Comparing The Effectiveness of Portable Oxygen Concentrators and Oxygen Tanks

When you have a respiratory condition, you need more oxygen. Air just doesn’t give you enough. Only about 20% of air is oxygen. The rest is mostly nitrogen and not going to help your lungs. When you have a respiratory condition, you don’t process oxygen as well. So the only option is to get more of it! 

The first option is to get an oxygen tank. These tanks can have a chassis or cart added so that they gain some portability. Breathing pure oxygen works better than the partial oxygen. Even if the body doesn’t process it as well as it normally should, there’s a lot more of it to make up for that fact. The other option is to get a portable oxygen concentrator. These work by creating high percentage oxygen wherever they are located, rather than filling up and bringing it with them. Both have their benefits and negatives. Examining these differences can help determine which option is best for each person. 


The first thing to compare from the two devices is their portability and how they limit day to day movements. Considering the portable oxygen concentrator has “portable” in the name, it’s not a surprise it’s going to do well in this category. Portable oxygen concentrators are lightweight (between 2-10 pounds) and are easy to bring around. Models that are under 5 pounds are typically designed to be worn and ultra portable. Battery life lasts between 3 and 8 hours in most cases. Trips longer than that will require charging from an outlet or a secondary battery to replace the initial one. This is much like an electric car. Portable oxygen concentrators also excel when they are involved in travel. They are even convenient enough to be easily accessible and safe on airplanes. 

Oxygen tanks have been made more portable by putting wheels on them. More accurately, wheels are added to a small cart or chassis. This extends to a handle and the oxygen tank is moved around much like a person rolls airport luggage. This does provide some basic mobility, but can be a hassle for people who may wish to go off into parks or areas with uneven ground. The tanks can be heavy. This means they can sometimes be awkward to get in and out of vehicles if someone has lost their upper body strength. 

Oxygen Quality

For almost everyone, it’s a negligible difference in the amount of oxygen that comes from each device. An oxygen tank comes from sources that are close to 100% oxygen. A portable oxygen concentrator is a little bit different. Since it is creating oxygen on the fly, it doesn’t quite get to that level. There’s a tradeoff when it comes to size, since these are much smaller to allow for portability. Depending on the brand and device chosen, typically the mixture will be somewhere between 90% and 95% oxygen. Typically, this is more than enough. If it’s not, a doctor will certainly ensure their patient know about it ahead of time. 


The first thing most people will look at when considering these two options is the cost. Upfront costs are far less expensive for people with oxygen tanks. However, there is a long term cost associated with them. The oxygen needs to be refilled. This means that either they need to purchase a method to do so at home, or to fill up regularly like a car with a gas station. 

Alternatively, the upfront cost of a portable oxygen concentrator is much higher. They can cost between $1600 and $4000. However, the only costs needed later is replacing batteries that have lost the ability to charge. This is rare, and reasonably inexpensive. Depending on health insurance, much of either of these may actually already be covered. It’s important to find out just what is covered and what kind of deductible or copay may be required with your health insurance.

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