How to Refill an Oxygen Tank

Chad Birt

Written by Chad Birt on Tue Jun 04 2024.

Oxygen tank hookup.

Many people with respiratory issues, like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and emphysema, use supplemental oxygen to breathe. If your loved one uses an oxygen tank, as their caregiver, it’s important to know how to refill the tank once it gets low. Regularly monitoring your loved one’s oxygen levels can improve their quality of life and provide peace of mind.

In this article, we discuss three ways to refill oxygen tanks. Once you’re finished reading, you’ll know how to complete the process both quickly and efficiently.

Supplemental Oxygen

All of the cells in the human body need oxygen to survive. If your loved one’s lungs aren’t working to the best of their ability, it’s harder for oxygen to make it to their cells and tissues. Without enough oxygen, the body enters a state called hypoxemia, causing shortness of breath. 

Hypoxemia occurs when oxygen saturation in the blood falls below 89 percent or when arterial oxygen pressure falls below 60 milligrams of mercury (mm/Hg). Without treatment, hypoxemia may lead to more serious health problems, but supplemental oxygen may provide lasting relief.

Who Can Benefit From Supplemental Oxygen

There are various health problems that can benefit from supplemental oxygen, including:

  • Asthma, bronchitis, or emphysema

  • Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD)

  • COVID-19

  • Cystic fibrosis

  • Heart failure

  • Lung cancer

  • Pneumonia

  • Pulmonary fibrosis

Your loved one might also be a candidate for supplemental oxygen if they have obstructive sleep apnea (OSA). A sleep disorder that causes you to stop and start breathing multiple times during sleep.

Refilling Supplemental Oxygen 

There are several ways to refill your loved one’s supplemental oxygen tank, including:

Purchasing an oxygen home refill system

An oxygen refill system is a portable electronic device that fills empty oxygen canisters. 

The machine captures air from inside your home, converting it into highly concentrated oxygen. After filling the tanks, the machine pressurizes the oxygen, providing your loved one with an unlimited supply of fresh air.

How to fill oxygen canisters at home:

Step 1: Before refilling an oxygen canister, make sure it’s almost empty. If the tank is low, the needle on the pressure gauge will be highlighted in red.

Step 2: Plug the device into a nearby outlet and turn on the refill machine and oxygen concentrator. Let them both warm up for about 15 minutes.

Step 3: Close the pressure valve on top of your loved one’s oxygen to prevent the air from escaping. Then, remove the protective cap over the oxygen adapter.

Step 4: Attach the empty oxygen cylinder to the adapter on your home refill system.  Then, leave the tank in place for 1-2 hours while the canister fills. 

When the machine finishes filling the canister, a green light appears on the control panel. Your filled oxygen tank is now ready to use.

Purchasing a liquid oxygen system:

Liquid oxygen systems are similar to oxygen canisters. The difference is that they store oxygen in liquid form, making them smaller, lighter, and more compact.

How to refill a liquid oxygen system at home:

Step 1: Read the manufacturer’s instruction manual from front to back. Every liquid oxygen system is different, so you must take the time to familiarize yourself with the various features. 

Step 2: When you notice that your loved one’s liquid oxygen pressure gauge is red, it’s time for a refill.

Step 3: Remove any dirt, debris, or moisture from the machine with a clean paper towel or a washcloth. 

Step 4: Connect the dewar (a portable attachment) to the liquid oxygen system. Then, lock the dewar in place (you’ll hear a click or a snap). 

Step 5: Flip the switch on the back of the liquid oxygen system after placing the dewar. Don’t be alarmed if you hear a loud hissing noise –– it means the tank is filling up. Turn to switch back off every 30 seconds to prevent ice crystals from forming inside the machine.

Step 6: When the pressure gauge returns to green, it means your loved one’s liquid oxygen system is full. Turn off the power and remove the dewar.

Partner with a company that provides oxygen tank refills

If your loved one needs oxygen refills regularly, you may be able to save time and money by partnering with an oxygen supply company. 

Most cities have local oxygen filling stations where trained professionals provide same-day oxygen refills. There are also companies that deliver oxygen canisters directly to clients’ homes. In some cases, health insurance covers these services. Make sure to contact your loved one’s insurance provider to see what their coverage options are.

Commonly Asked Questions

1) Can all oxygen tanks be refilled?

Oxygen tanks are designed for easy refills, but like everything else, they wear down over time. If your oxygen tanks are old, damaged, or in questionable condition, consult with an expert first. 

2) Where should I store my loved one’s extra oxygen tanks?

If your loved one has more than one oxygen tank, keep them in a dark and cool area. Follow your doctor’s instructions and keep the cylinders away from all heat sources, including fireplaces, heat ducts, and lighters.

3) How often should I change my loved one’s oxygen tank?

Change your loved one’s oxygen tank whenever the needle on the pressure gauge hits the lower end of the red section. Always swap in a new canister before the gauge reads 200 PSI.


If your loved one uses supplemental oxygen, ensure you know how to refill their empty oxygen canisters (or liquid oxygen system) when the tanks get low.

Learning this vital skill can make life as a family caregiver much easier. You can save time, help your loved one breathe, and stop worrying about empty oxygen tanks.

Remember: If you plan on refilling your loved one’s oxygen canisters or liquid oxygen system, consult a professional first. This can alert you to the system’s unique features and capabilities.

Still Have Questions?

If you still have questions or want to know more about oxygen tanks, give our friendly Caregiving Specialists a call 24/7 at (800) 696-CARE or send an email to

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Chad Birt
Chad Birt

Chad Birt is a freelance medical writer who resides in Astoria, Oregon. When he isn't behind a keyboard, you can find him hiking, camping, or birdwatching with his wife Ella and their two dogs, Diane and Thoreau.