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How to Calibrate a Digital Scale

Taking accurate weight measurements plays a vital role in our everyday lives. That is why knowing how to calibrate a digital scale is a vital hack that you need to learn.

Getting the correct weight means that you’ll have accurate data with which you can work with. Be it in the kitchen when baking or cooking, or for personal use. Be it at the grocery store during a sale or even if you sell weights yourself.

Yes! You can never downplay the significance of this exercise. That is why today I’ll show you how to calibrate your scales and spell out the needed requirements.

I will also show you when the right time to calibrate is and some improper techniques that you should avoid.

But first…

What is calibration?

Simply put, calibration refers to the process that ensures that your weighing scale gives correct and accurate weight readings. It involves configuring a scale to give a reading that is acceptable and within a justifiable range.

The accurate readings of each scale are usually indicated in its manual.

Yet, all this accuracy degrades over time from continued use, debris buildup, and aging. This process is also known as drift.

The kinds of scales most vulnerable to this drift are the smaller, portable ones. This is because of their light and sensitive body design.

Types of calibration

There are two types of calibration that you may most likely interact with:

a. Factory calibration

A factory calibration refers to the default calibration done when the scale is still in the factory. Hence, when you buy your scale, it normally arrives with factory calibration.

From the factory calibration, one wrong assumption that you might make is that the scales arrive ready-for-use. Well, that is not true.

The reason is that the final weight gets affected by factors such as the elevation of a place. Therefore, this means that two different points of elevation may give different weight readings. And because of that, I advise that you recalibrate your scale before use after it arrives.

b. Legal-for-Trade calibration

Legal-for-Trade calibration is a mandatory requirement for all commercial scales. What does it mean?

It means that a scale’s calibration has to match the standards enshrined in Handbook 44. This document highlights the tolerances, specifications, and other technical necessities required for commercial weighs and measurement devices.

The handbook contains a list of requirements that every commercial user must meet. And what’s more, an updated issue gets published each year.

How to calibrate a digital scale

Well, how do you calibrate a digital scale?

Let’s find out below:

1. Setting up

When setting up for calibration, you need to first identify a proper surface to place your scale. Ideally, the best spot is a flat surface. To check this, use a carpenter’s level.

You can also place a pencil or a small ball and see whether it rolls off the surface.

Secondly, place a computer mouse pad on the flat surface. You may need one or two depending on the size of your scale.

Mousepads act as effective shock absorbers and will inhibit interference from external vibrations. Other alternatives that you can use instead include rubber mittens and gripping pads.

After that, place the scale on top of the mouse pad. Power on the scale, then press the “Tare” or “ZERO” button on your scale.

Mostly, this button comes on the face of the unit but the location might vary depending on your model. It only takes a few seconds before your display reads “0.00” on the weight.

Lastly, ensure that you’ve set your scale to calibration mode. Again, check your manual because instructions to do this may vary depending on the unit.

If it’s not there, then you can always check the manufacturer’s website for more information.

But commonly, it involves pressing a switch or button (or a combination of buttons).

2. Select an appropriate calibration weight

The best option is to use calibration weights made solely for this kind of purpose.

Calibration weights can measure up to 66lbs per piece. Most of the time they come as solid blocks and are very handy in achieving accuracy.

3. Place the calibration weight on the scale

Place the piece of the calibration weight on the scale. Ensure that you’ve captured its exact weight for the next steps to be a success.

Also, ensure that it doesn’t surpass your scale’s total weight limit. Or else, it may end up damaging the weighing gauge.

4. Enter the calibration weight’s mass

Key in the total weight indicated on your calibration weight in the scale and press “OKAY” or “ENTER”.

Now, start with lighter weights (5 – 10 grams) then shift gradually to heavier units. During this stage, your scale tends to store the data for reference when weighing other items.

5. Add weights to match the scale’s maximum weight limit

Add the calibration weights on the scale until you clock the maximum weight limit of your scale.

Once done, check to see whether the scale displays the same weight as the units you placed on top. Again, the limit may vary from scale to scale, but you can find this information in the manual.

6. Adjust the scale’s calibration

This step only comes when there’s a discrepancy between the weight displayed and the actual weight of the calibration units.
At this stage, you can now adjust the calibration to match the true weight expected. To do this, press the “UP” or “DOWN” buttons accordingly to give the scale an accurate reading.

