Buying a weather station is a very easy task, it seems like. But at the same time, it’s really difficult. There is nothing easier than walking into a Walmart or even shipping one to your home through Amazon. But does that mean that you’ll purchase the weather station that truly fits your needs?
Isn’t a weather station simply plug & play, and enjoying the measurements that it sends to your console?
Often, that’s the case. But there are many differences between weather stations that can be the decisive factor between a successful purchase and a bad buy. In this article, we’ll look at what is important and thus what you should be paying attention to when buying a weather station.
Here they are:
- How the sensors are assembled. Although this may sound weird, this can be crucial for success. Here’s why. Meteorologically, you’ll have to adhere to World Meteorological Organization (WMO) rules if you wish to take credible measurements. If your station covers sensors that can be installed individually, you can try to meet those criteria with some work. If they are assembled together in a tower-like structure: forget it. Find out what’s important to you before making the choice.
- How often measurements are sent to the console. This is especially important for measuring wind. Wind gusts are only there for a short period of time (often less than 5 seconds), but often, weather stations transmit measurements every 10-15 seconds only. Generally, only expensive weather stations have a shorter interval. Depending on what you find important, this could help determine the choice for a weather station.
- Whether measurements can be passed onto a computer, or mobile phone. It could be the case that you want to upload your measurements to third-party services like Weather Underground – many people are very proud to deliver measurements that can be used nationally and internationally. However, if your weather station cannot be attached to a computer or to the internet, there is no way that your measurements can be passed along.
- Which software supports the weather station. Equally important, you should choose a weather station that fits the software needs and capabilities of its owner. For example, some weather stations that can be attached to a computer require the owner to install specific software in order to read the measurements and pass them along. Others can be linked to your WiFi network and send measurements automatically. Think twice about your needs before buying a weather station.
- What resolutions your sensors measure with. For example, the rain gauge – or pluviometer – of some weather stations reports rain per 1.0 mm of rain. Others report it per 0.5 or even per 0.1 millimeter. Depending on the goal of measuring your local weather, resolutions are important – brief intervals of rain might not be measured in the 1.0 mm case. That would be bad if you’re interested in rain…
- Whether the weather station can be configured properly. They often come with different systems, being the metric system, and the US system. You’ll need to have a weather station that can be configured to the system of your preference.
Next, I’ll cover each individual aspect in more detail.
1: How the sensors are assembled
If you buy a weather station, you want it to perform adequate measurements. That’s why it’s important to look at how the sensors are assembled upon delivery. There are multiple ways in which your sensors can be delivered:
First of all, they can be assembled together, often in the shape of a small tower. That’s useful, because you can deploy your weather station very quickly. On the other hand it’s also a problem for the measurements that you’ll be performing.
Here’s why: the criteria of the World Meteorological Organization require you to measure differently. The organization’s criteria ensure that globally, measurements are performed in a similar way. This ensures the reliability of measurements, because experts have determined how measurements are taken in a good way. Additionally, they can then be compared, because measurements are performed in the same way. Altogether, a standard like this ensures that external influences on your measurements are limited.
Meteorologically, these conditions ensure that you measure in an optimal way:
- Your weather station must be put in an open field, with any obstacles at a distance of 10H the weather station, where H is the height of the tallest obstacle. A 10m tree thus means that you need to have 100 meters of space around your weather station.
- The thermometer must be assembled at 1.5 meters above grass (4.92 feet), and put in a Stevenson screen. If necessary, ventilation can be present. Every 10 years, the thermometer must be calibrated.
- A standard pluviometer (= rain gauge) must be used for measurements. This means that the sensor must have a surface of 200 squared centimeters, or approximately 31 squared inches. The most widely known pluviometer that meets those criteria is the Hellmann pluviometer. Its resolution of measuring is 0.1 millimeter.
- The wind sensor, or anemometer, must be assembled at 10 meters of altitude, or 32.8 feet. There can be no objects within 100 meters around the sensor. It must also be calibrated every ten years.
Now, of course, you’ll understand that it’s likely impossible to adhere to all the regulations in your case. This is especially true for urban environments, and the regulations are strict.
