Having Weather Station Problems? This Troubleshooting Guide Should Help.
Complex equipment is not always perfect. And weather station problems can occur with any model, but they do appear to be more common at the less expensive end of the market.
There is no doubt that the less expensive home weather stations, particularly those from La Crosse or Oregon, are a great choice for a first weather station. Many have found them to be everything they wanted, and have successfully put their data online.
But it's sometimes a bit of a lottery. From reviews and posts on forums there are some concerns about quality control, and you can be unlucky with sensors.
Other weather station problems arise with radio interference, equipment malfunction, and improper installation.
Keep in mind that weather stations are quite complex pieces of equipment, and some compromises need to be made to keep the price within reach of enthusiasts. You do get what you pay for, and it is unreasonable to expect the same standards found in more robust, and much more expensive, commercial and agricultural models.
Many potential weather station problems can be overcome by thoughtful setting up, preventive and regular maintenance, and some inexpensive modifications. Here's a more general discussion of
Home Weather Station Set Ups.
And also check out
The Eight Most Commonly Asked Questions About Home Weather Stations (And The Answers)
. It's a free 20 page special report, and it comes with a free subscription to Watching Weather newsletter.
The following discussion applies equally to wireless and cable weather stations. Cabled models give faster updates in some cases, but use the same sensors and console. They will often work better if the supplied cables are replaced by stronger versions, or if modified to reduce radio interference. If this is not your strong point, the staff at RadioShack or similar electronics suppliers will be able to help.
Many long standing weather station problems can be traced back to the initial set up. I suspect many of them would have been avoided if the manual had been read before and during assembly, rather than as a matter of last resort.
Now I know you always read the manual before and during any set up, but you may know someone who is less thorough. So you know what to tell them.
But that isn't quite as simple as it sounds, because with some models the instructions are not as clear as they could be, particularly for someone with limited electronic knowledge. Some of the manuals from La Crosse and Oregon manuals could certainly be clearer, although they do seem to be improving.
Bear in mind that the radio connection between sensor and receiver may take a while to be established during set up. Be patient, and again, consult the manual.
Many other weather station problems can be overcome by a little preventive maintenance. Remember that the sensors are not exactly overdesigned, and battery, transmitter or magnet compartments will probably not be weather proof. Regular application of waterproof grease or silicone sealant will prevent water penetration, which is a proven sensor killer.
Another easy way to reduce weather station problems resulting from the entry of water is to ensure that any cables have a drip loop - that they are set up so they loop below both connections and any water drips off the lowest point rather than running down into the equipment.
And equipping yourself with a screw driver which fits the supplied screws perfectly will prevent another common problem - stripping of the screw heads.
In some areas extreme cold or freezing rain can immobilize the wind speed sensor or the rain gauge. Spraying any moving parts with penetrating oil will reduce this problem
Temperature sensors for this family of home weather stations rarely come with any shielding from direct or reflected sunlight and heat. Careful positioning in light shade will help, and still provide enough light for the solar cells to keep an adequate charge. It is also not too difficult to make your own shield - any form of white plastic with slots for ventilation, will improve accuracy when installed around the sensors.
Air pressure needs to be calibrated to sea level to be consistent with official data. Most home weather stations have some means of adjusting the readings, and if your station is linked to your computer you should be able to make adjustments there.
If you live close to an official or commercial weather station, you should be able to adjust your AP to their values.
Birds love rain gauges - often a perfect perch. Unfortunately they are notorious for contributing to the contents. Often attaching some loose pieces of wire will deter the birds without affecting genuine readings. Rain gauges also need regular cleaning to remove dust, leaves and insects.
Hopefully you were able to experiment with positioning your sensors and receivers to achieve good radio contact before installing them. If you are still having weather station problems that appear to be due to poor signal reception, you may be able to increase the transmission range by taping small pieces of metal to the sensor antennae to increase their effective length. Use electrician's tape for this.
You can also improve the reception at the console end with a slip over connector extension, such as a Sony portable radio antenna - talk to the people at RadioShack about this.
Reception will also deteriorate if batteries are run down - this can happen after long periods of dull weather when the solar cells are unable to recharge the batteries fully. Even a small loss of power can affect performance, so if you start having problems, try fresh batteries. Check your manual for the correct way to install new batteries - it is important to do things in the correct order and to give the sensor and receiver reasonable time to recontact each other.
There is one other problem with cheaper wireless weather stations that has no easy solution, and that is the frequency at which data is updated. This really only affects the wind speed and direction sensors, where update rates of up to 2 minutes may cause the strongest wind gusts to be missed. Some computer software may sample more frequently, but to some extent this problem is related to radio regulations. This is one example where cable connections,if possible, may give better results.
That pretty well covers the most common weather station problems and the ways of minimising or preventing them. Most people find their weather stations do a fine job. Keep the packaging your equipment came in, in case you need to return it, and good luck with customer service. Among the most frequent complaints about both manufacturers, particularly La Crosse, is the slowness in response to questions and warranty issues.
This is unfortunate - overall the products are a good introduction to home weather observation and recording, and it makes no sense for the manufacturers to be slack with customer support.
Good luck, and please let me know if you've found any other ways to improve the performance of your weather station.
For general advice on setting up home weather stations, visit theSetting Up page.
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Last update 05/28/2011