7. Turn off your scale

Once done with calibrating, turn off your scale to store it for future use. Turning off the scale also returns it to the normal weighing status.

How to calibrate your digital scale using coins

All that said, the other way to calibrate your digital scale involves using coins. Most specifically, nickels. The good news is that it also follows the procedure highlighted above.

The only difference is that instead of using calibration weights, you will use nickel coins instead. In other words, it uses a single coin as the base weight unit for calibration.

Problems with using coins

Now, while this may be a popular method used by most people, I’d like to point out that it does not guarantee true results.

Consider this:

The average weight of a coin in mint condition is about 5.000 grams. [2.] As the coin enters circulation, its overall weight gets affected by general wear and tear. This comes from handling as it passes down from one hand to another.

In the long run, you will end up with a nickel having an increased or decreased total weight. This is due to the added weight from the dirt and muck lodged inside the grooves or chip-offs from the sides.

You’ll end up using an inconsistent calibration unit weight. In the end, you’ll have an inaccurate scale that’ll always throw your readings off without you knowing.

How frequently should you calibrate your scale?

Although digital scales are highly coveted due to their dependability and ease of use, not all of them come with automatic calibration.

Deciding how frequently you need to calibrate your scale relies on a few varying factors. These are:

a. A manufacturer’s recommendation

Almost always, you’ll find recommendations from the manufacturer showing you how frequently you need to calibrate the scale. But since scales come from different manufacturers, you should heed each guideline respectively.

b. Regularity of the scale used

This refers to how often you intend to put your scale to the task.

For instance – Scales used heavily and daily will wear faster. So, for such, I suggest that you calibrate every month.

If you use your scale sparingly and on occasional moments, then the wear is more gradual. In this case, you may do your calibrating every quarter of a year or so.

c. The type of environment you are in

This mostly refers to elevation as discussed earlier above. But in addition to that. The other environmental factors include fluids, dust, or other substances.

If you live in an area where your scale may get frequent buildups from these kinds of debris, then you’ll have to calibrate more frequently.

On the other hand, living in areas with high levels of vibrations will also affect your scale’s reading. These vibrations could be either coming from mechanical shock or static electricity and may affect your scale.

d. Your need for accuracy

How essential is the level of accuracy important to you?

If you work in a commercial business and highly depend on accuracy, then it’s only natural that you keep your scale’s calibration spot-on.

This is highly applicable when involved in mixing pharmaceutical ingredients or even cutting precious rocks.

How to clean and maintain a digital scale

Aside from using and calibrating your digital scale, it’s also important that you know how to clean and maintain them.

The following are five of the major ways to keep your scale in top shape:

Keep it out of reach

It’s only fair that you keep your scale stored when not in use. Doing so prevents unnecessary accidents that may undo its calibration again.

Safe spaces for storage include pantries, shelves, and closed closets.

Clean the surface with a brush before weighing

Every time before use, dust the scale’s surface using a light brush to clear away any debris.

Make sure that you do not exert excess pressure while brushing as this may cause damage to the strain gauge that helps calculate the weight.

Wipe the scale with fiber or damp cloth

This will help you get rid of any surface debris that your brush might have missed.

When using a damp cloth, take great care not to let water leak inside the scale. It could cause damage to its electric circuits.

Also, you can use a pea-sized amount of dish soap to further sanitize its surface.

Use blades to scrape off stuck-on debris

This applies to scales mostly used in the kitchen. They tend to form a hard crust on the surface that does not clear after either brushing or wiping.

Instead, use a sharp blade like a knife to gently scrape off the debris crust before wiping/brushing the surface again.

Always monitor the battery

This goes if you use a battery-operated weighing scale.

Open the battery compartment and wipe it clean every once in a while. And while you are at it. Use the opportunity to also change the batteries if they’re out of power.

Low power can lead to poor performance in battery-powered scales.

Wrapping up

Well, that’s all there is today on learning how to calibrate a digital scale!

Make sure that you use an appropriate calibration weight to give you accurate measures. Also, keep a keen eye on how you use your scale as this will help you know how frequently you have to calibrate it.

And for prolonged use, see to it that you clean and maintain your scale as required.

I hope you had a blast!

Share your thoughts in the Comments Section below.

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