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Breathalyzer Buying Guide

Why You Need a Personal Breathalyzer

These days it’s safe to say everyone has had a drink at one point or another. Whether you are at a pizza joint for your kids party, attending a corporate conference, or simply joining friends for a happy hour after work, it only takes one drink to change the blood-alcohol ratio in your body and put you at risk of earning a costly DUI.

To stay good with the law and avoid DUI fines and jail, you will need to buy a Personal Breathalyzer so you can check your BAC levels real-time… the numbers don’t lie and one of these handheld breathalyzers could easily end up saving yours, or someone else’s life.

Quick Background – What is Blood Alcohol Content or BAC?

Unlike normal foods, alcohol is not easily absorbed into major digestive organs once it is ingested. Because of its fairly poisonous nature, the body starts breaking it down in the liver to ethanol. The down side is the fact that your liver can only process about 30mls of alcohol per hour. This is equivalent to about a pint of the average malt beer. Most people drink at a faster rate and as a result, alcohol quickly accumulates in their blood leading to the classic symptoms of alcohol drunkenness.

The amount of alcohol contained in your blood versus the alcohol content being processed by your liver and kidneys is called your Blood Alcohol Content level, or BAC for short. It is also called blood alcohol concentration or blood ethanol concentration.

BAC measurement is converted to a percentage such as 0.08%, 0.10%, 0.12% etc. For instance, 0.10% indicates that one-tenth of a percent of a person’s blood is alcohol, which happens to be the legal limit until October 1, 1993 when the legal BAC limit was reduced from 0.10% to 0.08%. This was actually a good move considering BAC’s as low as 0.04% can impair cognitive functions critical to driving (e.g. decision making, information processing, eye-hand coordination).

This blood alcohol measurement is used across the world to verify alcohol intoxication levels and is one of the primary factors used by law enforcement to determine whether you should be in public or behind the wheel of a car.

How Are Digital Breathalyzer’s Used? What Are Their Benefits?

Blood Alcohol Content Breathalyzers were originally introduced as a solution for reducing the amount of drunk driving related accidents. Since their introduction, they have saved thousands if not millions of lives.

For this purpose, several companies have capitalized on this need and are making these life-saving BAC testers more accessible to the public at an affordable cost. People buy breathalyzers for all sorts of reasons like:

  • checking BAC levels before driving – prevent the hassles of a DUI ($ fines, jail, community service)
  • drinking games, challenge your friends and see who can get the highest BAC number without dying from alcohol poisoning (CMA: bad idea, we don’t condone this… does sound like fun though)
  • verifying whether bartenders are drinking on the job and stealing from your bottom line
  • testing your underage teenagers when they get home from late night parties

Do Personal Breathalyzers Really Work? Are They Accurate?

There are 3 types of BAC tests, that being blood, breath, and urine. Testing blood for alcohol saturation is the most accurate, however, it is also the most invasive. Urine testing is actually less accurate than both breath and blood tests and the overall process is inconvenient. This leaves breath testing as the most common initial BAC testing method used by law enforcement.

You may ask “How good are personal breathalyzers?“. Simply put, if digital breathalyzers weren’t accurate, police officers wouldn’t use them. But, that doesn’t mean all breathalyzers are treated equal. If you purchase a cheap keychain breathalyzer, it probably won’t provide accurate results like those derived from fuel cell sensor breath tests which are used every day in DUI prosecutions across the country.

That said, there are two primary categories of breathalyzers based on the sensor technology used:

  1. Semiconductor Sensors – For personal and home use, these blood alcohol testers are the least expensive / accurate. They are subject to false positives and can react to things like hairspray and cigarette smoke.
  2. Fuel Cell Sensors – These professional-grade breathalyzers are more sensitive than breathalyzers with semiconductor sensors and provide extremely accurate results. Breathalyzers with fuel cell technology are used by law enforcement officers who perform roadside DUI screenings – they provide the highest accuracy.

Technology aside, there is a wide assortment of breathalyzers available on the market for personal use.

