Why do I need a personal breath alcohol tester?

A Breathalyzer is a valuable purchase to ensure personal safety and the safety of others. An individual may purchase one for self-testing and monitoring for a general understanding of how alcohol affects the body.

Since factors like weight, muscle mass, and recently consumed food or beverages all affect the measurement of person’s breath alcohol content (BrAC), it’s impossible to accurately gauge intoxication level without a measurement tool like a breathalyzer. People are often enlightened when they measure their %BAC, particularly on different occasions after the same amount of alcohol is consumed.

What type of technology do your breathalyzers have?

All breathalyzers sold by us are of high quality and accurate products, and meet the standards of FDA 510(k) cleared devices, which means that the product has been deemed “safe and effective” for consumer use. All of the devices that we offer have electrochemical fuel cell sensor (alcohol specific) technology.

These devices offer the following benefits

  • They will not show a false positive for someone who is diabetic or on a low calorie diet. Semiconductor models will sometimes show a false positive result for these individuals.
  • They provide more accurate and more consistent results as compared with semi-conductor models. For example, you are more likely to show the same test result when you test someone repeatedly in a very short period of time. In addition, they are more accurate at higher BrAC concentrations, compared to semiconductor models, which often lose accuracy at higher BrAC values.
  • They can remain accurate for up to thousands of tests.
  • They provide more precise readings since %BrAC readings are displayed to the thousandth decimal place (0.054%) versus to the hundredth decimal place (0.05%).

Breathalyzers that utilize fuel cell sensors typically sell for over $450; however, this technology is becoming more affordable.

Which breathalyzer model is right for me?

If you are interested in getting the highest level of accuracy in your readings, our recommendation is to spend the extra money on a breathalyzer that uses fuel cell sensor technology. These breathalyzers offer the same advanced technology used by law enforcement for preliminary screenings for a fraction of what they have previously cost. Law enforcement, substance abuse centers, clinics and businesses typically purchase these models, although they are often purchased for individual use too.

What factors are important in choosing a breathalyzer?

o Accuracy is likely the most important factor when making a breathalyzer purchase, so you should consider Fuel Cell Versus Semi-conductor.

FDA Approval is another important requirement to consider when choosing a breathalyzer. Every personal breathalyzer sold through our site meets the standards of a FDA 510(k) cleared device, which means the product has been deemed “safe and effective” for consumer use.

Breath Sample Collection is an essential factor, and critical to an accurate breathalyzer reading. While the use of mouthpieces is one element that aids in obtaining breath samples that exclude external air, other aids to accuracy are found in the actual product design.

Lastly, you should look at the Brand of Breathalyzer you are purchasing. The manufacturer should be reputable, in the business of selling breathalyzers, specifically, for an extended period of time.

How does a breathalyzer work? What types of technology do they employ?

Most breathalyzers use one of three technologies to detect Breath Alcohol Content or Breath Alcohol Concentration (BrAC), which is the concentration of alcohol in a person’s breath: a semiconductor oxide sensor, a fuel cell sensor or a spectrophotometer, the latter being the technology used in large, table-top breathalyzers often found at police stations.

Semiconductor oxide-based testers, offer benefits, including low cost, low power consumption and small size. However, Semiconductor oxide based testers require calibration service on a more frequent basis.

Fuel cell testers, In over 30 US states, roadside evidential testing is now permitted using testers using fuel cells. A fuel cell measures alcohol content by creating a chemical reaction that oxidizes the alcohol in the sample and produces an electrical current. The more alcohol that is oxidized, the greater the current. The current is measured to determine the subject’s BrAC.

Spectrophotometer technology is used in large, table-top breathalyzers often found at police stations. Spectrophotometers work by identifying molecules based on the way they absorb infrared light. The level of ethanol in a sample is singled out and measured, and a subject’s alcohol level can then be determined.

What is %BrAC?

