Guide to buying breathalyzers
Although we have not yet reached the level of France, where it is mandatory to carry a breathalyzer in the car, the truth is that carrying one of these devices in our vehicle is not a bad idea. Not only because of the fine, which depends on whether we find controls or not, but because a high level of alcohol at the wheel is a serious risk of accident. Something that you can avoid if you follow the advice in our guide to buy the best breathalyzer and get one of these devices.
Professional or “domestic”
The first question that always comes up when buying a breathalyzer is whether to go for a professional model or a home model. There are many comments that indicate the “reduced precision” of these second models, although the truth is that in our analysis of the market we have found viable options at reasonable prices.
Anyway, the answer depends on our use and specific need. If what we need is to measure our breathalyzer in a timely manner after a night of drinking, surely any model will serve us, even a disposable one. But if these measurements must be carried out very frequently and require high precision, then the idea of getting a higher quality model seems viable.
An issue that is also influenced by cost, since professional models rarely go below 100 euros, while we can find simple breathalyzers starting at approximately 15 or 20 euros.
Homologation and precision
In line with what we have raised previously, there are two elements that can be useful when reviewing any comparison of breathalyzers that we have at hand. We are talking about the homologation and the precision of the device. Starting with the homologation, this certifies that the product has gone through a verification process, which adds an extra quality to the device. However, there is always the question of whether the approval is real or simply an invention of the manufacturer.
Where there is less deception, although there is also it, is in precision. This precision indicates the margin of error that the device has in each measurement. The smaller this margin of error, the higher the precision of the device. So look for products with low margins that are not greater than 0.02 milligrams per liter or 5% of the measurement. Higher levels can end up being a source of problems when interpreting the results.
The process of measuring blood alcohol requires energy. An energy that, depending on whether we are talking about an inexpensive breathalyzer or a somewhat more expensive model, will have a different origin.
In the case of cheap breathalyzers, it is usual for this energy to come from two or three AAA batteries, which we will have to change as they run out. The other option, somewhat more advanced, is for the breathalyzer to have a USB-type battery, which does not require more than one cable of this type to charge.
In both cases, it is essential that we always be clear about the battery level that the device has left, which is usually displayed on the screen. Especially if we take into account that most of the breathalyzers on the market have a bad habit of losing precision as they run out of battery.
As a last aspect, it is essential to talk about the maintenance of the product we have chosen. An aspect that we must consider in all cases, but especially if we plan to give the product intensive use.
This leads us to evaluate the nozzles that the product uses. The ideal would be to use a nozzle in each test and discard it, but if it is for domestic use, the truth is that we can wash them with soap and water and discard them only when they are very deteriorated. However, do not forget to check if the product can use universal nozzles, as well as the price of them.
The other cost of maintenance has to do with calibration. A process that is usually quite expensive and that must be executed every certain number of measurements. In the case of the cheapest models, it is usually cheaper to buy a new device than to have it calibrated, but if we have opted for an expensive model, it is something that we must consider, regarding how much it costs to put that breathalyzer up to date.
Frequently asked questions
Q1: How to calibrate breathalyzer?
The process of calibrating a breathalyzer is carried out in a specialized laboratory, in which the device is connected to a system that generates air samples with a determined alcohol level in them. During this calibration process, it is verified that the breathalyzer is capable of accurately measuring the given samples. If the calibration process is positive, the product can be returned to service, if it is not, it will be necessary to repair it by a specialized professional.
Q2: How to make homemade breathalyzer?
To make this homemade breathalyzer, we will use an MQ sensor, the one used to measure the level of alcohol in blood, together with a circuit board with 10 sockets for LEDs and the rest of the corresponding circuitry elements, as well as the corresponding LEDs that will measure the blood level and will inform us more clearly. All this without forgetting the source, as well as the corresponding power supply. All of these items will need to be connected correctly to run the above blood alcohol measurements. Anyway, in the network there are more detailed processes of this assembly.
Q3: What is better, a breathalyzer or ethyl meter?
