Medical grade oxygen tanks (cylinders) are usually made of aluminum and come in a variety of sizes. The cylinders store oxygen as compressed gas or liquid and dispense oxygen for human medical use through a nasal cannula or oxygen mask. If you use portable compressed medical oxygen for an extended period of time, or if you use a stationary liquid oxygen system, you will need to have your oxygen tanks refilled at some point.
Home Refill Systems
The most convenient way to refill your medical oxygen tanks is to do it at home with a personal oxygen tank refill system. Although they are expensive (as of late 2009, these run $3,000 to $5,000 or more), a home refill system allows you the freedom of refilling your own oxygen tanks as needed in your own home. Some models even double as stationary oxygen concentrators to fulfill your home oxygen needs. Ask your caseworker or home medical supply representative to check with your insurance provider to find out if coverage is provided under your policy. Be sure to have your home medical supply representative go over safety procedures with you when the equipment is delivered.
Oxygen Delivery Services
Most home oxygen suppliers offer a refill and delivery service. If you use a home medical supply company to serve your oxygen needs, they will also pick up and refill your oxygen tanks and deliver them to your home. This service is generally covered by most insurance providers, but be sure to check with your caseworker, supply representative or insurance company representative to find out if you qualify for oxygen refill and home delivery benefits. Home delivery may be the most practical option for patients with limited portable oxygen needs.
Depending on the method and the size of the tank, refilling an oxygen tank can take anywhere from an hour to several hours if refilled with a home system. Turnaround time for home oxygen refill services will vary depending on your supplier.
There is no such thing as a consumer-level public oxygen filling station. Medical oxygen tanks must be filled by a licensed oxygen supplier or by the consumer with an FDA approved home refill system.
Refilling oxygen tanks while traveling can present some challenges, so planning ahead is imperative. If traveling by car, try to bring enough oxygen tanks to last through your trip. If that isn’t practical, call your physician or local oxygen supplier and ask for his advice and assistance about where to have your oxygen tanks refilled while you are on the road.
Compressed oxygen tanks pose combustion and fire hazards. Always consult your home oxygen supplier for information on safely handling, refilling, storing and transporting your oxygen cylinders.