Better 5-in-1 rain calibration procedure

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After struggling to calibrate using official procedures, I started using math. Hope it will help you as well.

What did not work: I've tried official procedure of poking small hole in a cup, measuring 8 oz of water and trying to adjust the screws based on percentage of error, had big difficulties getting any meaningful accuracy in adjustment and tests would take a ton of time. After that I've tried getting a dropper and made sure there were equal number of drops between the bucket tips, followed by the 8 oz cup calibration. Again that took far too long and did not bring me closer to meaningful calibration. Here is what I ended up doing in order to get perfect 1.06" out of 8 oz.

What worked: I ended up realizing that in order to get 1.06", 8 oz of water needed to tip the bucket 106 times, thus each "tip" should carry (8 oz / 106) = 2.232 milliliters of liquid. Next I went to my local walgreens and asked the pharmacy to give me an accurate syringe with ml markings (they are free if you ask them nicely). Syringe I got from walgreens had 1ml major (larger) markings, each separated by four 0.2 ml minor (smaller) markings.  So here is what I did to accurately calibrate the unit:

Before we get started, I would like to recommend that you try to calibrate the sensor where it is installed, do not take it elsewhere as recommended by official procedure.  Sometimes this will not be possible, due to the height at which the sensor is installed, but you will get better accuracy if you calibrate the sensor right where it will be used. This calibration will take care of any slight deviation, if any,  from perfect level, so calibrating it while the unit is leveled elsewhere will not be as effective.

What you will need: A phillips head screwdriver (to adjust the calibration screws), a cup of water, a syringe with ml or cc markings (usually available from a local pharmacy) and something narrow which could fit into the drain slots (a drinking straw can work).

What is NOT needed: Connection to the display / internet bridge. This calibration will use visual observation and information from the syringe, I recommend you remove at least two bottom batteries to stop the sensor from transmitting while you are doing calibration. This will prevent the weather data from being contaminated with false rainfall readings.

  1. Understand that calibration of each side is independent of the other, don't try to calibrate both sides at the same time. Do one side first and than the other.
  2. Don't worry about screws not being adjusted by the same amount at this time, this procedure does not require it.
  3. My final calibration ended up being 25 quarter turns for the screw nearer the pole mount and 15 quarter turns for the screw farther the pole mount, you may want to start there and make adjustments as necessary. I counted quarter turns from the screws being screwed in all the way (my 0 point).
  4. Pick a screw to calibrate, as an example we'll start with the screw nearest to the pole mount. Start by carefully inserting a straw or a similar slim object into the drain by the other (far) screw. This will tip the cup onto the screw you are calibrating and make sure you are starting with no water in the cup.
  5. Fill a syringe with about 5ml of liquid and start slowly pouring the liquid into a rain funnel. Your goal is to get to the point where it tips after you poured in 2.2 ml (with 2.8 ml remaining in the syringe if you have started with 5 ml). You can start quick and pour in 1.2 ml a bit faster, than you should slow down and start dripping in the last 1 ml carefully, stopping when the cup tips.
  6. If you have started with 5ml, your goal should be (5 - 2.2) = 2.8 ml to be left in the syringe. If the cup tipped too early (you have more than 2.8 ml remaining) unscrew the screw you are calibrating a bit further (you need to decrease the amount left in the syringe, conveniently this is the same as decreasing the rainfall, so turn in the negative direction as indicated). If the opposite is true (you have less than 2.8 ml remaining), screw in the calibration screw (you need to increase the amount remaining, which is the same as increasing the rainfall).
  7. Wait a few seconds to make sure all the water drained out of the collection bowl (which you may have already been doing while making adjustment in step 6) and reset the cup by inserting a straw into a far drain to manually tip the cup back onto calibration screw and make sure you are starting with empty cup.
  8. After you get a good 2.2ml used (or 2.8 ml remaining, however you wish to think of it) reference point, I recommend you screw in the calibration screw (turning clockwise)  all the way in, counting each quarter turn as you do so. After that unscrew the screw again the same number of quarter turns to establish your calibration number. Verify that the cup still tips after 2.2ml and save the number somewhere in order to get back into calibration quicker next time you need to do it all again.
  9. Repeat steps 7 through 12 for the other screw
  10. After both sides tip after 2.2 ml used, you can reinsert the batteries and verify the calibration by using 8 oz of water in a dripping cup to get 1.06 inches of water method.
  11. Remember to save your calibration number of quarter turns somewhere you have a chance to reference them. Share them here so others may have a better starting point.
Whenever testing 8 oz drip measurement, I recommend you use two cups. Make one cup with smaller hole which works well for high water level and another cup with bigger holes to use with low water level. Simply start the test using the cup with smaller holes, and switch to another cup (and pour any amount remaining in the original cup) when the drip rate gets too low.