Although they are technically the same, there are differences between a breathalyzer and an alcohol tester. Generally, the breathalyzer is a portable device, which we can take anywhere and use it comfortably to measure the breathalyzer. On the contrary, the ethylometer is usually fixed, mounted on a police van, is much more expensive and, at least, much more accurate than the breathalyzer. In addition, the ethyl meter usually includes a memory and a printer, to give legal status to the tests carried out . Of course, it is obvious that except for the police forces, nobody will buy one of these models given its high price and the “little operational” for specific measurements.
Q4: How is an approved breathalyzer different?
As with other products, the approved breathalyzer is one that has undergone a laboratory procedure whereby the product has been tested with samples whose concentration is already known. In the event that the breathalyzer is capable of accurately measuring such samples, it receives the corresponding approval, which ultimately assures us that we have a product whose measurements are accurate or, at least, correct.
Q5: Is it mandatory to carry a breathalyzer in the car?
In Spain it is not yet mandatory to carry one of these devices in the car. But if you drive through France, you will have to carry a disposable breathalyzer in your vehicle, just like you wear the reflective vest. A measure that comes and goes in the neighboring country and that the DGT has been studying for Spain for years, although without making a decision about it. Anyway, the arrival of vehicles with a built-in breathalyzer seems to be close, so you still don’t have to think about it much.
Q6: Is it safe to use a disposable breathalyzer?
Like everything, it depends on the quality of manufacture of the device. However, disposable products do not contain electronics, but instead carry a chemical compound that reacts to alcohol in the air, in an approach similar to the drug tests we see in customs programs on TV. In any case, it is advisable to check if the product is approved and has a reduced margin of error, since these two elements are evidence of a more efficient system when measuring our alcohol level.
Q7: How to make a breathalyzer with arduino?
The process of making an arduino breathalyzer is quite simple, since it follows the same process as that of creating other similar devices. In this case, the secret is in the sensor, which should be able to read these alcohol concentrations in air. The rest of the scheme does not require more than a battery, which powers the device, as well as an LCD screen, in which to see the results of the measurements we carry out.
Q8: How do you read a BAC breathalyzer?
In truth, the BAC breathalyzer is no different than any other available to us. The difference lies in the measure. BAC is the acronym for Breath Alcohol Content or breath alcohol content, once translated. In practice, this measure is equivalent to the milligrams per liter that we have as a reference in Spain, with the exception that the BAC uses the liter of air as a base. So, a concentration of 0.05% BAC would be equivalent to 0.05 milligrams of alcohol per liter. Anyway, almost all breathalyzers allow you to switch between units, so as not to mess around.
How to use a breathalyzer
Surely if you travel at night through areas with discos and other entertainment venues, you will have already passed the occasional breathalyzer test . But if this has not been your case or you simply want to know how to use a breathalyzer, we give you a small guide on how to proceed and travel with greater safety when you drink a little, as long as you have one in your glove compartment.
Initializing the product
Practically all the breathalyzers that we have on the market need a short warm-up time, so that the measuring system reaches the necessary temperature to carry out this measurement. Depending on the model, this time usually ranges from about 5 to about 30 seconds. Once ready to start, the product will let us know directly on your screen and, depending on your approach, with an audible warning.
Since it is an air measurement process, it will be necessary to blow through the mouthpiece or air intake of the breathalyzer. It is important to maintain the air flow for the entire time that the device requires, which is usually 5 to 10 seconds. In general, the breathalyzer will warn us with a beep or alarm when it is no longer necessary to blow more. Some models keep a continuous beep while we blow, as proof that we are doing it correctly.
Reading the result
While you catch your breath, it’s time to wait for the result to appear on the screen. Once the process is complete, you may get an alert, in case that measurement is above the level determined by the manufacturer or by ourselves, depending on the model. In any case, the alcohol level will be displayed on the screen in the unit that we have chosen clearly and visibly.
Interpreting the result
As a final point, we take a look at product maintenance, which should focus on two main elements. One of them is the battery. If you have a product that works with conventional batteries, you should change them when you see that the energy level on the screen is reduced. If it is a battery model, you will only have to connect the product to any USB charger, to recover the lost energy. It is important to remember that these models can lose efficiency with little power.
Regarding the nozzles, the other important aspect, it should be remembered that they can be washed with soap and water, discarding only when they are very deteriorated. What is important is that, if you plan to do several tests at the same time, use different nozzles, to avoid cross contamination of the tests.