A rain gauge (also called udometer) is an instrument used to measure the quantity and intensity of rain over a certain period. It helps establish how much rain has precipitated over time, measured in millimeters.
You might wonder what purpose is there in measuring rainfall. Well, there are many:
- Helps study the conditions of water resources of an area
- If you know how much rain falls in a certain location, you can use the data when building dams, roads, and embankments
- It helps design drainage systems, since you can build one that suits the area where you want to place one
- Helps determine how dry or moist is the soil
Other potential use cases are avoiding drought or water overconsumption. Electrical gauges also tell you when it rains, which could be very useful in some circumstances.
There are many rain gauge, and it can become hard to pick the one most suited for your needs. That’s why I created this article: to guide in you choosing the best rain gauge for you.
Are you looking for a rain gauge? Keep reading this article to find out which ones are the best!
Quick Summary–These Are the Overall Best!
- ECOWITT WH5360B–if you can afford it, this is by far the best rain gauge you can purchase.
- Netatmo Rain Gauge Weather Station–Expensive, but integrates excellently with smart home systems, so get it if you’re a smart home enthusiast.
- AcuRite 00850A2—if you are strapped for cash or don’t particularly care about accuracy, the AcuRite 00850A2 is a great purchase.
What Makes a Rain Gauge Good?
You may wonder: how did we come up with the list you are about to see? There are many factors to consider when purchasing a rain gauge.
I included these factors in my evaluation, though I have given more importance to some compared to others. There are so many rain gauges that sometimes the differences between them are extremely thin.
I included a great variety of rain gauges to make sure there is something for everyone in this list. Whether you are trying to build a fully fledged weather station, or you just want to know if it’s a good time to plant your fruit plants, this list has something for you.
Let’s start by seeing what makes a rain gauge good.
Types of Rain Gauges
There are many types of rain gauges with different uses and characteristics. Let’s look at them more in-depth:
- Manual rain gauge
Manual rain gauges are made of a simple tube closed on one end and calibrated in inches. Simply read the water’s level when you wish to know how much rainfall you’ve had.
They are extremely simplistic and also quite accurate, but they come with flaws, namely the fact that to know how much rain has fallen at any given time you must go out and check its level. This means that if it’s still raining, you’ll have to go outside in the rain to read the measurement.
Another issue with manual rain gauges is that it’s hard to measure the difference in rainfalls over time. Plus, you need to empty them manually, which can get challenging if a lot of rain poured in your area.
Still, this is a significant starting point for people who have an interest in seeing how much it rains: manual rain gauges are inexpensive and accurate, and easy to use.
- Self-emptying tipping-bucket rain gauges
These are by far the most popular type of rain gauges, because they are extremely accurate and they require little upkeep. As rainfall fills the bucket, it becomes overbalanced and tips down, emptying itself, while another bucket replaces the original one through the mechanism.
Every time a bucket tips it triggers a switch, activating the circuitry that will transmit to the reading console the water measurement.
The primary advantages of this type of rain gauges are their accuracy and convenience. Since they transmit the measurements to an indoor console, you don’t need to be outside in rain to read how much it rained.
Another potential issue is the fact that, since it transmits the measurements via electricity, they need a source of energy to work. Plus, it’s more prone to breaking down compared to other types of gauges.
- Weighing rain gauges
These gauges collect water and measure its weight relative to the time to determine how much it has rained.
I’m not a fan of weighing rain gauges, because too many things could go wrong while using them. Specifically, things like wind pressure, or generic waste such as dead insects or leaves, could easily distort the measurements.
Other big issues of relying on weighing rain gauges are the fact that water isn’t always liquid. Think about it: water might freeze quickly in cold climates, making the gauge useless. Or maybe you live in a very warm area, where water evaporates quickly.
Also, they need a continuous supply of electric energy.
Basically, weighing rain gauges tend to be very inaccurate, so I suggest avoiding them.
- Other types of gauges
There are other types of gauges, but realistically they are not very good outside of extremely specific use cases.
