Find the Right Gas Detectors: Know the Basics

Help Finding the Right Gas Detection Equipment

For anyone who is conducting a search for a new gas detection product, the process can be overwhelming due to the alternative technologies and the number of similar looking products available.

A basic search engine search brings up lots of results for many gas detection products that appear to be very similar. There are loads of gas detection products that might appear to do the same thing, but upon closer inspection of functionality, specification and features, you will notice that there are major differences in the capabilities of the products.

To help focus your search, you will need to arm yourself with some basic selection criteria. The more you know about the hazardous risks and conditions in your workplace, the better equipped you will be to select the right gas detector for your situation.


We've composed a number of points to consider when finding the right equipment:


Understand Your Site Risks

Even before you've considered researching the various types of gas detection equipment, a risk assessment needs to be conducted to give you a basis of what you're faced with.

An employer has the obligation to carry out risk assessments which will identify the potential hazards that will either be harmful to its workers or can affect the process. The most common atmospheric dangers in general industry include flammable gases such as methane or natural gas, Oxygen deficiency or enrichment, Carbon Monoxide and Hydrogen Sulphide. Once gas hazards are identified, gas detection is applicable as a risk reduction method.

Depending on your industry, you may have a variety of applications with diverse gas hazards, or you may have one source of concern with one known hazard. Knowing what gas/gases need to be monitored will determine which gas sensors should be installed in the instrument. 

However, it is important to remember that it is the end-user's ultimate responsibility to identify all potential hazards.


Identify the Primary Objective

Every site is unique and there can never be a one size fits all approach when it comes to gas detection. An employer needs to identify their prime objective because some products will have been designed to protect workers as they carry out their jobs and alert them to imminent danger whilst others are solely designed for simply data-logging.

So you need to think about the purpose of the product use; does it need to alarm, what type of alarm is required, do you want to read the data locally or will it need to be transmitted to a BMS off-site or will the detector need to activate other processes on site such as ventilation systems. 

Data logging/reporting may also be required for Health and Safety records, reporting functions for regulatory compliance or insurance purposes.


Ask the Right Questions

Having identified the primary objective, suitable gas detection equipment is selected by asking a number of key questions;

• Where are the gases detected and where might they come from?

• Is the location accessible and what are the environmental conditions where detection is to take place?

• How easy will it be to service the equipment?

• Will the equipment offer the functionality we need?

Identify Where Gases are Detected and Where They May Come From

The gases to be detected should be identified by the risk assessment, however, experienced gas detection equipment suppliers are often able to assist end-users in this process, based on their experience of similar applications.

Are there several areas of concern in the workplace?

Which gas hazards are present in each area of concern?

It is also essential to identify the potential source of a gas release as this helps determine the number and location of gas detecting sensors required for a fixed gas detection system.


Consider the Location & Environmental Conditions

The performance of gas detection equipment will be affected by where the gas sensor is located. Consideration must be made to factors that will affect accuracy and reliability. 

Where will the gas sensor be located? Will it be on an offshore oil rig where environmental conditions (wind and rain) can affect the performance or located at an unmanned wastewater plant? Knowing the specifics about the environment, including temperature, pressure, humidity, other gases present, etc., will dictate the most appropriate sensor technology. 

All of these factors will have a direct bearing on the type of gas detection equipment that should be selected.


Ease of Servicing the Equipment

Gas detection products need to be accessible for service engineers. For fixed gas detectors, is there enough space for the engineer to manoeuvre around the sensor and change parts. For sensors that are installed higher up because they're lighter than air, will service engineers require scaffolding, ladders or lifting gear to get close to the sensors? This type of equipment comes with a cost and needs to be considered.

Portable gas detectors could be getting used by many different people, how will you track which detectors are due calibration and how will you physically bring them in for service? Will it be more cost-effective to invest in a docking station, have them serviced on site or send them to a distributor for service and calibration?

Also, consider the frequency of service. Some gases and vapours can be detected with a number of different sensing technologies, e.g. Hydrocarbon gases with catalytic beads or IR. Catalytic beads do not provide fail-to-safety operation and therefore can require a high frequency of routine maintenance, however, IR based solutions tend to have a higher initial purchase price, but may require less routine maintenance.


Understand Product Functionality

Considerations must be given to how you intend to use the equipment. Firstly, the unit will need a power source. Will this be mains supplied or battery powered? Fixed detectors are often mains powered and portable products are battery powered. Further considerations could be whether batteries are rechargeable or replaceable and how long will the charge last for.

Communications -  Will data be communicated to a BMS or SCADA? Wireless technology is growing in popularity, could this benefit you? If the apparatus is being integrated into a separate safety system, certain communication protocols may also be required such as HART® or Modbus®.

Datalogging - how much data is stored, do you need event logging, 

Aspects like wiring configuration are important, especially when retrofitting into an existing application. 

Consideration will also need to be given regarding the requirement for local displays on transmitter units and local configuration of the unit and gas displays may also be a useful addition.


Do You Need Some Help With Selecting the Right Gas Detection Equipment? 

If you have questions about any of our gas detection products or for help selecting the right equipment, simply contact us