Portable breathalyzers

What is a portable breathalyzer?


A portable breathalyzer is a wireless, handheld device that monitors a user’s BrAC. Portable breathalyzers are used by police officers to enforce alcohol-related offenses but have also become increasingly popular in the consumer market. Commercial portable breathalyzers allow a user to monitor his or her own alcohol level before driving. 

How do I use a portable breathalyzer?

To use a portable breathalyzer, the user must blow into the device for a few seconds in a steady stream. The breathalyzer will indicate when to start and stop, but this usually lasts for about 5 seconds. Sensors within a portable breathalyzer will then measure the alcohol level of air in the lungs, and supply a BAC estimate.
To ensure accuracy of results and avoid false positives, a person should not eat or drink for 15 to 20 minutes before operating a portable breathalyzer for personal use. This ensures the results are not altered by any contaminants in the user’s mouth.

How are portable breathalyzers different than other alcohol-monitoring devices?

Unlike ignition interlock devices (IIDs), portable breathalyzers require no mounting or installation. Portable breathalyzers are lightweight, portable and wireless. They do not need to be tethered to a charging cord. Unlike IIDs or home breathalyzers, portable breathalyzers do not track a person’s tests or monitor violations or tampering for court-ordered purposes.

However, much like ignition interlock devices, portable breathalyzers need calibration. For portable breathalyzers with semi-conductor sensors, calibrate every 300 tests or once a year. Breathalyzers with fuel cell sensors will remain accurate for much longer but should still be calibrated annually. 

Where can I buy a portable breathalyzer?

Several types of portable breathalyzers can be purchased online from common merchandisers like Amazon and Target, or directly from breathalyzer vendors. 

How much do portable breathalyzers cost?

The price of portable breathalyzers varies greatly. Inexpensive models may cost $30, while higher-end portable breathalyzers that use fuel cell sensor technology may cost more than $450.


Are portable breathalyzers required by law? Who uses portable breathalyzers?

Portable breathalyzers are not required by law. However, they are used by police officers to determine alcohol-related offenses both on the road and on foot as they are lightweight and can be used just about anywhere. Other instances in which a portable breathalyzer might be used include: 

  • 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


How accurate are portable breathalyzers?

Portable breathalyzers are designed to provide you with a BAC estimate. The accuracy of portable breathalyzers depends on the quality and correct use of the device. Before purchasing a portable breathalyzer, it is important to research each model’s accuracy. Some breathalyzers operate using semiconductor oxide sensors. For a portable breathalyzer that is more accurate, look for a model that uses fuel cell censors. For more accurate results, users should also consider portable breathalyzers that have been approved by the FDA.
For diabetic individuals or those on a low-calorie diet, portable breathalyzers may register a false positive. If you’re ever in doubt of the BAC reading on your portable breathalyzer, you should not drive. Even if you are under your state’s legal BAC limit, you could be ticketed or charged with an offense.


What’s the latest technology in portable breathalyzers?

Advances in technology have allowed for home breathalyzers that operate wirelessly through cellular networks. Their new lightweight design allows for home breathalyzers to be used nearly anywhere. Other advances in portable breathalyzer technology include smartphone breathalyzer apps like Alcohoot, Bluetooth breathalyzers like Breathometer, and keychain attachments like BACtrack Keychain.

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