Over the last five or so years the interest in home-based weather observation has increased dramatically. At the same time, the availability and afford-ability of these systems has also increased (I m not sure which is driving which). When I first decided to start observing and recording the weather at home, about 15 years ago, there were not a lot of choices for the home consumer. If you had a lot of money there were a handful of weather stations to choose from, but if your budget was more modest, there was not much you could get and what was available was not very good, especially if you wanted to go electronic. Today, that has all changed!
Each year in late October and early November I like to take a look at what is out there, and try to provide some insight into what you should be looking for if you want to buy yourself, or someone you love, a weather station for Christmas. With the fairly strong Canadian dollar, buying online is becoming more and more attractive. This year I am taking the approach of looking at various weather instruments available based on different cost levels. Before I get to this, I do have to point out that I have no affiliation with any manufacturer or company that sells these products. Also, I don t get freebies to test out, so most of these recommendations are based on the manufacturer s reputation, discussions with different users, and my own insight. I do tend to use one website in particular ( www.ambientweather.com) since it easily offers the most comprehensive assortment of weather hardware out there.
To begin, let s look at what you can get for under $50. As far as I was able to determine, you cannot get a reasonable full weather station for under $50, but you can get some really neat and useful instruments. The first of these would be a hand-held wind and temperature meter. There are several of these instruments available, and while at the high end they can be several hundred dollars, there are a few available in the $30-$40 range. These instruments will tell you the wind speed in pretty much any unit of measure you could want, along with the temperature and wind chill.
One of the handiest instruments you can get for under $50 would be a wireless, self-emptying rain gauge. Oregon Scientific, La Crosse Technology and Honeywell all produce several different types of rain gauges. While some are simply rain gauges with an indoor console for monitoring, others have thermometers included. Most of these are fairly reliable, but they do require batteries.
Another very popular item in this price range is a wireless indoor/outdoor temperature sensor. There are several different types to choose from and they are getting better each year. Some new ones now also offer humidity sensors. I believe it will not be long until we see full-featured weather stations in this price range.
An interesting new offering this year is a wireless weather station for little kids called Wendy the Weather Wizard. This station has an outdoor temperature sensor and an indoor display. The display uses icons to show the changing of the season and it also has an animated icon (Wendy) that shows you how to dress for the outside temperature. This unit can also double as an alarm clock it even has a snooze feature!
If you are interested in conventional weather instruments there are several really good ones available in this price range. Spirit thermometers are probably the most popular conventional weather instrument, and while you can get these from pretty much any store for a few bucks, there are higher-quality ones available. These are usually made of brass and come in both table-top and wall-mounted configurations. Another interesting type of traditional thermometer is a maximum/minimum thermometer. These traditional spirit thermometers are designed so that they record the maximum and minimum temperature each day, but they do need to be cleared daily.
Traditional rain gauges are another item in this price range, and like the thermometers you can find a whole bunch of cheap plastic gauges at nearly every local hardware store, but if you are looking for something a little nicer there are some alternatives. One of the most popular is a Vermont-style rain gauge. These have solid brass mounts and nice, clear, easy-to- read catchment cylinders. They also come with a lifetime guarantee.
If you are an outdoors person there s a neat little handheld device avai lable that combines a thermometer, barometer, altimeter, clock and compass. If you re doing any hiking, camping, skiing or boating and want to keep up with the weather, this just might be for you.
Well, I am out of room for now, but there are still plenty of other weather instruments available out there. How would you like to have a portable weather station that easily connects to the roof of your vehicle? I will look at just that and many other devices in upcoming articles.
I believe it won t be long until we seefull-featured weather stations in this price range.