COPD Lexicon: Home Oxygen Terms to Know  

So, I’ve already discussed  “Oxygen Terms To Know." Today, I’d like to discuss HOME oxygen terms to know. This is because some people with COPD require home oxygen. So, it’s nice to know what’s available.

Here are basic HOME oxygen terms to know


Your doctor will need to write a prescription for home oxygen. This will state how much oxygen you need and when you need to wear it. Some people only need oxygen at night. Others only need it when moving around. Some need to wear it 24 hours a day.1-3

Home Health Care Company

These are companies that supply home oxygen equipment. A representative will come to your home. This person will educate you about your equipment and how to use it.


Certain tests must be ordered to assure you qualify. If not done already, a blood test called an ABG may be ordered. A simpler test involves a pulse oximeter. Any of these can show if you have low oxygen levels and if you would benefit from home oxygen. This will be discussed further in a future post.1-3

Compressed Oxygen Cylinders

These are pressurized tanks. In past days, all people with home oxygen had to utilize large H-tanks. They were not even remotely portable.2 Later on smaller tanks, called E-tanks, were available. Early tanks were made of steel and were heavy. Newer tanks are made of aluminum and are lightweight. There are also smaller tanks, such as M-tanks. These are far more convenient for today’s active COPD patients to carry as they adventure outside their homes.1-3

A problem with cylinders is they eventually run out of oxygen. So, you will have to monitor them closely and change tanks as needed.

Stationary Oxygen Concentrators

These were first made available in the late 1970s. These are machines that run on electricity. They draw in room air and separate oxygen from it. They concentrate this oxygen so it’s available for inhaling. They’re nice because you don’t have to rely on tanks in the home. Initially, E-tanks were available so people could ambulate outside the home. They can be lugged around using a portable cart.1-2 But, eventually, other more convenient portable devices were invented.

A downside is that stationary concentrators, as the name implies,  are not portable. They also require electricity, so they do require some cost to you. They also do not work if the power goes out. So, back up oxygen cylinders are necessary. They make an audible noise, although newer units are quieter.1-3

Concentrator filling portables

They are connected to stationary concentrators. They are then filled with oxygen. Filling them may take a couple of hours. But, once filled, these devices are lightweight and portable. They allow you to stay active outside your home.

A downside is they do use up electricity when filling. Plus, they are run on batteries that must be monitored and charged using electricity. Also, like stationary models, they do make noise.2-3

Liquid oxygen

You will have a base unit. It cools oxygen and turns it into its liquid form. You will also have a portable unit that connects to the base unit. The portable unit is filled with liquid oxygen. The portable unit turns the oxygen into a gas that can be easily inhaled. These are lightweight and make it easy to stay active outside your home.

A downside is they tend to be very expensive. Another downside is warmer temperatures may cause evaporation. So, this can cause the units to run empty quicker.

Oxygen tubing

One end of this tubing is connected to a flowmeter on an oxygen source (tank, concentrator, etc.). The other end is connected to a nasal cannula. Many people like to add extra tubing to make it easier moving around their homes. This is fine. But, the standard recommendation is not to exceed 50 feet of tubing. If longer than 50 feet, we can’t guarantee you’re getting the desired amount of oxygen.

Oxygen conserving devices

These are devices that connect to nasal cannulas. They make it so oxygen is only supplied when you inhale. The goal here is to “conserve” oxygen. This is nice for people using portable devices. It makes the oxygen last much longer. This allows them to stay safely outside their homes for longer periods of time.2-3

What to make of this?

The device or devices you have access to depends on your insurance provider. It may also depend on what your home health care provider has available. If you have access to money, your options are limitless. Newer devices are getting smaller, lighter, and quieter. This has greatly improved convenience of home oxygen therapy. This is all in an effort to help you breathe easier and live longer with COPD.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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