Breath Alcohol Content or Breath Alcohol Concentration, abbreviated BrAC, is the concentration of alcohol in a person’s breath. BrAC is most commonly used as a metric of intoxication for legal or medical purposes, and it’s usually measured as mass per volume. For example, a BrAC of 0.05% means 0.05 grams of alcohol per 100 grams of a person’s breath, or 0.5 grams of alcohol per 1000 grams of blood.

Factors that affect your BrAC include the following

  • Age – As you age, the intoxicating effects of alcohol become increasingly pronounced.
  • Gender – Alcohol is highly water soluble. Because women generally have lower water content in their bodies than men, they usually reach a higher BrAC if they consume alcohol at a similar rate to their male counterparts, even if they are the same age and weight. Women also have a lower quantity of an enzyme in their stomachs that breaks down alcohol than men.
  • Rate of Consumption – The faster you consume alcohol, the faster your BrAC will rise.
  • Drink Strength – The more alcohol a drink contains, the more will end up in your bloodstream.
  • Body Type – The more you weigh, the more water you tend to have in your body, which has a diluting effect on the alcohol you consume. That’s why larger people usually require more drinks to “keep pace” with their smaller companions.
  • Fat/Muscle Content – Fatty tissue is low in water content and cannot absorb alcohol, and the alcohol must remain in the bloodstream until the liver can break it down. However, tissues that are higher in water content, such as muscle, do absorb alcohol. Hence BrAC will usually be higher in the person with more body fat.
  • Metabolism – “Metabolic tolerance” varies from person to person and describes the rate at which alcohol is processed by the body.
  • Emotional State – Stress can cause your body to divert blood from your stomach and small intestines to your muscles, and slow down the rate of absorption of alcohol into your bloodstream. When you calm down and your blood flows normally again, you may experience a surge in your BrAC.
  • Medications – Many medications react negatively with alcohol, including cold or allergy pills and prescription drugs. They can intensify the effects of alcohol and even endanger your health. If you are taking meds, check the product labels for alcohol warnings, or consult your doctor or pharmacist before you drink.
  • Food – If you drink alcohol on an empty stomach, your BAC will be higher than a person who has eaten before drinking. Food slows the absorption in your bloodstream by keeping the alcohol you consume in your stomach and for a longer period of time.
  • Carbonation – Carbonated drinks such as sparkling wine or champagne, or mixed drinks with sodas may increase the rate at which alcohol passes through your stomach and result in a higher BrAC.
  • Diabetes – Alcohol can affect the glucose levels of people who have diabetes and cause hypoglycemia. Diabetics should consult their doctors about drinking alcohol and avoid drinking on an empty stomach.
  • Alcohol Intolerance – Alcohol may cause adverse reactions in some, including flushing of the skin, nasal congestion, elevated heart rate, and reduced blood pressure. According to the Mayo Clinic, alcohol intolerance is caused by a “genetic condition in which the body is unable to break down alcohol.”
Am I safe to drive if my breathalyzer shows that I'm under the legal limit?

Absolutely not. Breathalyzers are for informational purposes only and there is no acceptable level of alcohol consumption that makes it safe to drive. Any alcohol that enters a person’s body can impair reflexes, motor skills, and cognitive abilities.

Is a person's blood alcohol concentration (BAC) the only factor in determining whether or not a DUI is given?

No, the %BAC is not the only factor considered. Many people do not realize they can be charged with driving under the influence (DUI) or driving while intoxicated (DWI) even if their %BAC is under the legal limit. A person can be charged if they are at or over the “legal limit,” which is .08 %BAC in all 50 US States, or if they are “impaired to any degree,” regardless of the %BAC level.

Who invented the breathalyzer?

