The severe penalties and dire consequences of driving while under the influence of alcohol have to lead to a sharp rise in purchases of breath alcohol analyzers, also known as breathalyzers. However, when it comes to using these devices and understanding the differences between various models, most people do not know where to begin.
To make an informed purchase, here is what you should know
How does a breathalyzer work?
In general, a breathalyzer is a rather simple device. All you have to do is blow into it and wait a couple of seconds until the results are shown. Once you blow into a breathalyzer, your breath will pass over a sensor, which will quickly assess the level of alcohol. It also applies a specific formula, to extrapolate the BAC (blood alcohol content)
The legal limit is .08 BAC. If you have a higher value, you are considered intoxicated. However, keep mind that lots of people, who have values of no more than .04 BAC, can become impaired and charged with Driving While Impaired. Even though DWI is a lesser offense in comparison to DUI, it can still be fairly costly and frustrating.
Types of sensors
The sensor is considered the vital component of any breathalyzer model. Its sole purpose is to read and interpret the BAC value. When it comes to the personal use, there are two main types, the semiconductor sensors, and the fuel cell sensors. If used properly, these sensors will yield results up to around 1.5 X’s of the legal limit.
If the blood alcohol levels are high, the fuel sensors will yield considerably more accurate readings. As a result, breathalyzers that use fuel cell sensors are more expensive than semiconductor-based ones.
The devices that utilize semiconductor sensors are more economical and easy to manufacture, thus making them cheaper than the fuel cell ones. Depending on the additional features, as well as the sensor’s quality, semiconductor breathalyzers can be easily found for under $100.00.
Once you get your new breathalyzer, its sensor will be calibrated at the factory, to deliver accurate information. As the time goes by, the sensors will become susceptible to residue accumulation, which will lead to increasingly inaccurate readings. Almost all breathalyzer models must be subjected to periodic recalibration, to provide accurate readings. To do that, you will probably have to ship your device back the manufacturer, every 8 to 12 months. The recalibration services will cost you, but no more than $50.00.
Passive Vs. Active models
All models require the user to supply their breath sample to the device’s sensor for BAC testing. The most accurate method of getting the readings involves a mouthpiece directly attached to the device. This active method ensures that the breath sample is perfectly clean, i.e. not contaminated with smoke, air, and other substances from the surrounding area.
The second method is a passive one, and it is also known as the “blow-over” testing. In this case, the user puts their mouth, around half an inch from the receiver and sharply blows in it. If done properly, this method will usually yield accurate results. But, keep in mind that your results might be somewhat inaccurate, as the air, as well as other substances from the surrounding environment, can enter the receiver of the breathalyzer.
The biggest advantage of “blow-over” models is that they are highly convenient for social gatherings and parties, as multiple people can use them safely, without having to make direct mouth contact with the device.