For those who wish to use this procedure for 00875 (or similar) rain gauge, it is mostly the same. The main difference is that 8 oz of water should tip the cup 220 times, instead of 106, thus your target should be (8 oz / 220) = 1.075 milliliters (ml) or cubic centimeters (CC).  Another difference is that the screw will need to be raised (unscrewed) in order to decrease the tipping amount (such as to go from 1.3 ml down to 1.0 ml) and screwed in (lowered) to increase the dipping amount (such as from 0.8 ml to 1ml). You may need to invest into a more accurate syringe in order to achieve a higher accuracy.

Well, this is what I did to get a perfect (equal) rain calibration without having to do long 8 oz cup tests or tedious drop counting. Remember to do one screw at a time and not to worry about having to adjust both screws the same amount. Hope this procedure will help you as well.

Good luck, cheers :-)
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Gene

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Posted 11 months ago

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Dale Smith

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Wow, thanks. How long did it take you to figure all this out?
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Gene

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You are welcome :-) I've came up with this on the second day of trying to calibrate my newly purchased sensor (8 oz test came out to 0.94" reading out of the box). Over these two days I've done 11.75" worth of 8oz cups and drop calibrations before I've decided to start from scratch and went to Lowes to get a longer calibration screws (I originally thought that I could level the longer screws using bubble level). On the way there I drove by walgreens, thought of a syringe, made a U-turn and rest is history :-)
(Edited)
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steve

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http://www.forestry-suppliers.com If you're looking for accuracy check out the Davis® Vantage VueTM Wireless Weather Station.
Has a great rain gauge with accuracy of .01 no fuss no muss no calibration. Not a toy like Acurite products.
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Gene

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Devis is definitely a nice piece of engineering. I'm sure their calibration is far more accurate out of the box. I will not argue that official calibration instructions from AcuRite were a joke, but it seems that it is possible to get 0.01" accuracy out of much better priced sensor. Personally I prefer to periodically verify that I am still getting that 0.01" accuracy and make adjustments if necessary, rather than trust that my sensor is still as accurate as it was where ever it was made.
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steve

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You are absolutely right and I applaud your creativity and resourcefulness. I just take exception to Acurite using the words professional weather station When it's really one step away from a Toys "R" Us science kit and a clone of infinitely better sensors and equipment manufactured by Davis and others. I received mine as a gift and it has been fun to play but to say that it is, "professional", is like saying Wolfgang Puck cooks on an Easy Bake Oven . It's great for somebody just getting into learning about whether however . I gave mine to my 12-year-old neighbor and he absolutely loves it. But I'll stick with my Texas Instruments W LS 8000.
If I Acurite doubled the price and upgraded all of the sensors and their funky display it might be worth some serious consideration.
I'm not trying to be a buzz kill here but I do believe in "truth" in advertising . Caveat emptor!
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Gene

