Lots of Breathalyzer Options
There are lots of breathalyzer choices available to today’s safety-conscious imbibers. Of course, they won’t be as accurate as the large table top machines at police stations but they are useful gadgets for convincing your friend to call a cab, or prove to another that you really are good to drive. There’s nothing more annoying than being stone cold sober and having your overly protective best friend try and hold your keys hostage. You have tons of options to choose from, ranging from disposable to nearly professional grade.
To the casual user this may present quite a few questions. If you are uneducated on the subject it can be hard to know why certain models cost less than others and whether a given model is completely reliable. One popular option is the Go Keychain. The idea here is that they are super convenient: cheaper and smaller than the pocket-sized versions, the keychain breathalyzer hooks right into your keyring. This way you never lose it and don’t have to dig in pockets or a purse for it.
Keychain Breathalyzer Accuracy
One major drawback to keychain breathalyzers, however, is accuracy. The reason these options are smaller and cheaper than their counterparts is because they actually use a different type of technology to estimate your BAC. Keychain testers utilize semiconductor oxide-based technology on the inside to produce their BAC reading. This technology works by placing a teeny tiny bead of metal on the inside, with a voltage applied to produce a constant charge. When you breathe into the machine the amount of trace chemical in your breath changes the strength of the charge. The amount the charge has been changed can be measured to produce an estimation of BAC.
In contrast, the larger are more expensive options use the more modern fuel cell technology. Fuel cell technology involves metal-plated fuel cells inside the machine that use the alcohol in your breath to produce an electrical charge. The strength of this charge then translates to an estimation of BAC. The highest quality fuel cells are lined with platinum, but some machines lower cost by using a cheaper metal and requiring more frequent recalibration.
Alcohol Testing Techniques
Of the two technologies, fuel cell testers are going to be more accurate and last longer. Semiconductor testers are great for fun or casual use when you aren’t overly concerned that the readout is accurate, but they can occasionally react to substances in your breath other than alcohol. Smoking immediately before use can produce a false positive reading, as can normally occurring chemicals in breath like ketones or acetone. Fuel cell technologies only react to alcohol, removing some of the uncertainty.
Additionally, while any model is going to need recalibration every so often, keychain breathalyzer typically recommend doing so every six months rather than the year recommended with fuel cell testers. This figure is just an estimate–if you use the breathalyzer very often it will theoretically need recalibration much more often.
The last thing to consider is rather minor, but breathalyzers are very power-demanding. Most keychain testers use an AAA battery, because that’s all that will physically fit. However, they can be sucked dry quite fast by the demands of frequent testing.
Battery Good for about 80 Testings
This isn’t meant to deter prospective purchasers from choosing keychain breathalyzers over larger and more expensive options. However, if you are new to the idea of buying one to estimate your BAC on the go, it’s important to understand the product you’re getting and know its limitations. An inexpensive, simple solution like a keychain breathalyzer may be the best option for someone who just wants it for novelty purposes. On the other hand, someone who is looking for an ultra-reliable/long-lasting model is going to be disappointed with any keychain option they choose.
Curtis is a nurse educator who enjoy’s helping people understand more about alcohol safety and alcohol awareness.