- Siphoning rain gauges become less accurate the heavier the downfall. They work similarly to tipping-bucket rain gauges, but they are more expensive, harder to maintain, and harder to use. They also don’t really offer any advantage to their tipping-bucket counterparts.
- Acoustic rain gauges are a bit weird in that they measure rain fall by calculating the impact strength of raindrops. They are inaccurate and clunky to use, stay away from them.
Depending on your needs, you might not need accurate measurements.
Let’s say you are a gardened and you only care about an estimate of how much it rained. Here, accuracy wouldn’t affect your decision much.
Still, accuracy is an important factor when picking rain gauges. If you are building a drainage system, then it is crucial to have accurate data on the rainfall, so you want something more precise.
Ultimately, it all depends on your needs. I still placed heavy emphasis on accuracy on the objects in this list, because inaccurate measurements make little sense, and flawed data isn’t better than no data at all. I’d question if you even need a rain gauge if you don’t care about accuracy.
Size / Capacity
While self-emptying buckets exist, they can still offer imprecise data if you rely too much on the self-emptying mechanism. Bigger buckets have bigger capacity, but they are also not as convenient to move around and place, since the bigger they are, the more open space above them they need.
Depending on your area, you want a gauge that can easily accommodate for the right amount of rainfall. So, a dryer area requires smaller buckets, whereas an area with downpours requires bigger buckets.
Rain, especially when heavy, can easily ruin rain gauges with poor build quality. Rain is often accompanied by strong winds as well, so get a gauge that is sturdy and can survive the weather’s punishment.
Think about it: your gauge might be enough for your average rainfall, but what if it snows? What if it hails? And what if the water inside the bucket freezes?
Lastly, a sturdy rain gauge will cost you less on the long run. There’s no point in buying multiple cheap gauges that break down often, especially since you must calibrate them every time.
Analog or Digital?
Rain gauges can be analog or digital. Analog gauges are cheaper and extremely easy to use, while being less prone to breaking, since there are no electrical parts in them, but they are also not as convenient as digital ones.
Let’s say you want to measure rainfall during a downpour: you’d have to go outside in the rain to check your udometer. Hardly a desirable prospect.
Digital gauges make it easier to read real-time information about rainfall, and they can easily connect to your PC or smartphone, so you can easily check the situation. However, they are more expensive and likely to break, because of the smart sensor in them, that is frail.
As for everything else, it heavily depends on your needs.
I understand, not everyone has the means to buy an ultra-advanced rain gauge. Not everyone needs one either. Yes, you can absolutely get an excellent rain gauge by spending lots of money. However, most people don’t need it, and there are affordable alternatives that are just as good.
Also, price alone doesn’t paint the complete picture. Value for your money is a much better indicator, so that’s a determining factor of the list, more so than going for the cheapest or most expensive piece of equipment.
The 5 Best Rain Gauges: Detailed Reviews
ECOWITT WH5360B: The Overall Best Rain Gauge
The ECOWITT is a brilliant device. It has many prominent features that even higher-priced devices don’t have.
It is extremely accurate; it has a reasonable price, and it is very convenient, thanks to the self-emptying bucket.
It’s also easy to use, and the bucket can be placed up to 100 meters away from the central unit. The central unit itself is also useful: it measures room temperature and humidity. It also has a programmable rain alarm you can use to plan around potential flood conditions.
The structure is in stainless steel and it won’t break soon.
I can’t find a flaw in this device even if I wanted.
You can’t go wrong by buying this, so get yourself one today! It will be your best purchase of the week.
AcuRite 02446M Wireless: The Best Bang for Your Buck
The AcuRite is an excellent rain gauge. It comes with a self-emptying small bucket that connects wirelessly to an LCD display that shows you everything you need to know about rainfall.
Its features include saving and showing rain data for the past 7 days, a rainfall alarm, and even a flooding alarm for when the current weather conditions could lead to flooding. What’s there not to love?
It’s also affordable and very easy to use. There are absolutely no downsides to purchasing this unit, unless you desperately need a super-professional rain gauge.
If I really had to find a complaint for this unit, is that the maximum wireless range is a bit short: 30 meters can be limiting when deciding where to put the bucket, but for this price you couldn’t get anything better.
