What is a Gas Detector?

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  • Written By: Mary McMahon
  • Edited By: Kristen Osborne
  • Last Modified Date: 01 November 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
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A gas detector is a device designed to identify gases present in an environment such as a room. Gas detectors are used industrially in settings where dangerous gases may be present like refineries, wastewater treatment facilities, oil rigs, laboratory facilities, and mines. They can also be used in the home. In both cases, they are designed to provide safety and security by monitoring the environment and issuing alarms when conditions become hazardous to human health. These devices are made by a number of companies and they can come with a range of options.

There are two main categories of gas detectors. Portable detectors are designed to be carried or worn on the body. They are used for monitoring personnel safety and making spot checks. Fixed detectors are fixed in place in a facility and may be wired into a control system so in the event that gas levels become dangerous, the device can turn systems off and take other steps to protect safety without having to wait for input from a human operator. Fixed devices tend to be more expensive.


Depending on the design, a gas detector may search for one or several gases, and the sensitivity of the device can be calibrated to determine when it will set off an alarm. When gas detectors are selected, an important consideration is the type of gas or gases that are most likely to be present. In a home, for example, the device would be used to monitor for natural gas or propane, two common heating and cooking fuels.

Another type of gas detector checks not for gas, but for signs of oxygen depletion. A number of gases cause oxygen depletion in the environment. The gas detector will monitor oxygen levels and respond when they become dangerously low. This can be important for environments like laboratories where people work with a number of different kinds of gases.

Alarms on a gas detector usually include sounds and lights. If the device is hooked into a control system, additional alarms may be sounded in control rooms and other locations. Some devices are capable of sending an alert to emergency services so that first responders can prepare for an emergency situation. Rapid response to gas leaks and other emergencies involving gases is important because conditions can become dangerous very fast.

A gas detector is only effective as long as it is properly maintained and regularly checked. Most devices have a test function that should be used regularly to confirm that the device is working properly. It is also important to confirm that the power supply is uninterrupted and that the device is calibrated correctly. Manuals supplied with gas detectors provide important information on maintenance and resetting the devices after they sound alarms.



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