There has never been a better time to buy a home weather station
Here's how to evaluate the options and find the home weather station that suits you best.
The range of quality weather stations and weather recording equipment is as high as it's ever been, giving you plenty of scope for a weather recording facility ranging from basic to near professional.
But how do you decide what's right for you?
Not only do you have a choice of the best of traditional instruments, but the accuracy, ease of use and general flexibility of fully automatic, continuously monitoring, wireless weather stations has recently set new standards.
Your first move should be to decide what you require from your home weather station. Do you just wish to know how cold it is outside, or are you looking for a full blown system which records temperature, humidity, air pressure, wind speed and direction, and rainfall? You may even like to see your home weather station linked by computer to your automatic lawn and garden sprinkler system - never again will your sprinklers be going while it's raining.
Today's weather stations can do all this and more. By duplicating some of the sensors you can even check the microclimate in your garden. For example, you can find out where the cold air collects at night, or find the warmest position for spring bulbs.
Once you have decided just what information you want, the next decision is whether to use traditional instruments which must be read manually, or whether to select one of the many wireless weather stations which continuously transmit data from outside sensors to an inside receiver/display.
Traditional Weather Stations
In the past, the only way to have your own home weather station was to assemble your choice of weather instruments, set them up securely, and take manual readings, preferably at the same times each day. Because continuous recording was not realistically possible, special thermometers were needed to record the day's maximum and minimum values, and they had to be reset each day. But that was OK, because you needed to go out and empty the rain gauge anyway!!!
Recent improvements in automatic weather stations mean that a traditional home weather station is hard to recommend.
You can still set up a gleaming combination barometer - thermometer in your study, but if you want to know what's happening outside, unless you have a digital weather station, out you'll have to go.
Nevertheless, a conventional manual or analog weather station does the job of weather data collection - many official weather stations, often run by volunteers, are based entirely on standard instruments. And it is true that they are a little more accurate than electronic sensors, and they are not affected by power failures.
Another (slight) advantage is that daily trips to the weather station make it much easier to observe the current weather conditions. Not even the most sophisticated digital weather station can describe cloud types at various altitudes, differences in wind direction at altitude, and changes in conditions between observations.
All these are important in weather forecasting, and are routinely reported by official weather recorders.
Finally, there is little cost difference between an automatic weather station and one based on good quality traditional weather instruments. But if you already have an inside barometer, an outside thermometer, and are in sight of a weather vane, combining data from these with careful observation can still set you up as a pretty canny local weather forecaster.
However, an excellent, if somewhat expensive compromise is available from Maximum Weather Instruments. They have combined the pleasing appearance and precision engineering of traditional instruments with a choice of either cable or wireless connection to outside sensors.
Wireless weather stations
Automatic home weather stations originally relied on cable connections between outside sensors and inside consoles. Although effective, cables could be a bit fiddly. Cables between the sensors and receiver needed to be kept clear of normal outdoor activities, and somehow the cable had to find it's way in from the outside.
Many manufacturers have both cable and wireless versions of their weather systems, including Davis Instruments. The somewhat obsolete 1-Wire Weather Stations, from Texas Weather Instruments, are a relatively uncomplicated systems.
So while it is still possible to buy cabled weather stations(another example is the Ultimeter 2100), and in some cases they remain the best option, radio transmission of weather data is so much more convenient.
So, for the moment, let's just forget about both traditional manual weather stations and the not-so-ancient cabled systems.
If you are seriously interested in local weather, the options available with modern wireless weather stations are almost beyond imagination.
That's at the top end of home weather station packages, but let's start a little lower down.
1. Inside Temperature Recorders
Right at the start level are the digital interior units which show and may record temperature, humidity and air pressure, but only from inside the house (actually all digital weather stations record air pressure from the inside console, as differences between inside and outside air pressure are negligible).
These units are basically special purpose alarm clocks, but air pressure information is useful in broad forecasting, and some allow you to measure temperature in more than one room, adding information from a baby's room or wine cellar for example.
Many different models with numerous extra functions are available, with those from specialist manufacturers such as Ambient Weather, La Crosse Technology and Oregon Scientific are probably the best long term value.