What are you waiting for? Purchase the best overall rain gauge today!
LaCrosse 705-109: Simplicity Is the Name of the Game for This Gauge
It doesn’t get any simpler than this: a good old bucket with a red strip inside that raises with the water level to help you read the measurement.
The simplicity is this tool’s biggest strength, but it also means it can be slightly inconvenient at times, especially since you must manually empty the bucket.
The bucket is quite big and it can hold up to 6 inches of water. Unless you live in a place where downpours are frequent and violent, you should be fine.
Also, depending on where you place it, it might also be impossible to read the measurement without going outside. The numbers are big, and the red strip inside is extremely helpful, but sometimes your vision is just blocked by other things.
It is an excellent product with an interesting price tag, which makes it a solid purchase worthy of being on this list.
Buy it today. You won’t regret it.
Netatmo Rain Gauge Weather Station: Expensive Price Tag, but Worth it
If you are searching for something more professional, look no further, Netatmo has got you covered. This rain gauge is extremely accurate, and syncs with your phone / PC via their respective apps to save the collected data.
What makes this rain gauge so good? Well, everything. It has apps to connect with most devices, including iOs, Android, and even Alexa.
The sensors are high quality, and offer precise readings. Plus, being a smart home accessory, we can sync it with other parts of your house. For example, you could make it close your windows when it rains, or open them when the rainfall stops.
Another excellent feature is the distance at which you can place the bucket: up to 100 meters away from the weather station’s indoor module.
The primary reason this rain gauge isn’t in the first place is its price: the gauge itself costs $79.99, which would be a fantastic price, but it needs to be paired with the whole shebang of the weather station, which costs $179.99.
You get what you pay for, so this is an excellent choice for those needing accurate and convenient readings and are willing to pay the cost.
Purchase your Netatmo Rain Gauge today!
Warning: this unit doesn’t work by itself, it needs to be paired with the Netatmo Weather Station
AcuRite 00850A2: The Cheapest and Simplest Rain Gauge
I had to put this tool on the list, purely because it is so cheap and easy to install and use that even a kid could do it.
This gauge’s major strengths are its ease of use and its small size, which means you can use it to measure rainfall wherever you please with little issue.
However, the size turns into a weakness the moment rainfall becomes significant. It’s not exactly the most durable tool, and its accuracy leaves a bit to be desired. It’s here mostly because it’s a good starting point.
Also, since it is analog and not self-emptying, you need to go outside and read it, which isn’t always desirable, especially when it’s down-pouring. And having to empty it manually is a minor inconvenience as well, though it’s so small that it’s hardly an issue.
Who should buy the AcuRite 00850A2? People who are just getting into the world of rain measurement, and those who need to measure rainfall for their hobbies, like gardeners. The low accuracy doesn’t make this tool suited for anything more specific.
- What is a rain gauge used for?
Rain gauges are used to measure rainfall in a location, which has many uses. It’s useful to plan a drainage system, or to check whether the soil is moist or dry.
- When is rain dangerous?
There is no specific value at which rain becomes dangerous, as there are too many factors that go into a potential flood. Generally speaking, rainfall is considered heavy when it rains between 0.39 and 2.0 inches per hour.
- What is the best type of rain gauge?
Self-emptying rain gauges are the best because of their convenience without dropping accuracy. Manual rain gauges are fine too, if you don’t mind having to empty them yourself and having to stay under rainfall to read them during rain.
Rain gauges are a great purchase for anyone looking into gardening or other hobbies that depend on water. There are many interesting devices sold at a reasonable price, and there are options that will work with any budget and need.
I’ve designed the list to include udometers that can be useful to anyone and that can fit into every use case. As I’ve said, there are other types of rain gauges I ignored in the list, it’s mostly because they are impractical outside of extremely specific situations.
Even the cheapest product in this list is durable and offers reasonable accuracy and building quality, although obviously the more you spend the better tool you purchase. I can’t stress this enough: you have a unique situation, and it’s up to you to determine which device works best.
Are you looking to buy a rain gauge? Get yourself one today!