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You are absolutely right about there being much more desirable weather sensors out there. I got lucky that I mostly care about rainfall data, useful to optimize water use around my yard. Due to this I could place the sensor 6 feet off the ground and AcuRite appeared to a good fit for that.
Should I ever need more accurate data, requiring a higher installation, I will definitely be considering all of the available options. The fact that I would have to climb up to the unit in order to periodically change the batteries is already a substantial inconvenience, wonder if they will fix it in the design of the next generation of sensors.
I'm also disappointed with lack of support for PWSweather.com, which my sprinkler controller (rachio) requires. I guess this can go both ways (since I'm also disappointed that rachio does not support weather underground).
W LS 8000 is a serious piece of tech, congrats on being able to afford it :-)
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grindels

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Wow, but the TX Inst unit is like $4,000. can that be right? It looks like a serious farm operation unit. No doubt a top notch system
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MontanaPhil

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Thank You !! As winter winds down, I had planned a calibration of my 5 in 1 anyway. I will log and post my results for others as well. You are a true weather hobbyist, as am I, and until I win the lottery, AcuRite products are serving my needs and keeping my goldstar status on WU valid. Thanks Again !!
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Gene

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You are welcome :-) I'm glad I've got someone as excited as I was to figure out how to accurately and quickly calibrate the rain sensor.  Looking forward to hearing how your calibration went. Take care of that goldstar and rest well knowing you will be getting an accurate rain data :-)
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Gene

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Since I can no longer edit the original post. Here is an updated procedure. It is both faster and easier to understand. As always, I recommend you remove at least two batteries from your 5-in-1 to stop it recording false rainfall during calibration.

1) Get a 5ml syringe from a local pharmacy (usually free of charge)
2) Unscrew both calibration screws a few turns (in the -ve direction), to make sure they underestimate the rain.
3) Use a drinking straw to tilt a rocking cup onto one of the screws (insert in the vent opposite to screw you wish to calibrate).
4) Intake 2.2 ml worth of water into a syringe (see attachment for example)
5) Pour the liquid into the rain funnel, cup should not tip at this point. If it did: Unscrew the screw you are calibrating further, and repeat steps 3 and 4.
6) Slowly screw in the screw (in the +ve direction) until the cup tilts.
7) Repeat steps 3, 4 and 5, this time being very careful to drip at the end. The cup should tilt on the last drop.
8) If the cup did not tilt at the last drop, repeat steps 6 and 7. If it did, congratulations, you are done with this screw, repeat the process (3+) with the other screw.

No need to remember you calibration number, it's actually pretty easy to calibrate each time you need it.
Video is coming this week, stay tuned.

Cheers.
(Edited)
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Gene

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I didn't notice my screw being loose, hopefully your calibrated screw position will end up where there is some good thread. My calibration procedure does not require that the screws are adjusted the same amount, in fact I encourage you to fully calibrate one screw at a time (and use a straw to tip the cup back onto the screw you are calibrating). Because the goal of my calibration is to get the cup to tip at 2.2ml, you will end up with them being equal to each other.

Feel free to tighten your screw (by turning it in the negative "-" direction). When you start calibrating just be on a lookout for a cup tipping too early (before you put in 2.2ml), if it does tip too early, just unscrew the screw a few turns and try again. Don't be afraid of screwing it up, it doesn't matter if you end up removing your screw (going too far in "+" direction) or screwing it all the way in (going too far in "-" direction), you can always just undo what you did (go in the different direction). Since you would not be adjusting both screws the same amount, you don't need to worry about how "far" you go.

If the screw is really loose I recommend you remove it all together and use a Thread Seal Tape (white tape you usually apply to water connections) to try making it more snug. Make sure that the tape doesn't come too near the end of the screw, where the cup would touch it.
 You can also try getting a replacement screw at your local home improvement store, keep in mind that AcuRite is using metric screws if my memory serves me right (stores usually have a test board where you can find the right size).

Cheers,
Gene
(Edited)
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Gene

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Correction: to tighten your screw, you need to turn in the the positive "+" direction, not negative as I incorrectly specified last night (I guess I was tired).
(Edited)
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Dsireme

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Ok, My husband has mounted the unit on the garage but I still have not calibrated it right. I am reading your newest directions that I printed out and I am confused by 1 part. The straw and the rocking cup. 
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Gene

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Sorry it took a few days, but here is a PDF (link) explanation of how the calibration works.
Please let me know if you have any questions.

