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A Guide to the Different Gas Monitoring System Types
Monday, December 9, 2019

Gas-related leaks and explosions cause about 17 deaths a year in the U.S. That number is so low thanks to a number of gas-related innovations, including gas detectors.

Natural gas leaks often aren't harmful. But a concentrated leak in a contained space can have deadly consequences. To prevent gas-related accidents, people have taken new measures over the years, like adding scent to natural gas so that leaks can be detected and installing a gas monitoring system.

But how do gas sensors work, and what are the different types of gas detectors? Let's take a look at the different monitoring methods available to protect people from leaks today.

Fixed Gas Detectors

First, a gas monitoring system will fall into one of two main categories: portable and fixed.

A fixed system means that the gas sensor never moves from one location. It can catch leaks and alert the appropriate people to respond, even if they aren't on-site.

Portable Gas Detectors

While fixed detectors are often sufficient, portable detectors can help make individuals safer while working around gas.

A portable detector is carried with an individual and gives off an alarm if gas in the area rises to an unsafe level. Portable detectors protect individuals, while fixed detectors protect everyone in a given work site.

Gas Sensor Methods

Within these two gas monitoring system categories, there are several different methods of sensing gases in the air.


A catalytic sensor uses a process called catalytic oxidation. This type of gas sensor needs enough oxygen to work. If the oxygen in the area falls below a certain point, the sensor can no longer function properly.


An electrochemical gas detector involves two or more electrodes. There is also a liquid electrolyte in the sensor.

Gas that enters the sensor goes through a chemical reaction upon contact with the electrodes and electrolyte. This three-way reaction causes the sensor to go off if the gas is at an unsafe level.


An infrared sensor can work even in the absence of oxygen, making it important for some industrial uses.

These sensors use light absorption to measure gas levels. Different gases absorb light in different ways, allowing for an infrared sensor to tell what kind of gas is in the air and how much of it is there.

Metal Oxide Semiconductors

These detectors contain a film made out of tungsten or tin oxide. When gas hits this film, it causes a reaction. If enough gas comes into contact with the film, the sensor will go off.

Which Gas Monitoring System Do You Need?

Each gas monitoring system works best in certain conditions, and with certain gases. The best system for your needs will depend on the environment in which you'll use it.

However, regardless of which one you use, what's most important is that you have a system in place. You may even need more than one kind of sensor to ensure that gases will never cause a problem.

Still not sure which gas sensor to buy? Check out our detailed list of gas detection equipment here, along with descriptions of what each item works best for.

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