At WiseGEEK, we're committed to delivering accurate, trustworthy information. Our expert-authored content is rigorously fact-checked and sourced from credible authorities. Discover how we uphold the highest standards in providing you with reliable knowledge.
A home Breathalyzer® test is a device that allows individuals to voluntarily check their own blood alcohol levels for intoxication. In most jurisdictions in the United States, a blood alcohol concentration (BAC) of 0.08 percent is considered legally drunk. By using a blood alcohol tester, citizens can be responsible for their own personal safety, helping them learn to gauge how the type of alcohol consumed and the number of drinks they indulge in can affect intoxication levels.
Breathalyzer® tests can be used to avoid engaging in risky behaviors, such as driving under the influence. Adults can use these devices to make sure others leaving from their parties are sober as well. Additionally, parents of teenagers are also turning to home Breathalyzer® tests as a monitoring device to make certain their underage children remain alcohol free.
Although the term Breathalyzer® is a trademark of a specific model of electronic alcohol test, the word has become synonymous with all electronic devices that measure the concentration of alcohol in the blood. Regardless of the term used, commercial home Breathalyzer® tests are designed on the same principals as Breathalyzer® tests used in law enforcement and other professions. The user blows into a mouthpiece, and the amount of alcohol in his or her breath is measured to estimate BAC and determine the level of intoxication.
Several different testing technologies can be used in a Breathalyzer®. A home Breathalyzer® test, however, usually relies on semiconductor sensors and may be used for novelty or professional purposes. A novelty Breathalyzer® is relatively inexpensive and is designed for entertainment value. Often, these devices do not include mouthpieces and may only measure mouth alcohol levels, resulting in false positives.
Semiconductor sensors used in a professional quality Breathalyzer®, however, are capable of taking deep-lung air samples. These types of samples provide a more accurate analysis of BAC. Due to their accuracy, they are sometimes used in instances where there is zero tolerance for drinking, such as by probation officers.
Although called a home Breathalyzer® test, these electronic devices are designed to be portable and can be kept in cars or purses. The sleek, small devices can sometimes weigh less than 1 ounce (about 28 grams). Many also can be attached directly to key rings to give the user a quick readout when needed.
For individuals who only need the occasional analysis, disposable testing kits may be appealing. These throwaway devices are usually very low-cost and can eliminate worries about contamination that can crop up when one unit is used by multiple individuals. Convenient features on this type of Breathalyzer® test can include backlighted displays, temperature sensors and folding mouthpieces.