All I want for Christmas is a weather station

With the snow come thoughts of Christmas, and what better way to say “I love you” than to buy that special person in your life their very own weather station? I covered this topic last year and I noticed a number of individuals out there did get a nice-shiny new weather station, so I figured I would try to help out those unfortunates who missed out! Just imagine Christmas morning, seeing that present under the tree that looks like it would be the right size to be a complete weather station, and then the anticipation as the presents are handed out, and finally tearing off the wrapping to finally see that shiny new weather station – it’s like reclaiming your childhood!

As with most things, money will usually buy you quality; keep this in mind when you see a $50 or $75 complete home weather station in your local big-box store. I’m not saying they are necessarily bad, but you often will get what you pay for.

Components

Now, what exactly makes up a weather station? The first and probably most important parts are the sensors. Complete weather stations will consist of an anemometer (measures wind speed and wind direction) and some kind of self-emptying rain gauge, along with temperature, humidity and barometric pressure sensors. Most weather stations will also measure indoor temperature and humidity. Some higher-end weather stations will include solar radiation, UV and additional temperature and humidity sensors, as well as those for leaf wetness and soil moisture.

Once you have these sensors there are a number of other weather parameters that can be calculated such as dew point, wind chill, heat index and evapotranspiration. Most stations include a display console, which will display the data for you to see, and some stations will also include a data logger that will allow you to send the data to a computer.

The display console or data logger communicates with the sensors through cables (wires) or through cable-free (wireless) transmission. The console records the highs and lows, provides programmable alarms and can often connect to a personal computer for advanced data collection and graphic analysis. Software can connect to the Internet, create web pages, send e-mail alerts, post data to free weather servers, and integrate weathercam images. All in all, they can pretty much do almost anything you want them to do.

Accuracy, accessories

When choosing a weather station there are a few things you need to watch for. Accuracy is the ability of a measurement to match the actual value of the quantity being measured. The better-quality stations are usually accurate to within a couple of percentage points, whereas some of the lower-end stations can be off by as much as 10-12 per cent. Looking at the most commonly available stations out there, the Davis Vantage Pro2 weather stations are the best when it comes to accuracy and range of readings.

Accessories (the ability to add on to your station) can also be important for some people. Being able to add on additional sensors, such as for soil moisture and leaf wetness, can greatly expand the usefulness of a station. Davis Instruments provides the largest collection of accessories for your weather station.

Ease of setup is also important , and the widespread implementation of wireless technology greatly simplifies weather station installation. Wired stations are generally cheaper to buy, and if you don’t mind having to run wires to your instruments, this can save you a few bucks. Davis Instrument Vantage Pro2 and Pro2 Plus have proven wireless reliability.

Most wireless stations claim that they can communicate within a 1,000-foot range, but a typical distance to expect with most wireless stations is around 200 to 300 feet. Some stations, such as the Davis ones, have repeaters that are available to extend the range an additional 1,000 or so feet. If you have really big distances to cover, the wireless range can be extended to several miles with optional Yagi antenna pairs.

In general, cost is dictated by features, reliability, accuracy and wired versus wireless transmission. In the area of low cost, La Crosse is the low-cost leader; as for reliability, I have heard mixed reviews. As for value, the Davis Vantage Pro2 offers more features and reliability for the cost. I have had a Davis station for nearly 12 years and the only problem I’ve had was someone breaking into my house and ripping the wires out of it when they tried to steal it. Oregon Scientific WMR100 and WMR90A are also very good for cost and most owners who I have talked to are fairly pleased with them – but none of them have owned one for more than a couple of years.

After searching the Internet and checking out various online stores for costs, I found that most sites were very close to each other. Unfortunately, most of the sites are American, which means you may have to deal with some brokerage fees. Here are some of the better prices I’ve found for wireless stations – prices are in U. S. dollars.

Davis Vantage Pro2: $397.

Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus: $668.

To connect to a computer you’ll need to add another $120.

Oregon Scientific WMR90A: $139.

Oregon Scientific WMR100N: $200.

Oregon Scientific WMR200A: $360.

La Crosse Technology WS-2315: $105.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

Daniel Bezte

Daniel Bezte is a teacher by profession with a BA (Hon.) in geography, specializing in climatology, from the U of W. He operates a computerized weather station near Birds Hill Park.

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