Careful Weather Station Set Up is the Key to Rewarding Weather Observation
Time spent now in preparation for your home weather station set up will save you from future problems and frustration.
I know you'll be very keen to unpack your new home weather station and get it up and running, but try to give alittle thought to the best locations for both inside and outside components.
Because getting the most out of your weather station depends on three very important factors, all linked to each other.
Firstly, the outside weather sensors must be set up to get the most accurate and reliable weather information possible from your yard or home.
Secondly, the weather sensors and receivers must be able to communicate with each other with as little interference as possible.
And finally, the receiver with its display unit must be in a convenient position for you to access it and use it. You may need to give some thought to linking it with a computer or other equipment as well.
Let's look at the last consideration first.
Location of the Receiver/Display Console
The best place to set up your sensors is in an accessible place in your yard or garden.
So take a good look around. You will need to find a clear location for the sensors, preferably out of the way ofeveryday attractions like basketball rings, barbecues or swimming pools. It should have a clear line of sight to a room where you can install the receiver. The receiver's location should also be out of the way of normal home activities. And I'm not ignoring the possibility that some members of your household may not view the weather station with as much enthusiasm as you do.
The best choice may be your office or study, or the room where your computer already is. If this is handy to an appropriate location for your outside weather sensors, then you're in great shape. But don't do anything just yet.
If the layout of your house and yard is not quite so helpful, it is probably best to tackle the problem from the other direction and consider sensor locations.
But before we step outside, here's a quick tip on the positioning of the receiver. Because radio signals are reduced by walls, cladding, even UV coating on windows, the best position for your receiver is near the outside wall of the house. Most receivers have optional wall or desk mounting, giving you quite a lot of flexibility
The Ideal Places for Weather Sensors
Your first thoughts should be about distance between sensors and the receiver. Transmitting range varies from 80 feet (24 metres) for many temperature sensors, to 300 feet (about 90m) or even 1000 feet (300m) for Davis home weather stations. Each wall the signal needs to pass through will cut the range by 20-30 feet, and trees can also reduce signal range. Normally the longer range transmitters will perform well in most home situations, but be aware of the limitations on the short range units.
The ideal requirements for temperature and humidity sensors are different from those recording wind and rainfall, so some juggling of the final position may be required. Most home weather stations will give you quite a bit of room to move here, with each sensor having its own transmitter, or through cabling from wind and rainfall sensors to a single transmitter in the temperature/humidity unit.
The main consideration here is that temperature recorders must be sheltered or shielded from direct or strongly reflected sunlight, which will heat them up and result in inaccurate readings, 20°F or more too high, or maybe even damage them. Conversely, wind and rainfall recorders should be located where wind and rain are not affected by sheltering trees or buildings.
And finally, the lip of the rain gauge should be the highest point in the immediate vicinity - slightly above the top of a wall or post rather than a little way down.
While some compromise may be necessary, with a bit of thought you should be able to find a good location for all the equipment.
Here a few tips:
- Temperature sensors can be positioned on north facing walls in the northern hemisphere (south walls on the other side of the Equator). Locate them a little below the eaves to gain shelter from rain, but not too high or your records may be affected by a hot roof.
- If you locate your temperature sensor here, consider whether the wind recorder and rain gauge could be mounted on the roof nearby. But bear in mind that a steeply pitched roof may affect both wind and rain records, depending on wind direction.
- How about a post in the yard out of the way of normal activity? Or even a handy fence post. Assuming exposure is reasonable, both wind sensor and rain gauge could be mounted at the top of the post, with the temperature sensor a little lower on the shady side. Shielding of the temperature sensor to minimise direct sunlight may be necessary.
- If you have bought a Davis Vantage Pro2, you have fewer problems. The standard unit includes shielding from the heat of the sun, and can be upgraded to better ventilated models. Davis also offers a specially designed tripod which will carry the complete unit, and can even be roof mounted.
- Which brings me to roof mounting. If your yard is obviously unsuitable because of size or tall trees, then the way to go is up.
In most cases, with shielding of the temperature sensorfrom direct sunlight and reflected heat, the roof offers great exposure to weather without too many worries about interruption to wind and rainfall. It's a bit of a drag setting it up, but the neighbours will be amazed. They'll probably want their own home weather station too.
Roof mounting overcomes most problems of signal fade with distance, but creates a few problems of its own. Firstly the weather station must be securely mounted from the beginning. Secondly, it should be earthed to protect it and the house in case of lightning - you may need to call in an electrician. And finally, the rain gauge needs to be reasonably accessible for cleaning - stray leaves and perching birds my affect your readings. Most home weather stations come with cabling which will let you install the rain gauge in a convenient position.
For more information on these and other potential problems,visit the
Weather Stations Problems
page. Or grab a copy of
"The Eight Most Commonly Asked Questions About Home Weather Stations (And The Answers)"
- it's a 20 page special report which comes with a free subscription to Watching Weather newsletter.
- Finally, you could consider installing all your weather sensors in and around a Stevenson Screen - they
are standard components of most official or research weather
stations. It's difficult to find them on sale at a reasonable price, but a reasonably competent handyman could
put one together quite easily.
All they are is a slatted box on legs. The sides, including the door, are louvred or slotted board with covers angled at 45° over the slots - most good homeware or hardware stores
should have ready made versions. The roof is doubled, with an air gap in between the sheets. Your wind sensor and rain gauge could both be mounted on top. Here is a picture of one.
Stevenson Screen. Source; Aust Bureau of Meteorology
If I can find a reasonably priced example of a ready made
version I'll update this page.
Alternatively, just shielding your temperature/humidity
sensor might be enough. Home made shields are quite easy to make, and you'll find some ideas in the article on
Weather Station Problems
Location of the Receiver
Once you have identified a suitable location for your sensors, preferably within sight of the room where your receiver will be located, there's little more to do. The best place for the receiver will probably be close to the outside wall of the room nearest to the sensors.
To finalise its position, and those of the sensors, follow the manufacturer's instructions about setting up.
First make sure that all weather sensors can communicate with the receiver at close range - in the same room is fine. Then check whether communication is still working when the sensors are taken to the locations you have selected for them. You may need to test different positions and orientations of the receiver at this time.
All being well, firmly fix your sensors in their final position, turn everything on, nod wisely to the family, and you are done.
A Few Final Thoughts
Before you finally install the outside weather sensors, give a little thought to orientation and access. If you are using solar power, check the manufacturer's instructions on precharging, orientation and battery backup, and make sure that battery compartments are easy to open.
And if you are are staying with traditional instruments rather than using continuously transmitting wireless sensors, you will almost certainly need something like a Stevenson Screen - not only for shielding but for protection of valuable instruments. Because traditional weather stations can only be read manually, think carefully about access to them.
When people have problems with their home weather station,
they can often be traced back to their initial set up. So a bit of time and thought at the beginning is a great investment
in future trouble free performance.
But other problems can arise, most commonly with the less expensive systems, but again most can be prevented. This topic
is covered in
Weather Station Problems
, which deals with things like weather proofing and maintenance.
Take it a step further with the free report on
The Eight Most Common Questions About Home Weather Stations (And The Answers)
which comes with a free subscription to Watching Weather newsletter.
OK. You're done. Pour yourself a mug or glass of your favorite beverage, relax, settle in with your home weather station, and observe all that the weather has to offer.
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Last update 05/28/2011