Home Health & Wellness Portable Oxygen Concentrator vs Oxygen Tank: Which Option Is Better?

Portable Oxygen Concentrator vs Oxygen Tank: Which Option Is Better?

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Oxygen therapy is a vital form of treatment for individuals who have difficulty breathing due to a variety of medical conditions, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, asthma, and more. It helps to provide the necessary oxygen to the body to ensure that all organs and tissues receive the oxygen they need to function properly.

When it comes to oxygen therapy, there are two main options: portable oxygen concentrators and oxygen tanks. Both of these options have their own advantages and disadvantages, which can make it challenging to determine which one is better suited for a particular individual’s needs.

While both portable oxygen concentrators and oxygen tanks are effective options for oxygen therapy, there are some pros and cons to each option that individuals should consider before making a decision. In this blog post, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of each option to help individuals determine which option is best suited for their needs.

Understanding portable oxygen concentrators

Portable oxygen concentrators (POCs) are medical devices that are designed to make breathing easier for those who require supplemental oxygen due to a variety of health conditions. These machines take ambient air and concentrate the oxygen molecules, making it easier for users to breathe.

So, how do these work?

Portable oxygen concentrators are powered by electricity and feature an intake fan that suctions in ambient air. This air is then compressed and passed through a sieve-like material known as a sieve bed, which filters out nitrogen from the oxygen molecules. The nitrogen is then vented out, leaving a concentrated supply of oxygen molecules. 

The POC then passes this enriched air through a flow metre, which controls the rate at which the oxygen is released. The user can adjust the rate of flow to their personal preference, allowing them to get the right amount of oxygen they need. This process is then repeated constantly, providing the user with a continuous supply of enriched oxygen.

A major advantage of POCs over other methods of providing supplemental oxygen is that they are extremely lightweight and portable. They typically weigh between 10 and 15 lbs., allowing users to carry them wherever they go. In addition, they also come equipped with several features, including oxygen purity monitors, alarms, adjustable flow rates, and more.

This makes them an ideal choice for those who require supplemental oxygen but want to maintain their mobility and independence. Additionally, many POCs are compatible with car adapters, so users can use them while driving and other batteries to extend their usage outside of the home.

Understanding oxygen tanks

Oxygen tanks are portable medical devices used to store and supply oxygen to those who require supplemental oxygen therapy. Oxygen tanks are typically filled with either compressed oxygen or liquid oxygen, depending on the size and type of the tank. They are typically metal cylinders with a valve on the top that is used to control the flow of oxygen.

So, how do they work?

Oxygen tanks work by releasing oxygen into the air through a regulator connected to the valve. The amount of oxygen released can be adjusted by controlling the flow rate of the regulator. The oxygen is then inhaled through a nasal cannula, face mask, or ventilator. The oxygen is then absorbed into the bloodstream, where it helps to improve oxygen levels in the body.

Advantages of oxygen tanks

One of the main advantages of using an oxygen tank is that it provides a continuous flow of oxygen and does not require power or batteries to operate. This makes them ideal for patients who need long-term supplemental oxygen therapy, such as those with severe respiratory conditions like COPD.

Disadvantages of oxygen tanks

One of the main drawbacks is that they require frequent refilling, which can be costly and inconvenient. Additionally, oxygen tanks can be heavy and difficult to transport, making them less ideal for people with limited mobility. Finally, there is also a risk of fire or explosion if the tank is not properly handled and maintained.

Comparing portable oxygen concentrators and oxygen tanks

  • Cost. Portable oxygen concentrators are typically more expensive upfront, but they can be reused for years to come and are more cost-effective in the long run. Oxygen tanks, on the other hand, need to be refilled with compressed oxygen regularly, and this adds up over time.
  • Portability and mobility. Portable oxygen concentrators are the clear winners. Most models are small and lightweight, making them easy to carry around or store when not in use. Oxygen tanks, on the other hand, can be quite bulky and difficult to move.
  • Oxygen output. When it comes to oxygen output, both options have their advantages and disadvantages. Portable oxygen concentrators provide a steady stream of pure oxygen, but their output is limited by the battery life of the device. Oxygen tanks can provide higher levels of oxygen, but their supply can run out quickly if used heavily.
  • Maintenance and care. Portable oxygen concentrators must be properly cleaned and maintained to ensure optimal performance. Oxygen tanks must also be inspected and refilled periodically to maintain their levels of oxygen.
  • Dependability and reliability. Portable oxygen concentrators are considered to be more reliable than oxygen tanks because they do not rely on a finite source of compressed oxygen. As long as the device has power, it will provide a steady stream of pure oxygen without interruption. Oxygen tanks can run out of gas if they are not properly refilled or inspected, which can be a major inconvenience.
  • Safety considerations. Both portable oxygen concentrators and oxygen tanks come with safety considerations that must be taken into account. Portable oxygen concentrators can become a fire hazard if they are not operated correctly or stored safely. Oxygen tanks must be properly handled and stored to avoid any potential dangers from the high-pressure cylinders.


The decision between a portable oxygen concentrator and an oxygen tank ultimately depends on the individual’s needs and lifestyle. To recap the key points of comparison, portable oxygen concentrators are more convenient and offer greater freedom of movement, while oxygen tanks are generally more reliable and consistent. Additionally, oxygen concentrators are more expensive upfront but may save money in the long run, while oxygen tanks are more affordable but require frequent refills.

Ellen Diamond, a psychology graduate from the University of Hertfordshire, has a keen interest in the fields of mental health, wellness, and lifestyle.

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