2. Wireless Temperature Stations
At the next level, outside temperature is recorded and transmitted to the receiver, with humidity as a common extra option. Because the receiver usually doubles as an indoor temperature, humidity and pressure recorder, you immediately have a means of comparison between inside and outside records.
Selecting the most appopriate unit can become just a little tricky. The ideal home weather stationshould record indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, showmin/max values, incorporate basic forecasting and have somecharting capacity for air pressure data, and include a cleardisplay. Many stations from Ambient Weather, La Crosse, Oregon and others come close to the ideal, but you may have to compromise a little.
Some can be linked to a PC, although upgraded weather station data storage may be necessary.
3. The Genuine Home Weather Station
While the temperature stations do a fine job, something very important is missing.
What is weather without the wind and the rain in your face?
A true home weather station, or weather center, allows continuous monitoring of wind speed, wind direction, and rainfall. At least one cheaper model excludes wind direction, but because it is a crucial component of weather forecasting, it is best to spend a little more for this function.
Rain gauges are self emptying, so once the system is set up it is fully automatic.
Because of the greater range of functions and calculations, some serious consideration of your requirements is important before you decide on a particular model. It is usually easy to add extra sensors, so the reporting capacity of the receiver deserves closer attention before your final decision.
The receiver display should show
A. Minimum and maximum daily values
B. Charting of pressure changes, together with basic forecasting
C. Calculations of wind chill and dewpoint, and
D. You should also expect programmable alarm functions for major variables such as temperature and maximum wind gust.
A good home weather station of this type will also include reasonable data logging capacity which, combined with computer compatibility, expands your options considerably. In effect, these wireless weather stations are just as well equipped as many volunteer operated official weather stations.
Ambient Weather, La Crosse and Oregon are again well represented among the manufacturers, together with Davis Instruments.
You should be able to find what you want for $300 to $400. But keep in mind that with weather stations, like many other items, price is usually a good guied to quality.
4. The Top of the Range
Finally, we come to the near professional wireless weather stations, particularly those made by Davis Instruments.
Although similar in capability to the best of the Oregon and La Crosse models, Davis's Vantage Pro2 range includes much more powerful radio transmitters, and much better shielding of sensors from direct sunlight, minimising misleading temperature records. The more recently released Vantage Vue is a scaled down model which will provide you with all the most important features of the Vantage Pro2, at a considerably reduced price.
The Davis Vantage Pro2 models, but not the Vantage Vue, are also more flexible in expansion options, and can be combined with additional sensors for UV and extra temperature and humidity data. The Davis Vantage Pro2 can be extended well beyond the usual scope of a home weather station into agricultural, fire weather monitoring, research applications, and much more. Davis is also very supportive of weather observation in schools.
That's the Vantage Pro2, and you may see a use for one of the models around your home and garden. But if you don't need this higher capacity then the Vantage Vue is probably right for you. With the range starting at around the $350 mark, you'll have a well designed, easily installed and operated unit of great reliability.
Two other manufacturers, Rainwise and WeatherHawk, are also worth considering. Somewhat more expensive, these weather stations are designed for more challenging environments, particularly coastal areas where salt can cause problems with outdoor electronics.
If you would prefer to start small and expand later there should be no problems provided you check carefully before your first purchase. Most of the better wireless weather stations are designed to handle the addition of extra sensors in the future, and it may also be possible to buy a downsized version to start off with.
Whatever you select, by combining the amazing technical capacity of a modern wireless home weather station with a little research and observation, you will open the door to a fascinating experience in understanding and forecasting weather.
Like to find out a little more?
One crucial factor in successful home weather station performance is careful
of the sensors and receivers. This link should help you while you consider which model is best for your situation.
You'll find reviews of the the ranges of the major home weather station manufacturers at these pages.
La Crosse Technology
Oregon Weather Stations
Acu-Rite Weather Stations
Thermor Weather Stations
Rainwise Weather Stations
WeatherHawk Weather Stations
Maximum Weather Instruments
Peet Brother's Ultimeter
Capricorn Weather Stations
The 1-Wire Weather Station
Now the title of this site indicates that its content relates only to Home Weather Stations. How about we extend that to the idea of using instant weather information as an aid to Teaching Weather and related subjects such as Math, basic Physics and Geography in Schools?
Follow the link to find out more.
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Last update 12/05/2011