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
- Oregon Scientific
In terms of the mid-market brands they all have much the same degree of accuracy, for example +/-1C 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. Most complete weather stations have built in data loggers and can connect to a PC/Mac for downloading/analysing the data and uploading to websites. But there are a few Semi-Complete stations that have limited historic data functionality (typically limited to the last 24 hours and/or rolling maximums and minimums) and cannot be connected to a PC/Mac. Popular stations without significant data logging capability or PC/Mac connectability are the La Crosse WS1516 and the Aercus Instruments WS2073. The WS2073 only has wind speed not wind direction and an update interval from the outdoor sensors of 48 seconds. The WS1516 has both wind speed and direction and updates the outside data every 4.5 seconds (6.5 seconds for rain). If neither of those are important distinctions for you buy on price and look and feel.
Complete Wireless Weather Stations
Complete mid-market weather stations fall into two categories, those that connect to your PC/Mac and those that have recently appeared on the market that can send their data directly to the internet without needing to stay connected to a PC/Mac (by connecting directly to your modem/router). The other distinguising characteristic to look for is that some include light/UV measurements and some don't. Outside of these two things 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. Examples include the Aercus Instruments WS3083 which has UV and light sensors and both the Aercus Instruments WS2083 and Aercus Instruments WS3083 which can store up to 3 months data at 30 minute intervals which is large for mid-market stations. Some Oregon Scientific weather stations allow additional sensors to be added and it’s rare these days but if you want the option of cabling the sensors the La Crosse WS2355 is your best choice. You only really need to consider a cabled station if you think you will have strong interference at your site or need to go through concrete walls etc which will block a wireless signal. 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.
If you want a station that can send its data directly to the internet so you can view it from anywhere using any internet capable device the Aercus Instruments WeatherRanger and the Aercus Instruments WeatherSleuth are the front runners. The difference between the WeatherRanger and WeatherSleuth is that the WeatherRanger is one of the only stations around with a full colour TFT LCD console and the WeatherSleuth has no console at all (and a lower price as a result). The WeatherRanger console connects wirelessly to your WiFi modem/router and the WeatherSleuth receiver plugs into your modem/router. An example of someone who might prefer the WeatherSleuth is someone who wants to use their tablet or smart phone as the station's console instead of a dedicated console.
No mid-market station comes with Mac compatible software unfortunately but WeatherSnoop is excellent Mac software compatible with a number of stations.
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 +/-0.5C versus +/-1C for mid-market weather stations
- Robustness – As a rule of thumb mid-market weather stations will last you 3-5 years before needing replacement parts (these are located outside after all) and Davis stations 7-10 years
The two main Davis 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 you need the Davis WeatherLink software/data logger bundle. The datalogger is also the piece which allows you to connect to your PC/Mac.
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.