If you do love weather, however, you’ll often want to meet those criteria as adequately as possible. That’s why it’s very important to find out how the sensors are assembled prior to delivery.
Are they delivered separately or assembled together? As indicated before, many sensors are delivered assembled as a small tower. In those cases, it will be very difficult to adhere to the WMO criteria. If you decide to put it at 10 meters because you’re interested in measuring the wind adequately, it’s impossible to measure temperature properly.
And the effect is measurable: heating and cooling by sunshine is strongest close to the surface. The effect is smaller when you measure at higher altitudes. In fact, it will be slower.
On the other hand – if you decide to measure the temperature at 1.5 meters, because you find it important, you’ll know for sure that your wind measurements are inadequate.
It’s up to you to decide what you find most important. If you have no problems with lower accuracies and are you interested in performing simple measurements only, you can choose to order a weather station assembled as a small tower. Those are often the cheaper weather stations. Stations assembled with separate sensors are usually more expensive.
Are the sensors delivered in a weather hut, a.k.a. a Stevenson screen?
The picture of the Davis weather station to the right shows a particularly well-designed weather hut. A weather hut protects your thermometer against an overly present effect of sunshine, which can negatively affect your measurements.
When sunshine hits an object, it is converted into heat. This heat can be seen directly on your base station by means of a temperature that is much higher than weather stations in the area surrounding yours.
For temperature measurements, sunshine is therefore a very unpleasant phenomenon. It is very difficult to clear out the effect in its entirety.
However, assembling your thermometer into a weather hut – or Stevenson screen – is a great stap into the roper direction. A weather hut, which is always white because it reflects more sunshine, helps reflect sunshine (as said) and lets wind pass through the hut. That’s why the Davis weather hut is composed of multiple dishes of plastic assembled together, with some space in between. A more realistic temperature measurement is the end result.
If you want to measure the temperature adequately, it is important that your weather station has a proper weather hut. The stronger the weather hut looks like the one above, the better your weather hut likely is. Another type of weather hut is a wooden one made of louvre like parts, which can be seen here.
There are multiple types of weather huts. As said, there are the professional ones above, but more often, your weather station is delivered in a small casing. If you don’t mind a temperature offset from time to time this is no problem. In practice, however, a casing is not sufficient to counterbalance the temperature effect of sunshine. If you buy a weather station with a casing, you’ll need to take additional measures in order to reduce this effect.
On the right, you can see a picture of my Oregon Scientific WMR-200 weather station. You can also see a weather hut present, which I purchased separately to reduce the said effect. This helped to some extent, but it was still too hot every now and then due to the urban environment where the weather station was assembled. That’s why another tactic was to put the weather hut in the shadow strategically, i.e. at the moments where the temperature effect was greatest. This helped significantly.
Is your weather hut ventilated?
That’s another important question when purchasing a weather station. Some weather stations, and then primarily the ones of the Davis class, offer the possibility to add additional fans for ventilation to your assembly. That’s another way to reduce the effect of sunshine on your temperature measurements.
If you look at the desires of the average owner of a weather station, adding additional ventilation is not necessary. However, if you want really reliable temperature measurements, it could be wise to consider adding fans, especially in urban environments. A consequence is that you’ll likely pay more for the original weather station as well, unless you’re very handy yourself.
Is your rain gauge protected against leaves and spiders?
You know – birds like to build nests. But they’re not the only ones that look for hiding spaces. Spiders do too, and rain gauges are the perfect spots for them, hidden from the elements. Opening up a rain gauge involves the risk of finding a spider. Or some leaves.
…both have a substantial effect on your rain measurements. That’s because they interfere with the tipping mechanism of your rain gauge. As you possibly know, a rain gauge has two buckets which tip over every time a certain amount of rain falls into the gauge. If this doesn’t work properly anymore, less rain is registered than has actually fallen.
Cleaning the filter of your rain gauge at a regular interval ensures that spiders and leaves do not interfere with your rain measurements.
Is your anemometer / wind sensor protected against low temperatures and frost?