Thanks,
Gene
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Elaine Wood

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OH MY GOODNESS!!! Thank you so much for this! I was going crazy with the water cup calibration. I live on a ranch so I happen to have a variety of syringes on hand so this took me less than 5 minutes vs the past 3 hours I've spent!!
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Buell Snyder

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thank you it worked for me as far as I know it rained the other day and was accurate
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Gene

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Glad to hear it :-) Did you use overly complicated original procedure or much improved short version?
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Buell Snyder

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i used the short version
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Dan

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As soon as it warms up here in Michigan I'll check and see how AcuRite my 5-1 is :-)
(Edited)
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Johnny Angell

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I sure would like to see a video of this process because I don't see how you have access to the cups.  Even after removing the debris  filter I can't see the cups.

I called acurite and they told me 1) the sensor comes pre-calibrated and 2) if I need to calibrate it, do the following:

Hold the sensor lengthwise with each hand on the ends.  Gently tilt it one way till you hear a click.  That should register on the display as .01 ml.  10 clicks should register .1 ml.  This is a dry process.  I'll admit it's not clear to me how doing this proves a click .01 ml.

She also told me that when calling in the future for problems, 90% of the time they will want me to have the display and sensor in hand for any debugging.

I'd appreciate your thoughts on this.
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Gene

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Hiya Johnny, One of these days I will get around to making a video, I promise (got sidetracked with work and Florida rains have made it hard to find the time to shoot a video).

I did find it funny that Acurite told you to do a tipping test as a calibration check. As a matter of design a tip of a cup will be recorded as 0.01" of rainfall no matter how much rain it took to tip it. While this check may be adequate to make sure that rain sensor can accurately detect that a cup was tipped, it has absolutely nothing to do with checking a proper calibration (as in how much liquid does it take to tip the cup). I hope this is not a test they do at the factory to make sure that your unit was properly factory calibrated.

To actually calibrate your sensor, you do not need to get a physical access to the cups. You do not need to see them because you will hear them tip and will see the water come out of the drain vents on the bottom of the unit.

All of the calibration is done by adjusting two calibration screws at the bottom of the unit. You can see these calibration screws underneath the cups on this picture (link). Note that they are the screws right next to the drain vents. Water needed to calibrate the unit is poured right into the rain funnel, in a similar way the rain would actually be captured and a straw or a "rain gauge stabilizer" plastic insert can be inserted into the vents in order to tip the cups onto calibration screws (I recommend you calibrate one screw at a time). Let me know if you run into any problems with this shortened calibration procedure (link).

Cheers,
Gene
(Edited)
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Johnny Angell

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What does "VE" mean?
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Gene

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+ve means positive, -ve means negative. Sorry for confusion :-) Your unit has "+" and "-" markings so I tried to use similar terminology.
(Edited)
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AcuRite Tori, Employee

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Hello Johnny,

 We are apologize for the confusion. To calibrate your sensor please follow the instructions below.

Items Needed: 5-in-1 sensor, display unit, plastic cup, pin, screw driver

  1. First, make sure the 5-in-1 sensor is perfectly level using the built-in bubble level.
  2. Place the display unit close by so you can monitor it during the calibration process.
  3. Make a pin hole in the bottom of a plastic cup. Hold the cup over the rain gauge and fill it with exactly 1 cup (8 oz.) of water, allowing the water to drip into the rain gauge. You should hear the internal buckets tip and see the water drain through the rain gauge.
  4. A few seconds after each bucket tip, the display console will display rainfall in approximately 0.01" or more increments.
  5. The cup of water should take more than 20 minutes to empty; a quicker period will result in an inaccurate calibration. (We’re trying to simulate a normal steady rainfall.) When the cup is completely empty of water, the display console should register 1.06"
If the rain gauge doesn't register close to 1.06" after the cup is empty of water, then you should make an equal adjustment to the two calibration screws on the bottom of the 5-in-1 sensor. Be sure to adjust both screws the same amount. Turning screws clockwise will increase rainfall amount. Turning screw counter clockwise will decrease it.

