How to choose the best breathalyzer

Friday, September 16, 2022

Choose the best breathalyzer

What is the best breathalyzer for home use? There is a wide range of personal breathalyzers available, ranging in price from £3 to over £250. A good consumer breath tester will be accurate to around +/-5%, similar to a Police handheld device, but remember that products vary in quality significantly. This article will help you decide which is the best alcohol detector for you.


Semi-conductor breathalyzers

Semi-conductor breathalyzers use a sensor with a semi-conductor element inside. This is a material which changes the properties of its electrical resistance when it is heated. The element in a semi-conductor breathalyzer is created to react specifically with alcohol at its operating temperature. When alcohol comes into contact with the element, the difference in electrical resistance is measured and an alcohol reading can be calculated from this.


Readings are not affected by what you have eaten or any medication you are taking. The technology is cheaper than fuel-cell, making these units more affordable for the occasional driver. Whilst they offer a very high level of accuracy, they do not have the precision of fuel-cell breathalyzers and readings can ‘drift’ further with time unless they are re-calibrated. Expect to pay between £45 to £70 for a reliable semi-conductor breathalyzer such as the AlcoSense Elite 3.


Fuel-cell breathalyzers

Fuel-cell breathalyzers are the most accurate alcohol breath testers and the preferred choice for regular and professional drivers. A fuel cell is an electrochemical cell that converts the chemical energy of a fuel (in this case ethanol, better known as alcohol) and an oxidizing agent into electricity through a pair of redox reactions, where the oxidation states of atoms are changed. Essentially, the more alcohol that comes into contact in gas form with a fuel-cell sensor, the more electrical current the sensor will produce. By measuring the current, the amount of alcohol in a breath sample can be accurately calculated. Fuel-cell sensors vary quite wildly in quality, as the primary ingredient in the ethanol fuel cell is platinum, the most expensive metal in the world. A good quality fuel-cell is capable of producing highly accurate readings and is more stable over time than a semi-conductor breathalyzer, hence its use in the majority of AlcoSense models. It is also the sensor of choice for Police hand-held devices. Fuel-cell prices start from £100, with top of the range models offering a host of additional features such as how long before you are clear of alcohol. Arguably the best breathalyzer in the UK is the AlcoSense Ultra.


Disposable breathalyzers

Disposable breathalyzers are ideal for quick screening in the workplace or corporate events. They are also a good choice for drivers who occasionally need to check their alcohol level before getting behind the wheel. A key advantage of single-use breathalyzers is their low price and simple operation. Unlike fuel-cell or semi-conductor breathalyzers, they work via a simple chemical reaction. Air is blown into the balloon, and this connects to a tube filled with granules. After about two minutes the crystals inside the tube change colour in the presence of alcohol, for example from yellow to green. The further up the graduated tube the green colour appears, the greater the concentration of alcohol the user has in their system. AlcoSense single-use breathalysers use a blow bag to make sure the right volume of deep-lung air passes through the tester. Too little air equals a falsely low reading, too much equals a falsely high reading. The blow bag eliminates this issue and helps to give you one of the most accurate disposable breathalyser readings in the marketplace.


So, which is the best home breathalyzer? You can view the full AlcoSense range here or read reviews and awards.




How to choose a breathalyzer for yourself?

When deciding on the best breathalyzer for home use, it is worth comparing technical data and reading the results of comparative tests on the web. Also consider how much you are prepared to pay.


What are the different types of breathalyzers?

There are three types of alcohol detectors available on the market, differing in the technology used in production. In increasing order of sophistication and accuracy, these are disposable breathalyzers (the simplest devices), semi-conductor and fuel-cell breathalyzers.


What is important when buying a personal breathalyzer?

Consider how often you want to use your alcohol breath tester. If you only want to occasionally check whether you are clear of alcohol before getting behind the wheel, a disposable or semi-conductor breathalyzer will suit your needs. However, if you are a regular or commercial driver - and would like added benefits such as a ‘blow coach’ or a calculation of how long until you’re sober - it is worth considering a fuel-cell breathalyzer.


Can I buy the same breathalyzer that the police use?

Police breathalyzers are not available to the general public. The closest in terms of technology and accuracy are fuel-cell breathalyzers that use the same sensor as UK and EU police devices.

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