Most weather stations freeze during very cold periods. This is especially true for moving parts, like the ones in your anemometer (or wind sensor). By consequence, when this happens, you can no longer measure wind speed and/or direction.
If wind measurements are really important for you, then you must ensure that your weather station is protected against this kind of weather. A simple technique is to simply heat your wind sensor.
Does your rain gauge have a melting mechanism?
Some people who are interested in measuring the weather think that it’s important that snow is converted directly into actionable measurements. That’s why they want to melt snow as soon as it falls, which can happen by having a pluviometer / rain gauge that is heated.
For many people, this is not important either. However, if you do find this important, it’s possibly an unknown unknown situation to take into account.
Now that we have considered the most important aspects of your sensors, we can take a look at how often measurements are sent to your base station, often your weather station console.
2: How often measurements are sent to the console
Another important aspect that is wise to look into before buying a weather station is the time that passes between two measurements. Depending on how realtime you want your measurements to be, this time should be as short as possible.
This is especially important for measuring wind speed and wind direction. Wind gusts are usually there only for a short time interval, often less than 5 seconds. Most weather stations send their measurements to the base station with longer time intervals. This way, you risk not measuring wind during a storm when a severe gust passes.
It’s nevertheless still important for the other sensors as well. However, temperature and rain does usually not change as quickly as the wind. Therefore, how of ten measurements are sent to the base station / console is less important there.
Reducing the time between two measurements often comes at a cost. The quicker measurements are sent, the more expensive the weather station usually is. You should therefore look carefully into what your requirements are to this end.
3: Whether measurements can be passed onto a computer, or mobile phone
Many people who are interested in measuring the weather buy a weather station, after which they build a website that displays current weather conditions in their living area. That’s useful for yourself, but also for neighbors, friends, and family – they can all find what’s the weather like on your website.
A crucial aspect of a weather station desired for this purpose is that it can be attached to a computer, or to the internet in another way. Sometimes, people misjudge a weather station with respect to capabilities like those, and purchase a weather station that cannot be attached.
Weather stations can usually be connected in one of multiple ways. Here they are:
- Through a COM port. While not very usual anymore, it can still be found with older weather stations. COM ports enable you to attach devices to your hardware in a serial way. If you buy a weather station with a COM port, you must ensure that your machine still supports such serial connections – most PCs sold today do no longer support this. If yours doesn’t, you might still be able to use it, though – but then you may need to buy a converter which converts a COM port to USB.
- With a USB cable. That’s a lot easier than a serial port, thanks to the standard connection mechanism provided by USB. Many weather stations that can be attached to a computer are equipped with USB. It’s almost like plug and play!
- By means of WiFi. Today, some weather stations can even send measurements to the base station wirelessly, using your WiFi network. You can then read the measurements by means of an app. However, it’s often more difficult to export your measurements to your own website this way.
- With a data logger. Davis weather stations cannot be connected to a computer without additional equipment. You’ll need to buy a data logger for this purpose. It can be attached to the weather station, and subsequently connected to your computer by means of USB (USB cable is delivered with the data logger). It is then possible to read your Davis weather data by means of various software packages.
4: Which software supports the weather station
If you want to attach your weather station to your computer, you must be able to read its data in one way or another. Fortunately, there are many software tools out there that can do this for you. Below, we’ll provide an overview of the most widely known packages.
Are you aware of another tool yourself or did you create one yourself? Please feel free to leave a message below. We’ll make sure to include it in our post!
Weather Display (www.weather-display.com) is very extensive software which you can use to read the data from your weather station and export various charts and reports. A wide range of weather stations is supported. In realtime, you can see the weather data provided by your weather station, as well as exporting the mentioned charts and reports automatically.
Operating System: Weather Display runs on Windows NT/98/2000/ME/XP/Vista/7/8/10, as well as OSX, Linux and Raspberry Pi.
Usability: oops. There’s quite a learning curve attached to using Weather Display, because of its enormous amount of functionality. It’ll take a while before you will fully understand Weather Display and where you can find a particular setting. Still, a manual is available and various weather forums exist where people love to help you.