Adjustment:
To adjust the rainfall reading by 2% turn both screws 1/8  of a turn.
To adjust the rainfall reading by 4% turn both screws 1/4 of a turn.
To adjust the rainfall reading by 8% turn both screws 1/2 of a turn.
  • There should be nearly an equal number of water drops between bucket tips. If not, then adjust the calibration screws on the bottom of the 5-in-1 sensor until an equal number of water drops are tipping the buckets. Then, restart the calibration procedure.
  • If you don't hear the buckets tipping and see water dripping alternately out of each drain, there may be an issue with the rain gauge or it's adjustment.



You are also welcome to follow the link below for a video demonstration. If you are in need of further assistance please let us know. Thank you.

https://youtu.be/sB9xFl7HYPg.
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Johnny Angell

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Never mind.  I see that the display does not use wifi.  Still, wouldn't unplugging the display from power accomplish the same thing?

Which makes me wonder, is using the display required?  Will the sensor communicate via the smart hub and wifi to the acurite servers if the display is not powered on?
(Edited)
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Gene

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I actually advise in both procedures to remove two bottom batteries out of the sensor. This stops data transmissions and effectively accomplishes what moving display or powering down the hub would do. 

Shutting down the display (unplugging it) will erase all of the data. Not a big deal, but something to keep in mind.

Cheers,
Gene 
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Johnny Angell

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All of the data in the display only?  It doesn't effect what's on the sensors, I presume.  I'm thinking if I can get the data from my iPhone, why bother with the display.
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giove

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Have a smart hub for streaming to the internet and the display unit set up in a common area inside the home. Each independently communicates with the 5 in 1 sensor but not with each other. The display provides historical info on the ticker tape so don't want to power it down by removing both batteries and mains supply. 

Eugene's suggestion of first removing the batteries from the sensor is the best method. My 5 in1 sensor is on a 3m pole so I lower the pole first instead of removing or inserting the batteries at height.

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Gene

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One note of caution: Do not do calibration after it has rained, removing the batteries from the sensor seems to reset the rain reading to 0 for that day for myaccurite and weather underground. It does not effect pwsweather if the data has been transferred over.

Basically if it has rained that day, and you wish to keep you rain reading in as many sources as possible, wait until the next day.
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AcuRite Jennifer, Employee

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Hello All,

You should only have to calibrate the rain gauge if you are getting inaccurate rainfall readings. This should be calibrated at the factory. Thank you.
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Dsireme

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Well mine was saying 1.36 out of the box. I have a screw that is so loose, that I can't really turn it and have it stay in the place that I have moved it. I feel like it could possible fall out it is that loose. I spent 5 hours try to get the thing calibrated. I had the level exactly perfect each time. And not matter what way I turn the screws I got wrong readings. Turning it + I would get one reading then I would get a lower reading and I would change it again and it would get a higher reading. than before. None of it makes sense. 

I am in South Milwaukee, so I can drive to Lake Geneva and so you guys exactly what is happening if you want. 
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AcuRite Jennifer, Employee

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Hello Eugene & Dsireme,

We do not have a calibration certificate.  The Rainfall Accuracy: +/- .05" per inch.  The calibration for the rain gauge has been tested and completed by many other customers who get accurate readings when performing it. It is time consuming, but should provide you with accurate results if completed correctly. The screws are adjusted at the factory so that if you complete the drip test it should read 1.06. It is possible that during shipping the calibration can be affected, and if it is then at that point we would recommend doing the calibration test, and making any necessary adjustments.   You also may need to perform the drip test several times and make adjustments each time to get the correct reading of the 1.06.

Dsireme,

Is the screw not fitting in the rain gauge? It should not be loose. Does it tighten up if you screw it in? I would recommend starting from scratch if you are able to get the screw to stay in place.

