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Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detectors

co2 fixed and portable gas detectors

Continuous gas detection is critical to ensure a safe workplace. Anyone working in or around compressed gases should be protected by a gas detection device. These devices can be either fixed or portable, depending upon the use case. 

When choosing the correct type of device here are a few questions you must ask:

  • What is your application or use case?
  • What gases are present, being used or created?
  • What federal, state or local safety standards are required?

Once you have answers to these questions, selecting the right gas detection device will be straightforward.

Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detectors: Similarities

Both fixed and portable gas detectors play an important role in gas detection and safety. Fixed gas detectors are useful for monitoring areas where hazardous gases may be present on an ongoing basis. Portable gas detectors are useful for personal protection and for monitoring in areas that are not covered by fixed detectors.

But let's focus first on their similarities.

Fixed and portable gas detectors serve the common purpose of detecting potentially hazardous gases. Here are some similarities between the two:

  • Gas Detection Capability: Both fixed and portable gas detectors use gas sensors that respond to particular gases, alerting users when gas concentrations reach potentially dangerous levels.
  • Safety Concerns: Both types of detectors are crucial for ensuring safety in different settings. Any gas can be a potential safety risk. Both fixed and portable detectors help mitigate the risks by providing early warning of gas leaks or buildup.
  • Alarm Systems: Fixed and portable gas detectors are equipped with alarms to alert users when gas concentrations exceed predetermined thresholds. These alarms can be visual (such as flashing lights), audible (such as alarms or sirens), or both, depending on the model.
  • Monitoring Capabilities: Both types of detectors provide continuous monitoring of gas levels. Fixed detectors are typically installed in stationary positions to continuously monitor specific areas, while portable detectors offer more flexibility by allowing users to move them to different locations as needed.
  • Battery Power: While fixed gas detectors are permanently wired to the grid, they usually incorporate battery backup systems to ensure continuous operation in case of power outages. Portable gas detectors rely on batteries for power, enabling them to function autonomously without the need for external power sources.
  • Calibration and Maintenance: Both fixed and portable gas detectors require periodic calibration and maintenance to ensure accurate and reliable performance. This includes sensor calibration, function checks, and regular inspections to verify proper operation and sensitivity.
  • Data Logging: Modern fixed and portable gas detectors feature data logging capabilities, allowing users to record and analyze gas concentration data over time. This data can be valuable for identifying trends and ensuring compliance with safety regulations.

While fixed and portable gas detectors have similarities in their basic function and purpose, they also have distinct differences in terms of design, application, and functionality, which cater to specific requirements and preferences in different environments.

Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detectors: Differences

Fixed and portable gas detectors have notable differences in their design, application, and functionality. Here are some key differences:

Installation and Mobility:

  • Fixed Gas Detectors are permanently installed in specific locations within facilities, such as industrial plants, warehouses, or laboratories. They are designed to monitor gas levels continuously in a fixed area.
  • Portable Gas Detectors are handheld or wearable devices that provide flexibility for on-the-go gas detection in various environments for testing in confined spaces or for spot checking leaks..

Coverage Area:

  • Fixed Gas Detectors typically cover a specific area or zone within a facility. Multiple fixed detectors are installed throughout a facility to cover different areas or to monitor for different types of gases.
  • Portable Gas Detectors provide localized detection in the immediate vicinity of the user. While they offer flexibility in terms of mobility, they have limited coverage compared to fixed detectors.

Power Source:

  • Fixed Gas Detectors are powered by mains electricity and may have battery backup systems to ensure continuous operation during power outages.
  • Portable Gas Detectors are powered by rechargeable or disposable batteries, allowing them to operate autonomously without the need for external power sources.

Size and Weight:

  • Fixed Gas Detectors are larger and heavier due to their stationary installation and the need for a robust housing to withstand environmental conditions.
  • Portable Gas Detectors are designed to be lightweight and compact. They are ergonomically designed to be carried or worn comfortably for extended periods.

Detection Range and Sensitivity:

  • Fixed Gas Detectors typically have a wider detection range and higher sensitivity, allowing them to detect low levels of gas over a larger area.
  • Portable Gas Detectors have a narrower detection range and lower sensitivity due to their smaller size and portable nature. However, they are still capable of detecting hazardous gas concentrations at levels relevant to personal safety.

Data Display and Connectivity:

  • Fixed Gas Detectors can be  equipped with large displays and may have built-in communication capabilities for remote monitoring and data logging.
  • Portable Gas Detectors use minimal, compact displays focused on low-power use. They may offer Bluetooth or USB connections for data transfer to external devices.
Understanding these differences can help users choose the most suitable type of gas detector based on their specific application requirements, whether it involves continuous monitoring of fixed areas or portable, on-the-go detection needs.


What is a fixed gas detector?

CO2 Industrial Gas Detector l CO2Meter

What makes a fixed gas detector unique is that these devices are usually hard-wired, installed on-location, and placed directly near the gas source.

Businesses that typically utilize fixed CO2 detectors include restaurants, breweries, beverage dispensing areas, cultivation facilities, industrial environments, and safety industries.

Additionally, fixed/wall mounted devices have the ability to activate relays and trigger third party systems like ventilation, fire panels, or building management/security systems. We tend to explain that fixed detectors work like a fire or smoke alarm. When a gas leak occurs the monitor sets off an alarm that is audible and visual notifying personnel that a hazard has occurred.

An accurate and reliable Fixed/Wall Mount CO2 monitor like the CM-900 CO2 Industrial Fixed Gas Detector features both audible and visual alarms and relays to trigger third party systems like a shut-off valve, exhaust system, or fire panel. See additional fixed gas safety detectors here.

