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Portable Breathalyzer FAQs and Guide

Ignition interlock devices are often called car breathalyzers. Portable breathalyzers are similar to IIDs, but have one key difference. Portable breathalyzers are wireless, whereas interlock devices are wired directly into the car’s ignition. We will answer all your most frequently asked questions about these unique devices.

How do I use a portable breathalyzer?

Users must provide a breath sample for their portable breathalyzer to analyze. To do so, the user will blow into the device for a few seconds, in a steady stream. Different devices have different testing protocols, but typically users will blow for about five seconds. The sensors then measure the alcohol level of the breath sample and extrapolate a blood alcohol content from those results. For the most accurate results, refrain from eating or drinking 15 minutes before testing.

How are portable breathalyzers different from other alcohol monitoring devices?

The key difference is that portable breathalyzers are wireless, and do not require mounting or installation. In addition, they are not like interlock devices or home breathalyzers because they don’t track testing results, or monitor violations or tampering on behalf of the court. 

The devices do need regular calibration, though less frequently than a car or in-home breathalyzers. Portable breathalyzers with semiconductor sensors need to be calibrated every 300 tests, or once per year. Portable breathalyzers with fuel-cell sensors are accurate for even longer, but still need calibration on an annual basis.

Where would I buy a portable breathalyzer?

You can purchase portable breathalyzers directly from the vendor in most cases. Also, many brands are available from larger retailers like Amazon, Target, or Wal-Mart.

How much do portable breathalyzers cost?

The costs vary widely depending on the features and brand of device you choose to purchase. There are models available for as low as $30, while others cost up to $450 or more. 

Are portable breathalyzers a legal requirement?

No, they are not required by law. However, portable breathalyzers are often used by law enforcement. 

Who uses portable breathalyzers?

In addition to law enforcement, there are several groups who use portable breathalyzers, including: 

  • Personal monitoring
  • Work places (in which safety is paramount)
  • Alcohol awareness and rehabilitation programs 
  • Universities
  • Research industries
  • Drug and alcohol treatment centers
  • Probation offices
  • Transitional housing
  • Medical clinics

Are portable breathalyzers accurate?

A portable breathalyzer device is designed to provide a blood alcohol content (BAC) estimate. The BAC level can be extrapolated from the data obtained when the user breathes into the device. 

Accuracy of portable devices does vary depending on the brand, quality, and correct usage of the device. We recommend researching a particular model’s accuracy before committing to buy. Some models use semiconductor oxide sensors, but fuel cell sensor models are more accurate. For the most accurate results, consider finding a portable breathalyzer that is approved by the FDA.

If the user is diabetic or following a low-calorie diet, the results could be impacted. Regardless, if you are ever in any doubt about the accuracy of a positive BAC reading on your portable breathalyzer, you should not drive. It’s a risk because even if you are under your state’s legal limit, you could be ticketed or charged with an offense.

What is the latest technology in portable breathalyzers?

Currently, advances in technology have made it possible for portable and home breathalyzers to operate wirelessly through cellular networks. They are lightweight, and with the cellular network capability, they can be used almost anywhere. 

There are also breathalyzer apps like Alcohoot, or Bluetooth breathalyzers like Breathometer, and even keychain attachments like BACtrack Keychain.