1. Screw both screws in completely.
2. Unscrew both screws 5 1/4 turns.
3. Calibrate the rain gauge of the unit using the calibration procedure detailed in the unit's manual.
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Gene

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Dear Jennifer, what is the point you are trying to make? Are you advising that my alternative calibration procedure is somehow flawed and should be avoided? If so what evidence can you provide to support this?

With all due respect you keep repeating that we should use the official procedure, but it seems that most of us in this thread have already tried that and were left unsatisfied.

In your response you tried to make a case that we should expect to receive units calibrated to within 1% accuracy, but in the same response you concede that something as unavoidable as shipping can affect the calibration out of the box. Furthermore the design of your 5-in-1 sensors indicate that these sensors will naturally lose calibration with time. There are numerous reasons for this, from calibration screws naturally unscrewing themselves from repeated hammering of the rain cup, to plastic of the rain cup itself deforming from repeated impact with the screw, not to mention that any sort of vibration induced by the wind or rain will shake the screws loose, thereby further contributing to loss of calibration.

As I've mentioned earlier, I like the product, but it seems it needs to be recalibrated every few months for the best results possible. I prefer not to use the official procedure, and it's inherent uncertainty, to do so.

Thank you,
Eugene
(Edited)
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AcuRite Jennifer, Employee

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Hello Eugene,

I am not saying your procedure doesn't work. If it works for people who use it that is great. I am just providing information and knowledge to people letting them know that they should only need to calibrate it if they are getting inaccurate readings. If they are getting the inaccurate readings then we would recommend doing the drip test. This is the troubleshooting we provide. Personally I have encountered where the drip test is done once and the customer contacts us because they were not able to get the 1.06. I was just informing people the reason the calibration may be off when they receive the sensor, as well as if they do the drip test they may have to do it several times, making adjustments each time. I provided our accuracy standard as well because some people think if the rainfall reading is not exact. and they need to adjust the screws, and then they adjust them too much, and then would need to do the drip test again. It was just information to provide knowledge to our customers. If people are getting accurate results using your method by all means they can use it.  If they were to call and request support help with calibration, we would have them do the recommended way that we do it which would be the drip test. This is not to discredit your calibration, it is what we have tested here and has been effective for us.  
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Gene

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That sounds reasonable, thank you for your clarification.

Gene
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Leo

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Gene, Thanks for this. My gauge was under reporting by about 5% when I set it up. After fiddle farting with the official method for 1/2 a day, I'm only under reporting by 17%. Great "improvement". I'm off to get a syringe and try the short form method!
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Johnny Angell

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Gene, if the official procedure takes 20-30', I would bet money the factory isn't doing that kind of test.  They're not going to have an employee take that amount of time on each sensor.

BTW, I've got my sensor mounted, communicating with the acurite servers, and my HD display working and mounted on a wall.  My next job is to set it up to work with my Rachio sprinkler controller.  Might take me a day or two before I get to that.

I sure do appreciate all the help I've received here.
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Gene

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I think one persons can test many units at the same time. Here is a video (link), of how the high end calibration is done. I'm sure someone can get a good results this way, but I don't think AcuRite has anything close to the setup these guys do. I would love to see how AcuRite does it, but I will not hold my breath in the meantime...

Gene
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Leo

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I have calibrated using the short form. I'm now verifying with the official methodology. I'm also in Florida and I'm hoping it finishes before it starts raining here. Again Gene thanks so much. it took very little time to calibrate.
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Gene

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Don't forget to share the results of your verification :-)
(Edited)
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Dennis DiMarco

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To those who feel it necessary to disparage Acurite products, there are many keyboard warriors such as you who delight in finding fault with others to justify your own purchases (I don't care what it is) and your comments are a testimony to that. By default, you are disparaging PEOPLE, not just the product. Most Acurite owners are happy with their products (including me) and it's a foregone conclusion that money is directly proportional to accuracy and quality. So, your stating the obvious accomplishes nothing and while you might feel good about yourselves and how much money you spent, you might reflect on how utterly pointless your comments are.
(Edited)