Examples: if you want to gain an impression about what is supported by the software, you could be looking at those examples:
- Generating daily weather reports, with minimum and maximum values, in an automated way on your website. Example: Meteo Roodeschool
- Almost realtime export of weather data through a file called “clientraw” (a.k.a. raw data). Many developers have created beautiful templates that can be used to display the weather data. Examples of those realtime templates that are available for free for on your own website:
Paid: you’ll have to pay $60 for a perpetual license to use the software. Testing the software is free.
Weather Display Live
If you do not want to use any of the templates mentioned above on your website, but still want to display realtime data, Weather Display has another solution for you. It’s called Weather Display Live and available from the WD website at www.weather-display.com. WD Live is an add-on to Weather Display that makes showing live data possible.
Displaying live weather data looks like the image below.
Price: for Weather Display Live, you’ll need a functional Weather Display instance (cost: $60) and you’ll need to spend an additional $20 for the Live add-on.
Cumulus (www.sandaysoft.com) is relatively extensive software for reading data from your weather station. Here too a wide range of weather stations is supported, but the list is less extensive than the Weather Display one.
Supported weather stations are:
Davis Vantage Pro and Pro2, and Vue; Oregon Scientific WM918, WMR-918, WMR-928, WMR-968, WMR88, WMR100, WMR200 weather stations; EasyWeather stations (MyDEL, Nevada, Watson, Fine Offset, WH1080, WH1081, W8681 etc); La Crosse WS-2300 and other models in the WS23xx range.
- Cumulus is free for usage at home and in a non profit setting
- It’s possible to upload measurements to your own website and other services automatically. Other services include Weather Underground, Awekas and Twitter.
- Historical data can be displayed and exported.
- Different alarms can be set.
- Sun and moon times are supported.
- Many of the templates mentioned above (i.e. with Weather Display) work with Cumulus too!
Usability: quite a bit easier than Weather Display, to be fair 🙂
WeatherLink (www.weatherlink.com) is the software delivered together with Davis Instruments weather stations to read data from its Vantage series of weather stations. It only works together with a Davis weather station and requires a data logger, which we mentioned above.
I’ll have to stress that Vantage weather stations can also be connected to other weather software, like Weather Display. WeatherLink is less extensive in functionality than Weather Display, so you might wish to combine your Davis station with this third party software. See above for more information about Weather Display.
A Meteohub (www.meteohub.de) is made to make your life easier. It’s a small web service specifically designed for green solutions. It’s a piece of software that runs on a variety of low energy devices that can read your weather data:
- Our choice: Raspberry Pi model 3.
- We recommend this model of the Raspberry Pi due to its flexibility. No further interest in running a weather station? You’ll easily install a web server or an email server on your Pi. It’s also newer than the hardware delivered by the other vendors mentioned below, providing additional advantages related to energy usage and speed.
- It also runs on Raspberry Pi model 2, 1B and 1B+.
- Linksys NSLU2.
It enables the user to upload web pages, as well as generating weather files in the Weather Display and WsWin formats mentioned on this page as well.
Meteohub supports these weather stations:
- Oregon Scientific: WMR-918N, WMR-928(NX), WMR-968, WMR-88, WMR-100, WMR-200, WMRS-200, RMS-300
- Davis: Vantage 2 pro, Vantage 1 pro (needs Firmware “B”), Vue (via RS232, USB and TCP/IP), Envoy8x and to receive data from RF sensors without need of a console/logger “Meteostick”
- Peet Bros: Ultimeter 100/800/2000/2100
- Hideki: TE-923 (needs HW-Revision 3 or newer), TE-821W, WXR810, DV-928 (also known as Nexus, Mebus, Irox, Honeywell, Cresta)
- Fine Offset Electronics: WH-1080, WH-1081 (also known as Watson W-8681, WX-2008, National Geographic 265 NE, Elecsa 6975/ 6976, Ambient Weather WS-1080/WS-1090/WS-2080, Tycon TP1080WC)
- ELV: WS300PC, WS444, WS500, WS550, WS777, WS888, WDE1
- La Crosse: WS2300
- RainWise: actual MkIII model (mkIIIcc and CC-3000 computer interface)
- Lufft: WS-600
- Adcon: A850
- Toradex: OAK USB sensors for pressure and temperature
- TEMPer USB stick like temperature sensor
- RFXCOM: new RFXtrx model and legacy Receivers with USB (80002), LAN (81003, 83003) or WLAN (82003, 84003) for Oregon sensors
- Sound Level Meter SL-814 USB
- Energy Meter CC-128, ELV Em1010PC, Conrad 3000 USB, RFXCOM RFXmeter
- Voltage Meter Labjack U3-HV, U3-LV (on x86 platform only)
Lowest energy usage of all weather software: if you care about climate, Meteohub may be the solution that you are interested in, as it’s a very energy efficient solution to read data from your weather station.
