Each year as we start to get ready for Christmas, I like to do an article or two about different weather gadgets that the weather enthusiast you know might just like. As usual, I will look at different price points, but this year I think I’ll try to stick a little closer to home, by looking at what some of the local stores have in stock.
For those of you interested in getting yourself or someone else started with a computerized or digital weather station, but not sure if this is for them or yourself, and you don’t want to spend too much money, there are a few relatively cheap stations available locally. If you look around at your local hardware store you will probably see some kind of La Crosse weather station available. La Crosse has been making weather stations for years now and for the most part they work as advertised. I have owned a couple of simple indoor/outdoor wireless La Crosse weather stations and they do the job of letting you know what the outdoor temperature is from the comfort of inside your home. I bought both of the stations on sale for only about $10, so the fact that they worked for two to three years before giving up the ghost is not a bad deal. I guess that is the key point with basic wireless stations that cost less than $20: don’t expect them to last forever.
The next types of stations you will find locally are priced in the $50 to $125 range. If these are simply indoor/outdoor wireless weather stations that also provide you with a forecast, then I would say they are not worth the extra money. You should be able to find a simple wireless indoor/outdoor temperature station for around $20 (see above). The extra they want for the station trying to provide you with a forecast is just not worth the money. You will find that most of the time the forecasts provided by the station are not even close to being accurate.
I have seen a few weather stations that give you wireless indoor/outdoor temperatures, wind speed and even rainfall in the $125 range, but I have never seen one in person, nor have I talked to anyone who has tried one. On a personal level, I get a little nervous about spending this kind of money on a weather station that may only last a year or two. I feel if you are thinking about spending this kind of money on a weather station, you are better off biting the bullet and going for a well-built station that has a good warranty and will likely last for five years or more. Before we take a look at a couple of these types of stations, here are a few more interesting weather knick-knacks that are available if you look around.
Something relatively cheap that almost anyone will like is a simple but easy-to-read large outdoor circular thermometer. These thermometers can be mounted just about anywhere and can be read from a pretty good distance away. Just be careful to mount them so the sun does not shine on them directly. In the winter this will just give you an unusually warm reading; in the summer this could not only give an incorrect reading but end up ruining the thermometer!
Another good item in the $20 range is an old-fashioned-style rain gauge. While there are some stand-alone digital rain gauges around, at this price point I personally wouldn’t waste my money on them. These old-fashioned graduated-cylinder-style rain gauges are usually very accurate, and if you spend a little extra they can serve a dual purpose of being a lawn or garden ornament as well as a good conversation piece.
Now on to the big-ticket item: the full-blown home weather station. Once again there are full-featured weather stations available for the home that are priced in the $100 to $150 range. Chaney, La Crosse and some of the low-end Oregon Scientific stations are in these price points. Now, I’m not saying these stations are bad, as I have not had the opportunity to try one personally, but with the knowledge and experience I have with much-higher-end stations, just be prepared for some limitations with these. If you are looking for a full weather station that can be connected to your computer and even allow you to post your weather data to the Internet, here are a couple of stations that I would recommend.
I am a little biased in this area as I have been using Davis weather stations for 15 years. Currently I am on my second weather station and the only reason I changed was that I wanted to upgrade my station. With that in mind, the best value, I think, for a full weather station is the Davis Vantage Vue wireless weather station that retails for around $350. The next step up is the Davis Vantage Pro 2 weather stations. The basic cabled model starts around $450, with the wireless station starting around $500. The nice thing with this station is you can add extra sensors such as wireless solar, UV, soil moisture and even leaf moisture sensors, making this a truly fully functional farm-based weather station. All of these features do end up costing with each addition, coming in around $200 to $250. The nice thing is that you can add them one at a time when you can afford them: birthdays, next Christmas, Groundhog Day, hmmm… let’s see… when else?