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© 2015 by Acute Care Gases

Oxygen Tanks or Liquid Oxygen?

A Decision Guide for facility managers

 

In today’s health care environment a constant challenge is to keep your costs low without sacrificing the quality of patient care.

 

One often over-looked option is your choice of portable oxygen delivery systems.  The two choices are liquid oxygen and traditional tanks.  Below are the most common questions or concerns people express about using tanks as compared to a liquid system.  We hope you will find this useful in making a decision.

 

Oxygen Tanks are heavy:  Back in the 70’s & 80’s when companies wanted to promote liquid oxygen this was a common complaint.  Back then tanks were made of steel and were in fact fairly heavy.  Today tanks are made of lighter metals and only weigh about 1 pound more than a typical liquid portable.

 

Oxygen tanks don’t last as long:  Using a flow rate of 2 liters per minute (lpm) a standard E oxygen cylinder will last 4 to 5 hours.  That’s just about the same time as a liquid portable.

Oxygen tanks are big and bulky:  Tanks come in multiple sizes.  If your residents require a smaller tank for special applications such as PT or OT use we can provide them.  There are also a variety of carry bags and brackets to adapt the tank to your mobility needs.

 

It takes too much time to change the regulator on an oxygen cylinder:  In reality it takes most people less than 1 minute.  To refill a liquid oxygen portable dewar takes several minutes.

 

We hate having to go and change the tanks when they are empty:  Regardless of the type of system, tanks or liquid, an empty vessel doesn’t do anyone any good.  Additional tanks can be stored throughout the building reducing the time it takes to replace empties.  Facilities that have staff members pre-fill the liquid portables are often surprised at how much time is lost in that process.  Some facilities have discovered that pre-filling the units and distributing them to the rest of the building could equate to an FTE position.

 

Other factors:

Liquid oxygen is a cryogenic gas.  In simple terms, it’s very cold, 200 degrees below zero or more.  It’s hard to keep it that cold for any long period of time.  Both the base stations and the portables are designed to allow the liquid to evaporate, especially when not being used.  It’s possible to lose over 50% of the contents through this process.  An oxygen tank will retain its gas for years.

 

Tipping a liquid portable can cause a spill.  Not only have you lost product, there is a real possibility for a resident or staff member getting a frost bite type of injury if they come in contact with the liquid.  An oxygen tank and regulator works vertically or horizontally allowing more options.

 

On a humid day, liquid portables and base stations can actually freeze up when being filled or if being used at a high flow rate.  This can cause valves to stick making it hard to refill portables and can reduce oxygen flow being delivered to the resident.  An oxygen cylinder and regulator will deliver its set flow regardless of environmental conditions.

 

The contents gauge on most liquid portable is basically a scale.  The weight of the unit is displayed on a gauge indicating the approximate amount of oxygen left in the container.  This is far from an exact measurement and is very prone to “operator error”.  These inaccurate readings can lead to unnecessary refills of the liquid oxygen portable.

 

There are multiple factors that impact the savings you would realize by using oxygen cylinders instead of liquid oxygen.  These variables make it impractical to be able to quote a guaranteed savings.  Our experience has been from 25% to almost a 70% reduction in cost.  No facility has ever experienced an increase in their oxygen costs by using oxygen cylinders.

 

We are more than happy to have our technical and respiratory staff answer any questions you may have about either of these systems.  In addition, if you are converting from one system to another we will supply respiratory therapists to provide training to your staff to make the transition as easy as possible.