Though technologies for detecting alcohol vary, it’s widely accepted that Dr. Robert Borkenstein (1912-2002), a captain with the Indiana State Police and later a professor at the University of Indiana, is regarded as the first to create a device that measures a subject’s alcohol level based on a breath sample. In 1954, Borkenstein invented his breathalyzer, that used chemical oxidation and photometry to determine alcohol concentration. The invention of the breathalyzer provided law enforcement with a non-invasive test with immediate result reporting that can be used to determine an individual’s level of intoxication.

How do I use my breath alcohol tester?

For most models, a user simply blows through the mouthpiece for 5 seconds. The blowing is similar to blowing out a candle and the user should blow evenly for the entire 5 seconds. The breathalyzer will indicate when to start and stop blowing, and if the sample was not adequate for an accurate reading.

The sensors measure the alcohol level of air in the deep lungs. This value is converted into the corresponding Breath Alcohol Content (%BrAC) estimate. Testing is most accurate if subjects have not consumed food or alcohol 15 minutes prior to testing to ensure that there is no residual mouth alcohol.

Why must I wait 15 to 20 minutes after consuming food or alcohol to ensure testing results are accurate?

A breathalyzer is able to calculate this percentage using only a breath sample because of the precise relationship between alcohol in the blood and alcohol metabolized into the lungs from the bloodstream. As such, it is important to make sure the mouth is clear of contaminant (including alcohol) so that the breath sample contains pure lung air, or as close as possible.

What type of maintenance is required to maintain a personal or professional breathalyzer? Do they require calibration?

Over time, all alcohol testers need to be re-calibrated to maintain accuracy. Calibration is a process of checking and adjusting the accuracy of a unit by comparing its results with a known value. For example, a known 0.080 %BAC gas concentration is blown into a breathalyzer, and the unit is adjusted to make sure it correctly reads 0.080 %BAC.

This process is sort of like winding a clock. When the clock is first set it displays accurate time. However, over time the clock gradually drifts a few minutes, and eventually can be off by quite a bit if you do not occasionally reset the clock.

How often should I calibrate my breathalyzer to ensure accuracy?

We recommend re-calibrating our breathalyzers every 250 tests or once a year, whichever one comes first. Additionally for these models, using the breathalyzer regularly can actually help keep it accurate, as the moisture in exhaled human breath is beneficial to the sensor.

How do I get my breathalyzer calibrated?

Order Online at (link to calibration ‘product’), for $24.99 (Includes Freight Back To You).

  • Ship Device back at your cost
    SMARTOX
    ATTN: Calibration
    500 E. Dallas Rd
    Grapevine, TX 76051
  • Allow 5 Business Days to have Device Calibrated
  • Receive Your Device Back Calibrated
Breathalyzer Accessories

How can I order additional mouthpieces for my breathalyzer? Do I need to replace the mouthpiece after every test?

Please visit our Breathalyzer Mouthpieces page to order mouthpieces and other supplies.

Replacing the mouthpiece after each test is optional if you are testing yourself. For testing and screening, it is recommended to change the mouthpiece after each test for safety and performance reasons.

How do I insert a mouthpiece into the breathalyzer?

The mouthpiece should insert easily into the mouthpiece slot, using the end with the larger inner diameter. It should be inserted approximately 1/8th inch.

How do I clean the mouthpieces if I plan to re-use them?

Clean them with warm soapy water and rinse, or wash them in a dishwasher.

Why should I buy from Smartox?

Smartox is your trusted source for all types of breath alcohol detectors, Smart Start the sister company of Smartox has been providing ignition interlock devices for participants for over 20 years while operating in over 13 countries. We work directly with breathalyzer manufacturers to ensure quality products and service for our customers. Unlike other companies that may sell a variety of different products, we specialize in personal and professional breath alcohol testers. We’re an industry leader and have been providing satisfied customers with alcohol testing equipment since 1992.

Our advanced order fulfillment system ensures that most orders ship the same business day as long as the order is placed by 3:30 pm CST.

Our knowledgeable employees are here to answer any questions and address any concerns you may have. For toll-free phone support, please call us at 1-888-711-9906. Our normal hours of business are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Central Standard Time.