More importantly, these fixed/wall-mount detectors should have alarm levels that meet OSHA and fire code regulations and include properly mounted signage to indicate potential hazard spaces.

Fixed or wall-mounted gas detector sensors should be mounted at different heights from the floor depending on the gas. For example, a CO2 sensor should be mounted 12 inches from the floor, while an oxygen detector sensor should be mounted approximately 48 inches from the floor. The display unit should be at eye level upon entry to the space or in a managers office.

Fixed and Wall Mounted Gas Detector Pros:

  • 24/7 continuous detection for gas monitoring
  • Louder audible and brighter visual alarms
  • Meets OSHA requirements for many applications
  • Relays can trigger an exhaust fan or control panel
  • Less likely to be broken or lost by employees

Fixed and Wall Mounted Gas Detector Cons:

  • Non-portable
  • Higher cost to monitor multiple areas
  • Hard wired power supply

What is a portable gas detector?

Personal 5% CO2 Safety Monitor and Data Logger - CO2 Meter

Portable or handheld gas detectors are useful for employees working in temporarily hazardous areas or need protection as they move around the job. Portable safety detectors are designed to warn the wearer of the device when gas levels exceed safety limits.

Workers who use portable gas detectors depend on them to sound an alert immediately upon entering an unsafe area. They are used in breweries, gas distribution centers, cultivation facilities, gas creation sites, mines, underground or anywhere a worker could be exposed to potentially dangerous gases.

When purchasing a portable or handheld gas detector, look for quick gas readings, audible, visual and vibrating alarms, data logging, rechargeable batteries and the ability to easily test them daily to verify they are in working order.

It is important to remember that different gases have different weights. For example, gases like carbon dioxide, propane, butane and refrigerants are heavier than air and will settle in basements or underground.

Portable / Handheld Gas Detector Pros:

  • Personal safety device when worn
  • Continuous gas monitoring
  • Audible and visual alarms
  • Rechargeable 

Portable / Handheld Gas Detector Cons:

  • Relies on battery for power supply
  • Hazard only known after entering a space
  • More likely to be lost, stolen or broken
  • Employee "forgetfulness"

Every company should have its own policies and procedures to help drive employee education, awareness, performance, and safety.

See our line of portable gas detectors here.

How to choose between a Fixed or Portable Gas Detector

Choosing between fixed and portable gas detectors depends on various factors related to your specific application and requirements.

Here's a quick guide to help you in order to make an informed decision:

Consider the Application:

  • Determine the nature of your gas detection needs. Are you monitoring a fixed area within a facility, or do you require mobility for on-the-go detection in various locations?
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Ideal for continuous monitoring of specific areas or zones within facilities where gas hazards are present.
  • Portable Gas Detectors: Suitable for applications where mobility is required, such as confined space entry, leak detection, maintenance activities, or outdoor monitoring.

Assess the Coverage Area:

  • Evaluate the size and layout of the area you need to monitor for gas hazards.
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Provide coverage for specific zones within facilities and are suitable for areas where gas hazards are stationary or predictable.
  • Portable Gas Detectors: Offer localized detection in the immediate vicinity of the user and are suitable for dynamic environments or applications requiring flexibility.

Review Gas Detection Requirements:

  • Identify the types of gases or vapors you need to detect. Consider the range of gases relevant to your application and their potential concentrations.
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Often equipped with multiple sensors to detect a wide range of gases with high sensitivity. They are suitable for environments where various gases may be present simultaneously.
  • Portable Gas Detectors: Select models with sensors tailored to the specific gases of concern for your application. Ensure the detector has the sensitivity required to detect gas concentrations relevant to personal safety.

Evaluate Power Source and Battery Life:

  • Consider the availability of power sources and the duration of operation required for your application.
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Typically powered by mains electricity with battery backup systems. Ensure the availability of reliable power sources in your facility.
  • Portable Gas Detectors: Rely on rechargeable or disposable batteries for operation. Choose models with sufficient battery life to meet your operational needs, considering factors such as temperature extremes and usage frequency.

Review Data Logging and Connectivity Requirements:

  • Determine whether you require data logging capabilities or remote monitoring options.
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Often equipped with built-in data logging features and may offer connectivity options for remote monitoring and data access.
  • Portable Gas Detectors: Select models with data logging capabilities and connectivity options such as Bluetooth or USB for data transfer to external devices.

Consider Maintenance and Calibration Requirements:

  • Evaluate the ease of maintenance and calibration for the chosen gas detector.
  • Fixed Gas Detectors: Require periodic maintenance and calibration but may be easier to access and service due to their stationary installation.
  • Portable Gas Detectors: Require regular maintenance and calibration, but accessibility may vary depending on the design of the device.

Overall, both gas detectors have specific uses in various industries. While workers in confined spaces typically use portable gas detectors to avoid exposure, companies with hazardous gas in facilities tend to lean on fixed gas detectors for enclosed spaces.

By considering these factors and comparing the specific features and capabilities of fixed and portable gas detectors, you can choose the most suitable option to meet your gas detection needs effectively and more to help save lives in the field.

Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detector Resources


Our eBook "Your Guide to Selecting Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detection Devices" provides key insights into the various types of gas detection devices in several industries Customers can get an in-depth analysis of how to select the proper fixed or portable solution and understand which sensing technology is best for their overall use case, environment or industry requirements.


  • Difference between Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detectors
  • OSHA Workplace Standards and Requirements
  • Single vs Multi-Gas Sensing Solutions
  • Sensing Features, Capabilities, and Common Terms
  • Gas Detectors by Industry and Application

Click here to download CO2Meter eBook on Fixed vs. Portable Gas Detection

Contact the gas detection professionals at CO2Meter if you need additional help or have any further questions on which gas detector is right for you or your company. For more information contact us today.

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