The terms oxygen tank and oxygen concentrators are often used interchangeably. But contrary to popular understanding, they are not the same. Yes, they both deliver supplemental oxygen to those that need it, but how it is delivered, the devices themselves, and almost everything else is different from there.
The biggest difference between oxygen tanks and oxygen concentrators is the way the oxygen is provided. Tanks store a specific amount of compressed oxygen that can be used until it runs out. Concentrators, however, filter the air that surrounds the device to create medical grade oxygen supplying an infinite amount of oxygen as long as the battery is powered. Oxygen concentrators can be compared to air conditioning units: they both take air in, change it, and deliver it in the new state. Of course, these two differ in that concentrators do not cool the air, but purify it, ridding it of nitrogen and other elements that make breathing difficult. The purified oxygen is then delivered through a nasal cannula. The airflow settings are adjustable and a set pressure is prescribed by a doctor. Another difference between devices is the dosage methods. Tanks deliver a continuous flow, whereas oxygen concentrators can operate on pulse dose delivery, though it varies by device.
Oxygen concentrators have many advantages over tanks like:
Oxygen Concentrators are Safe
Oxygen tanks can start leaking, creating an environment where the air is saturated with pure oxygen. Air that is enriched with oxygen increases the risk of fire. Because oxygen-induced fires burn hotter and faster than other fires, it is more difficult to put them out. Oxygen concentrators use the surrounding air and create purified air as needed; there is no risk of leakage, thus reducing the risk of catching fire immensely.
Oxygen Concentrators are Consistent
Because an oxygen concentrator uses the surrounding air and purifies that, it will never run out of oxygen, unlike oxygen tanks. As long as your concentrator has a power supply and is in good working condition, you will have an unlimited amount of oxygen. It is wise to keep a backup battery stored that is fully charged in case of an emergency, like an unexpected power outage.
Oxygen Concentrators are a More Convenient Size
Oxygen concentrators are preferred in part because of their convenient size. Tanks are frustratingly bulky and heavy. Portable oxygen concentrators, on the other hand, can be under five pounds.
Oxygen Concentrators are a Good Financial Investment
Buying an oxygen concentrator will, over time, be more financially responsible. Yes, buying a concentrator means a large upfront cost (and, with continued use, replacement filters, and nasal cannulas), but that price is typically less than all the costs incurred with replacement tanks.
It is always best to talk with your doctor about what which device is best suited for you and your lifestyle. Be sure to discuss your needs and wants with them. Would you rather rely on batteries or oxygen supply? What is the best size of the device for you? Overall, your decision should reflect on what gives you the best chance of efficient breathing.