Choosing A Breathalyzer - 7 Things You Need To Know To
Make The Right Choice - A Breathalyzer Primer
If you're thinking about buying a personal
breathalyzer, do you know enough about them to make the right choice? You will once you read this article.
DUI awareness and the dire consequences of driving while
intoxicated have lead to a recent surge in purchases of breath alcohol testers,
better know as breathalyzers.Unfortunately, when it comes to understanding the differences between
each make and model most consumers don't have a clue where to begin.
Here's What You Need To Know About Breathalyzers To Make An
1) How A Breathalyzer
Works & The Legal Limit
To simplify the process, alcohol is absorbed through your
stomach into your blood stream.The
blood then passes through your lungs.Some alcohol evaporates in your lungs and shows up in your breath as you
exhale.When you blow into a
breathalyzer your breath passes over a sensor that interprets the level of
alcohol and a formula is applied to extrapolate the blood alcohol content
You may already know that the "Legal Limit" in all 50 states
is .08 BAC. At .08 BAC or above you are
considered legally intoxicated.But
beware. Many people become impaired at .04 BAC (and lower) and you can be
charged with "Driving While Impaired" at .04.Although it is a lesser offense, it can still be costly and cause some
major aggravation. More importantly, you could endanger yourself and others
even at these lower BAC levels.
2) Sensor Types
The sensor is the component inside a breathalyzer that reads
and interprets your BAC.For personal
use there are two types to consider, fuel cell sensors and semi-conductor
sensors. When the breathalyzer is used correctly each of these types of sensors
will yield accurate results up to approximately 1.5 X's the legal limit.
At higher blood alcohol levels (well over the legal limit) fuel
cell sensors yield more accurate results.They are also considerably more expensive to manufacture. Good quality fuel cell breathalyzers typically cost
between $250 and $1500 with the most expensive models being desktop evidential units generally used by police at the station. Keep in mind that there are low quality and high-quality fuel cells manufactured. You will pay more for better quality.
Semi-conductor sensors are more economical to make which
helps keep the overall cost of the breathalyzer down.Depending on the quality of the sensor and
other features, good quality breathalyzers with semi-conductor sensors cost
between $55.00 and $250.00. As with the fuel-cell breathalyzers, price will often be an indicator of the quality.
When you first receive your new breathalyzer the sensor is
calibrated at the factory to deliver accurate readings.Over time residue will accumulate on the
sensor causing increasingly inaccurate readings. All breathalyzers, with the
exception of two models noted below, require recalibration approximately every
6 to 12 months depending on usage. This usually requires packing the
breathalyzer up and shipping it back to the manufacturer then waiting a few
weeks to get it back. The cost for this
service runs between $20.00 and $50.00 plus the cost of shipping.
Currently, there are only two breathalyzers on the market
that do not require factory recalibration.They are the AlcoMate Premium and the AlcoMate Prestige.Both of these breathalyzers have "user
changeable" sensor modules.The consumer
can easily replace the sensor module in minutes (less than 30 seconds in the
AlcoMate Premium) restoring the breathalyzer to "factory-new" calibration.
Avoiding the inconvenience of being without your
breathalyzer for a few weeks while it's being re-calibrated and the cost and
aggravation of packing it up and shipping it back to the manufacturer make the
AlcoMate Premium and AlcoMate Prestige worth serious consideration.
4) Mouth Piece (Active)
versus Blow-Over (Passive)
All breathalyzers require that the subject supply a breath
sample to the sensor for testing.The
most accurate method is via a mouth piece attached directly to the breathalyzer.
This helps ensure that the breath sample is not "contaminated" with air, smoke,
etc. from the surrounding environment.Examples of this technology include the AlcoMate AccuCell, AlcoMate Premium, AlcoMate Prestige, and
the Omega Point BreathKey.
The other method is referred to as "blow-over" or passive
testing.The subject puts their mouth
about a half inch from the breath intake receiver and blows sharply. Done
correctly this method can yield relatively accurate results. However, some air from the
surrounding environment can enter the breathalyzer causing less than accurate
Some parents will use the blow-over breathalyzer to test teens to see if they have been drinking. In this case accuracy is not an issue. They just need to know if there is alcohol present. The blow-over type is not recommended where accuracy is important.
The advantage to the "blow-over" type breathalyzer is that
it is convenient at parties and social gatherings when multiple people are
being tested because there is no direct mouth contact and no need to change
mouth pieces.The AlcoScan AL2500 is an example of this type of breathalyzer.
For personal use good quality breathalyzers will cost between
$55.00 and $300.00.In most cases the
higher the price, the better the product (accuracy, features, etc).Breathalyzers costing less than $50.00 are
generally novelty items - very inaccurate. Don't waste your money.
breathalyzer worth considering should have the FDA (Food and Drug Administration)
approval.Essentially, that means the
FDA tested it and it does what it says it does in the product literature.Other approvals that confirm that the accuracy
levels reported by the breathalyzer manufacturer are consistent with their
findings include DOT (Department of Transportation), NHTSA (National Highway
Traffic Safety Administrations) and U S Coast Guard.
designed for personal use will either be hand-held or key chain style. We've
already discussed hand-held "mouth piece" versus "blow-over" (passive) designs.
There are also several breathalyzers on the market designed to fit on your
keychain.All that we have tested,
except the BreathKey by Omega Point Systems, are strictly novelty items. The
BreathKey is the only key chain model that is FDA Certified and is worth
breathalyzer is a valuable personal device that can help you or someone you are
with make the right decision when it comes to alcohol and driving. Understanding "the basics" about personal alcohol breathalyzers will help you chose a
breathalyzer you can live with for many years to come. You can learn more about
specific breathalyzer models with pictures, detailed information and sale
prices at www.BreathalyzersUSA.com.