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Proper Protocol for Moving an Analytical Balance

By Aimee O'Driscoll, 14 January 2020

A lab balance is an important piece of equipment in most labs, and it’s imperative that it functions properly and gives you the accuracy you require. While many people think nothing of moving a lab balance to another spot on the bench or to another location entirely, this is not something that should be undertaken without some planning.

Moving a calibrated balance can throw off your readings and result in adverse results for your application. We explain more about these potential negative consequences and reveal the proper protocol for moving a balance.

Problems With Moving a Lab Balance

While it’s fine to move most equipment around as needed, this is not the case for a balance. When it’s calibrated, it is calibrated for the precise location it is in at that time. Moving it can throw off the calibration.

In addition, moving can result in damage to the spring or load cell of the balance. The load cell is a strain gauge which is sensitive to movement and can easily become overloaded. This is why it’s especially important that no objects are placed on top of the balance when moving.

Due to potential issues, you should only move a lab balance when absolutely necessary. For example, when cleaning up a spill, you should consider trying to do so without moving the balance and disturbing it as little as possible. Similarly, if you need space on the bench, you should prioritize keeping the balance in its existing location.

How to Move a Lab Balance Properly

While there are several things to bear in mind, moving a lab balance doesn’t have to spell disaster. Here are the steps for moving it properly:

1. Make Sure the New Location Is Suitable

Before moving the balance, you should make sure that it will be placed in a suitable location. We go into detail about proper placement of a lab balance in our post about how to use and maintain your lab balance, but here are a few guidelines to follow:

  • Place it on a flat, stable surface.
  • Keep it away from draft sources such as air vents and frequently opened doors..
  • Don’t place it near equipment that vibrates, such as a centrifuge or refrigerator.
  • Make sure it’s in a non-harsh environment. For example, high humidity and extreme hot or cold should be avoided.

It’s also important to ensure the area is clean as even excess dust can throw off readings.

2. Lock the Balance (If Applicable)

Manufacturers are well aware of issues associated with moving balances and some build in a lock to protect the unit during movement. When the lock is activated, the spring and load cells are disengaged so that the forces resulting from movement won’t affect them.


Portable Ohaus balances.

Ohaus portable balances, including the CR Series (left), Scout SPX (middle), and Navigator XL (right) come with a transportation lock.

As with any piece of lab equipment, the balance should also be powered down before you unplug it.

4. Pick Up the Unit Correctly

When you’re ready to move the balance, it should be picked up from underneath. Lifting it from the upper components can put strain on the internal mechanism, causing damage.

5. Package It Well

If you’re moving the balance to a completely new location, such that it has to be transported, it needs to be well packaged. In an ideal world, you’ll still have the original packaging, but this often won’t be the case.

Instead, the balance can be set in a box on several inches of soft cushion foam. Although it’s tempting to wrap the balance, for example, in bubble wrap, this could result in pressure being exerted on the unit, which could cause damage.

6. Level the Balance

Once the unit is in its new location, it’s time to get it prepped for your application. Before calibrating, you need to make sure the balance is level.

Many balances have a level indicator – which is similar in aesthetic and function to a carpenter's level – as well as two or four adjustable feet. You can adjust the feet (by spinning them) until the balance is level.

Some balances include an automatic leveling feature. For example, Cubis® High Capacity Balances can automatically check, perform, and document their exact leveling.

 

A Cubis High Capacity Balance.

A Cubis® High Capacity Balance.

7. Recalibrate the Balance

Once the balance is level, it’s time for calibration. Note that before calibrating, the balance should be allowed to warm up. Your manufacturer guide should tell you how long your balance needs for the mechanism to warm up after being switched on. 30 minutes is often enough, but for some balances, the recommended time could be several hours or more.

You may choose to outsource this task to a reputable company, and have a technician come to perform the calibration. Alternatively, you can calibrate the balance yourself, provided you have the right equipment and follow the correct protocol. You can find out more about calibration in our dedicated guide.