4 Types of Personal Breathalyzers

There are four categories of of breathalyzers offered today:

  1. Portable pocket keychain breath tester – most are cheap gimmicky conversation starters. They are extremely portable due to their small size and will provide an indication of your BAC, but these are not as accurate as the next three in line. Bring them to a party to have fun or start a conversation, but don’t use these to decide whether you should get behind the wheel.
  2. Disposable breath scanning tubes – these single use alcohol testers are available in a variety of percentiles to test for various levels of breath-alcohol concentration (BrAC). They do not require require batteries, maintenance, or re-calibration and are based on a chemical reaction that is not sensitive to any gas but alcohol. This reduces the chance for false positives. With these, you break a tube to activate crystals and after breathing through it, several minutes will pass before you get your results. Unless you know what BAC level makes you impaired, the next two types of breathalyzers are preferred.
  3. Smartphone Breathalyzer for iOS and Android Phones – These were also more of a novelty when they were first introduced, but the technology for iPhone breathalyzers has come a long way and there are some sophisticated products on the market. The ability to track your results and map it to other data/habits is a huge plus and there are all kinds of applications.
  4. Traditional digital handheld breathalyzers with LCD displays – These are the breathalyzers you are probably most familiar with. Like all of the options above, they are small and portable, but probably best to be left in your purse or glove compartment. Get a good quality hand held breathalyzer – it will pay for itself many times over the first time you avoid a DWI.

Where to Buy Personal Breathalyzers – Reviews & Recommendations

We’ve scanned through the specs, reviews, and have had personal experience with a handful of the BAC testers below. Let’s break these personal breathalyzer reviews out into each type so you can make an educated decision that fits both your lifestyle and personal needs.

Amazon tends to have the best prices and with Amazon Prime you can often score free shipping. Save your time and gas… click any of the links or images below to check out prices and compare the best deals.

Portable Keychain Breathalyzers

These keychain breathalyzers are made by one of the industry leaders, BACtrack. They use advanced alcohol sensors to provide BAC estimates quickly… under 5 seconds! All three feature a folding mouth piece and compact size and are a great choice if you are in the market for something to throw in your pocket or purse.

Recommended Models: BACtrack KC10 (black / green) and BACtrack Go (white).

Price: $30 – $95. Click the images below to check out prices and compare the best deals.

BACtrack KC10 Keychain Breathalyzer BACtrack Go Keychain BreathalyzerBACtrack Breath Tester

Disposable Breath Alcohol Testers

Approved by the U.S. Food & Drug Administration as an Alcohol Screening Device, these discrete one time use disposable breathalyzers are fast and provide accurate results. The color changing crystals indicate BAC levels at various thresholds – the BAC SingleShot 0.02% is perfect for zero-tolerance environments like businesses, schools, and rehabilitation facilities.

Recommended Models: Drink-A-Lyzer and BACtrack SingleShot

Price: $25 – $36. Click the images below to see the latest prices.

Drink-A-Lyzer BreathalyzerBACtrack SingleShot Breathalyzer


Smartphone Breathalyzer for iPhone and Android Devices

The Breathometer A01 is probably the most popular iPhone breathalyzer due to it’s exposure from the hit TV show Shark Tank. However, it’s reviews on Amazon and other major sources tell a different story – we just can’t suggest purchasing this.

Good news is there are iOS and Android based breathalyzers that perform great with the police-grade accuracy of Fuel Cell Sensor Technology. These devices use Bluetooth to connect with your iPhone, iPad, Samsung Galaxy, HTC, and most other popular smartphones. They come packed with application suites to track BAC results over time, create drinking logs, and even provide estimates when your BAC levels will return to 0%. Considering the accuracy and functionality, there is no reason not to get one of these devices.

Recommended Models: BACtrack Mobile, iHAWK by AlcoHAWK, BACtrack Vio,  and Breahometer A01

Price: $45 – $122. Click the images below for more pricing info.

BACtrack MobileBACtrack Vio Breathalyzer

Digital LCD Handheld Breathalyzers

The standard breathalyzers have many applications and can be used in a wide variety of settings such as police screening, hospital or clinical testing, and even for personal use. With large easy to read backlit LCD screens, these personal breathalyzers are perfect for low light conditions and provide the most accurate results available.

Recommended Models: AlcoHawk PT500, AlcoMate Premium AL7000, BACtrack S80

Price: $109 – $169. Click the images below to see the updated price.

AlcoHawk PT500 BreathalyzerBACtrack S80 Breathalyzer

Last Words

Commercially available breathalyzers offer a convenient and affordable way to self-test your BAC and make informed decisions about drinking and driving. They are a great tool to have when deciding to get in a car with friends after they have been drinking too – ask them to check their BAC level with your personal breathalyzer!

Remember that the legal BAC levels around the world vary so know your government’s legal limits before you drive or go into public. Drink responsibly and remember to stay hydrated.

 

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