“The weather” is one of the safest conversation starters in the world. We talk to the hairdresser about it as they work on our crown of glory, we mention it while catching up with fringe acquaintances, and discuss it at the workplace water cooler.
Entire TV channels and websites are devoted to it. Consumers collectively spend millions of dollars each year preparing for ups and down in rain, snow, sun, and wind.
Weather impacts human life so deeply that some people invest in their own personal weather stations — a handy piece of technology that measures weather-related data in real time.
If you are reading this, you are possibly one such weather aficionado.
If you are looking to buy a home-based weather station, and want to understand all the different options that are available, so as to make an informed purchase, you have some to the right place. We have tested, tried, and reviewed different models in the market, and learned some great things about them.
Here are some important considerations to take into account when you go out shopping for a weather station for your home or office:
The difference between a $100 weather station and a $2500 weather station boils down to features. Do you want a basic weather station, an advanced model, or a professional-grade machine?
Advanced weather stations have many applications. For example, a gardener can use real-time data to plan a maintenance schedule based on soil moisture. A farmer can use an advanced station’s multiple data zones to make important watering and planting decisions. And an outdoor enthusiast can schedule activities based on solar radiation levels.
Conveniently, many of these mid-range models are expandable, meaning that a customer could purchase a basic weather array for a three-zone configuration, and then purchase additional types of sensors to build on the basic model.
The cost of a pro-grade weather station can be prohibitive for the average consumer. Nevertheless, users with a passion for meteorology may want to invest in a high-end weather station to satisfy their scientific curiosity.
All weather stations need a way to deliver sensor data to a computer processor and monitor. Some accomplish this through a hardwired system that’s buried in the ground or strung along exterior walls. Others use a wireless system consisting of a transmitter (in the weather array), and a receiver (in the home base). Both systems have their own benefits and drawbacks.
Benefits of a wired system
The data gleaned from a wired system may be more accurate, and you’ll never have to worry about losing your information due to connectivity issues prone to wireless systems. Additional installation effort is required, however, and some owners say their wired system’s range is limited. In addition, there’s always the chance that the wires could get damaged by weather exposure.
Benefits of a wireless system
A wireless system can be located hundreds of meters away from its base unit without the risk of information loss. When used in a multiple zone configuration, one sensor can be buried in a distant field, another near a swimming pool, and the main array can be mounted on a roof or garage.
Advanced systems with WiFi capability can also be monitored remotely with an appropriate weather mobile app. This kind of mobility gives a lot of convenience. For instance, a gardener equipped with a smart sprinkler system and a wireless hygrometer sensor can turn on the water remotely after reading the soil’s moisture level.
Since many manufacturers offer a special website for data collection and real-time updates, the ideal weather station should feature WiFi or modem connectivity.
Setting up a personal weather station at home is an affordable alternative to relying on a commercial weather station. Commercial weather stations are often located in remote locations, such as an airport, and can only provide general readings for a large coverage area. Home-based weather stations are a great addition for those who have a general interest in meteorology, or need specific information for gardening projects or other weather-related activities.
Q: Is assembly required?
A: Basic weather stations typically require no assembly, but some do need a bit of mechanical attention before they can be mounted.
Q: How weather-resistant is the device?
A: Although many weather stations are designed to resist the damaging effects of wind, rain, and soil, some require extra protection.
Q: What kind of maintenance is required?
A: While the ideal weather station for many people would be a “plug and play” model that requires no maintenance, your attention may be needed from time to time.
Q: What kinds of data displays are available?
A: Some weather station data screens provide only one measurement at a time, requiring the user to toggle through several screens to get what they want. Others display all of the data at once. Some people like this “everything at once” approach, but for others it’s an overwhelming amount of information and unnecessary clutter.
Notably, more advanced weather stations offer small smartphone-like displays that include real-time updates and animations.
When choosing a display screen, there’s also the question of color versus black and white. For some weather fans, a color display is much easier to read, and certain weather data like heat-maps come across as more expressive in their representation.
Q: How accurate are weather stations?
A: Entry-level and bargain-priced weather stations fare worse in lab tests than their scientific counterparts when it comes to accuracy. The climate you live in can also affect the precision of your weather station’s measurements. For example, daytime readings for ambient air temperature and rainfall tend to show as higher than average in warmer climates. Accuracy can also be affected by the condition of the sensor wires, or debris in the weather station’s housing.
Q: Can a weather station be calibrated to support devices and data sources?
A: It is possible to calibrate weather station sensors to match the readings of another weather instrument, but it can be a difficult task. Some models allow users to “zero out” previous rainfall measurements, or adjust the gauges to match a weather channel’s more scientific numbers.
Q: Where should a weather station be mounted or stored?
A: Many basic models are self-contained and made of lightweight, weather-resistant materials. As such, many people choose to attach their weather station to an exterior wall, tree, or post.