Cost: the Meteohub software can be used with your own hardware (see the Raspberry Pi above, to give just one example) and the special Meteohub software. The software can be purchased online and costs € 59, just once.
Virtual Weather Station
Virtual Weather Station (VWS, www.ambientweather.com) is weather station software that is tailored to the U.S. market, looking at the overview of compatible weather station.
- Davis Instruments Vantage weather stations;
- RadioShack weather stations;
- Oregon Scientific WM918;
- Rainwise MKIII, WT-2000 and MH-1 Hazmat;
- WeatherHawk Weather Stations;
- Peet Bros Weather Stations;
- Kestrel 4000;
- Texas Weather Instruments Stations;
- Columbia Weather Systems Weather Stations.
WsWin (also known as PC-Wetterstation in Germany, www.pc-wetterstation.de) is software written by a German software developer. It’s compatible with a wide range of weather stations.
Price: WsWin costs € 30 for private usage and € 50 for business / corporate usage.
Our top 3
I understand that it can be difficult to choose weather station software from the list mentioned above. That’s why this is our top 3:
- Weather Display is the absolute number one, because of the extensive amount of functionality. What’s more: it supports realtime data in a visually appealing way with the Weather Display Live extension. The disadvantage is its learning curve.
- Meteohub, given the flexibility provided as well as the low amount of energy consumed.
- Cumulus, which is flexible as well, but less difficult (and extensive) than Weather Display.
5: What resolutions your sensors measure with
Now that we have dealt with weather station software, it’s time to focus on the resolution of your sensors. We’ll have to introduce what we mean with resolution first, don’t you think? All right, here you go:
The precision of the measurement. That’s what I mean with resolution.
Suppose that we measure air pressure. Our weather station indicates that we have a pressure of 1013 hectopascals (or millibars); our resolution is then 1 hPa because it’s rounded to whole numbers. If it shows 1013.1, the resolution is 0.1 hPa.
The same is true for temperature, wind and rain measurements. Especially for the latter, it can be frustrating to find that a rain gauge has a resolution of 1.0 millimeter, while brief periods of rain often yield less than 1.0 millimeter. In those cases, your weather station shows nothing… and it’s important to consider this when you think measuring rain is important.
Resolution is mostly important when you intend to use your weather station for research purposes, but also if you prefer very detailed measurements over very high-level ones.
The more detailed, the more expensive your weather station is. That’s a ground truth. As you would likely expect, adding more detail to your measurements increases weather station price.
Altogether: here, you should consider your desires, availability and cost as well when deciding to buy a weather station. Nevertheless, it’s an important point to consider before buying one!
6: Whether the weather station can be configured properly by means of setting units
Last but not least: although it seems like a luxury that isn’t necessary, it is wise to consider the units that are available on your weather station console. Most European weather stations will support the metric system as well as the imperial one, but it could be that a U.S. based station only supports the latter, with temperatures measured in degrees Fahrenheit and so on.
Or rain, measured in inches, which could not be what you want if you are based in Europe 🙂 – or consider moving to the States.
The units supported by the weather station can usually be retrieved from the user manual.
In this blog post, we covered six important things that you should consider before buying a weather station. Of course, depending on what we’ll find, and what is new, we’ll add new things to this article every once in a while.
If you know about an important aspect yourself that you would love to share with us, please feel free to leave a comment yourself in the comments section below. We love to hear from you! 🙂