodgers

      Hi. To answer the question, I think we need to qualify what better means. Both will deliver the needed oxygen to the person so in that regard there is not one that is better. Where the difference occurs is the mobility for a person. Unlike tanks, the oxygen concentrator uses the air to capture the oxygen. The machines are able to be brought on an airplane for use as well as more portable in transportation in cars than the green tanks. If you are using tanks, typically you need a delivery and pick up service which requires you to be home for those deliveries. From these brief aspects the use of oxygen concentrator is better for your ability to live a more mobile life without the weight and size of the oxygen tanks. Additionally, with tanks your are limited by the amount of oxygen in the tank whereas the concentrator can always have oxygen available. I hope this helps.

      Reply
  • Les Drayton

    What is the comparison ( Bottled o2 against an o2 concentrator ) I am trying to say which is most cost affective buying o2 cylinders or e size o2 cylinder.
    I hope you can help

    Reply

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