Choosing a Weather Station
It can be difficult choosing a weather station, even after spending hours on the internet reading all the weather station reviews, recommendations and comparisons. What is the best weather station? Which weather station should I buy? Which weather station is right for me? What factors should I consider?
If you have put in the time going through the various forums you will have found that by necessity most people’s reviews and recommendations are of stations they have owned, so it’s difficult to get the view of someone who is familiar with all the major brands. We’ve been selling and servicing all the major brands of weather stations and weather instruments since 2004 so let us cut to the chase and give you the inside knowledge, as it is actually fairly simple.
Desktop Weather Stations
First of all let’s address desktop stations (sometimes called temperature stations). These are very basic stations designed for casual use and if they have an outdoor sensor it is at most a temperature and humidity sensor. Typical weather variables measured are temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. Most have clocks with alarms and some have a short range forecasting capability. For desktop weather stations one brand is as good as another so select based on the look and feel you like and whether you want outdoor temperature/humidity and how the barometric pressure is displayed (some only show a forecast not the actual pressure number). You will find a selection of desktop stations here.
The rest of this article addresses complete weather stations which are stations with the full array of outdoor sensors which includes wind and rain sensors.
Complete Wireless Weather Stations
At a consumer/commercial level there are two groups of stations, the mid-market weather stations and the higher spec weather stations. The mid-market brands include:
- Aercus Instruments
- La Crosse
In terms of the mid-market brands they all have much the same degree of accuracy, for example ±1°C for temperature and ±5%RH for humidity. We have also found them to be equally robust as each other, with fault rates not differing widely across the brands. The most common fault is a loss of communication between the outdoor transmitter and indoor console. More often than not this is setup related (see our articles Wireless Weather Station Setup and Weather Station Trouble Shooting Guide for some preventative maintenance tips). However if you’re going to get an out of the box fault with mid-market stations it is usually the outside transmitter. Fortunately these are plug and play and as long as you have bought from a reputable dealer a replacement part can often be sent out fairly swiftly without the need to return the unit.
The main higher spec brand that is priced economically is Davis. There are other high spec brands but you tend to be moving into commercial/industrial territory which is reflected in price but not really reflected in additional functionality, accuracy or robustness for the typical user. We’ll talk further about Davis stations later.
So given the similarity across the mid-market brands how do you decide which mid-market weather station to buy?
Semi-Complete Wireless Weather Stations
First of all, in terms of functionality there is one big dividing line - sensors.
Arguably, a complete station should offer you temperature, humidity, wind and rain measurement. Not everyone is interested in all of these and there are some excellent stations that will measure some of them. The Netatmo Smart Weather Station starts as temperature and humidity, with options to add more sensors later on if you wish. This is a completely online station, allowing you to view data on a tablet, computer or smartphone. La Crosse have a range of stations with each successive module adding a sensor. The La Crosse V10 measures temperature and humidity with the La Crosse V21 adding a wind speed sensor. There is an App you can use for remote viewing and you can add extra sensors displayed on the App later.
Complete Wireless Weather Stations
Differentiating complete mid-market weather stations stations, you need to consider data storage, sensors and the internet connectivity. Outside of these, complete mid-market stations all have very similar functionality and you can expect to measure all main weather variables:
- Temperature (indoor/outdoor)
- Humidity (indoor/outdoor)
- Short range forecast
- Software for connecting to PC
We have found them equally as reliable and accurate as each other and all are easy to install. So our advice is to choose based on price, the look and feel of the stations and any minor variations between units.
Offline stations include the Aercus Instruments WS3085 which has UV and light sensors and both the Aercus Instruments WS2085 and Aercus Instruments WS3085 which can store up to 3 months data at 30 minute intervals which is large for mid-market stations.
The best station for storing historical information is the Aercus Instruments WeatherRanger - which can store many years' worth of data on the console as well as uploading to the internet.
For online stations, where data is uploaded to the internet (requiring 2.4GHz WiFi), and can be viewed in an App, start with these four:
The Weather Ranger uploads to Weather Underground - a free public website, where you can view your data on range of 3rd party apps or in your mobile web browser. Plenty of data can be stored on the console for archival and later analysis. This model measures wind direction, UV and light levels. It has a colour console.
The La Crosse omits pressure. It has got its own app, and if you upgrade to the pro tier (around $35US a year) you can download data.
The TESA is similar - it uploads to Weather Underground and several other sites, however it lacks the data storage of the Weather Ranger. Data can be downloaded from the Ecowitt website, however if you want very frequent data, this would need to be done regularly. As a reference, downloading a day of data gets you the measurements taken every five minutes, however monthly will give you data every four hours.
The Netatmo is the most internet-ready of the three, taking an Apple like design ethic. It will measure temperature and humidity out of the box (and indoor CO2 and sound levels) and there are additional sensors available to purchase for wind or rain measurements. Data can be downloaded from their website.
Generally wireless signals can go through typical walls and roofs ok albeit with reduced range down to 20-40% of the maximum as a rule of thumb.
Davis Weather Stations
So how do you decide whether to go with a mid-market station or a Davis station? Here are the main things to consider:
- Budget – Davis stations are more expensive than mid-market stations, typically 2-3 times once you incorporate the software/datalogger (see below)
- Accuracy – Broadly, Davis stations are twice as accurate as mid-market stations e.g. temperature accuracy of ±0.5°C versus ±1°C for mid-market weather stations
- Robustness – As a rule of thumb mid-market weather stations will last you 2-5 years before needing replacement parts (these are located outside after all) and Davis stations 3-10 years
The two main Davis ranges of stations are the Davis Vantage Vue and the Davis Vantage Pro2 (see our article Comparison of Davis Vantage Vue Versus Davis Pro2 for a quick comparison). One thing to note with these Davis stations is that they do not come with built in data loggers nor do they come with software to connect to your PC or Mac. For that we recommend the Davis WeatherLink Live software/data logger, sending the data to weatherlink.com for web and App access. We also offer several bundle deals combining Davis units and WeatherLink Live senders.
For further information click on the link below for a FREE copy of Trouble Free Wireless Weather Station Setup and Maintenance. It contains 30 pages of knowledge gained from over 10 years experience selling and servicing all the major brands of stations in a simple to follow format:
Hopefully this helps you with your weather station choice. If you have further questions we have more articles in our Knowledge Base and if you need further help you can contact our support team here.