How do I contact Smartox?

For toll-free phone support, please call us at 1-888-711-9906. Our normal hours of business are Monday through Friday, 8:00 am – 5:00 pm Central Standard Time.

What is calibration? Why do I need it?

Breathalyzers need to be calibrated at the recommended, regular intervals to ensure their ongoing accuracy. Calibration is the process of checking and adjusting the internal settings of a breathalyzer by comparing and adjusting its test results to a known and controlled alcohol standard. All breathalyzers, including professional and law enforcement breathalyzers, must undergo calibration regularly.

Calibration involves specialised equipment and factory-trained technicians capable of calibrating a breathalyzer to the highest stnadards. It is not a procedure that can be conducted at home or by untrained users.

You must calibrate your breathalyzer to maintain its accuracy. Otherwise, your breathalyzer will provide false readings.

Note that calibration is not included as a warranty service and incurs extra charges based on the unit.

Are breathalyzers accurate?

Breathalyzers estimate BrAC based on a breath sample, and will not be as accurate as when a sample of blood is tested for alcohol content. However, fuel cell breathalyzers are highly accurate if calibrated according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. When used correctly, breathalyzers provide a very close estimate of our BrAC. Every breathalyzer has an accuracy range, usually +/- 0.01%BAC from the given reading. Any breathalyzer that claims 100% accuracy is making a false statement, so don’t bother searching for them.

Can my results be used in court?

Results from personal breathalyzers will not be upheld in court, and should be strictly used to increase the awareness of your blood alcohol concentration.

Can a breathalyzer prove you were intoxicated in court?

It depends on the type of breathalyzer. Professional-grade portable units used in roadside sobriety tests are quite accurate, but are still not used as sole proof of intoxication. Their results are used in combination with a coordination test and other symptoms to establish a full pattern of intoxicated symptoms.

However, non-portable breathalyzers, such as done at a police station or hospital, are much more accurate, and can hold their own muster as court evidence.

I don't feel fine, but my breathalyzer says I'm under the legal limit.

Everyone is affected by alcohol very differently and there are many factors that can affect your BAC reading. Keep in mind that just because you’re under the legal limit doesn’t mean you’re okay to drive. If you don’t feel fine, don’t drive.

Can I test other people with the same breathalyzer?

Yes you can. To be sanitary we recommend using new, unused mouthpieces to test others. Also, be sure that the other person is using the breathalyzer correctly, i.e. that they have waited at least 15 minutes after the last meal or drink before taking a test.

Can breathalyzers detect marijuana or other substances?

Breathalyzers cannot detect marijuana, and can generally not detect the usage of other illegal substances. However, there are substances that can interfere with a breathalyzer. Mouthwash or other substances that contain traces of alcohol can result in a higher reading, and invalidate the results. The same can happen for some substances with similar molecular structure to alcohol, such as acetone, paint fumes, and varnish.

Common Breathalyzer Myths

Myth: Chewing gum, breath mints, or mouthwash mask the alcohol

pic1

While these might help you convince your buddy that you haven’t been drinking, they don’t prevent a breathalyzer from detecting your intoxication. In the case of mouthwash, it might even contain some alcohol, in which case your BrAC can register even higher.

Myth: Sucking on a penny can beat a breathalyzer

pic2

This doesn’t work either, despite the fact that this myth is surprisingly widely-believed.

Myth: Smokers register lower on breathalyzers

pic3

There is something to this, but not much. While cheap semiconductor oxide sensing breathalizers might be affected if you have just partaken in some chain-smoking, this won’t affect more accurate fuel cell sensor breathalyzers, and wouldn’t matter anyway unless you just smoke a lot.

Myth: Putting a battery in your mouth beats a breathalyzer

pic4

This one must come from the knowledge that fuel cell breathalyzers operate by using an electrical current after creating a chemical reaction with the your breath. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work, but you might have guess that.