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Late weather-related holiday gift ideas

With weather stations, as with most things in life, you get what you pay for

With fairly quiet winter weather across the Prairies and as we head into the holiday season, it can be a tough time of year to come up with weather-related articles. I have to thank one reader who reminded me that I didn’t do my usual article on weather-related gift ideas, and while it might be a little late to get these ideas under the tree, it might work out that you will be able to find a few good deals after Christmas.

To begin with, if you are just looking for a low-cost station that gives you an indoor console to display the data and that simply measures indoor/outdoor temperatures, humidity and barometric pressure, there are plenty of options out there. Some of these systems are better than others. I’ll have to admit, I usually pick up one of these from Canadian Tire every year or two as they often have these systems on sale for some great prices. I like to take it with me when I am camping, or if I need to take temperature measurements in my greenhouse. Just remember, like most things in life, you get what you pay for. These stations usually only work a couple of years before something goes wrong and they need to be replaced.

For those of you interested in a full-blown weather station, I still think the top choice is one of the Davis Instruments personal weather stations. These stations start around the $500 mark. The basic system is the Vantage Vue, which will give you all the weather data you need to gauge current weather conditions, including indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, dew point and rainfall. You’ll also get weather forecast icons, moon phase, sunrise/sunset times, graphing of weather trends and alarms. It will show you data trends over the last 25 days and if you add a data logger, you can connect it to your computer to collect and display all your weather data. It comes in one neat package allowing you to easily install it in just minutes.

Next up from the Vantage Vue is the Vantage Pro2 Weather Station. This is the one I have. It has all the same features of the Vantage Vue along with options to add additional sensors. For example, you can add additional temperature and humidity sensors, solar and UV sensors, and leaf wetness along with soil moisture and temperature sensors. It takes a bit more effort to set up, as the wind sensors are separate from the temperature and rainfall sensors, but for me this is a positive, as it allows you more options on placement to ensure you are getting good readings. For example, my wind sensor is placed higher off the ground and in a more open area to ensure I get more accurate wind readings. I keep promising myself to add soil moisture and temperature sensors, but other items seem to take priority each year. I know there are cheaper systems out there that do much of the same things, but I can say from experience, the Davis stations just keep on working year after year, with minimal maintenance. After 21 years of using weather stations, I am only on my second Davis station and after doing the math I calculated the cost to be right around $55 a year – about the cost of the cheap station!

Human hair

Finally, there are the traditional styles of weather instruments, ranging from simple rain gauges to flashy barometers. One of the most interesting ones I came across last year, still one of my favourites, is the Fischer Instruments 115.01 laboratory-grade outdoor thermometer with a human-hair hygrometer. It runs for around $100, looks nice, and is just a neat, accurate and great weather instrument that will generate lots of conversation around it.

There are plenty of websites and stores where you can find these stations and instruments, some offering better deals than others. I’m not really able to say from which place it’s best to get your weather stations, as prices often change significantly from site to site and time to time. The best practice, as with most purchases, is to figure out exactly what you want, then go and search out the best deals. One website I have given in the past as a good starting point is AmbientWeather.com. I have no affiliation with this site; it just has the largest listing of weather stations and instruments I know of, each with good write-ups describing the items.

So, if a weather station or weather instrument is in your future, get out and explore what is available. There are literally hundreds of different weather instruments available, and if you go by the adage that you get what you pay for, you can’t go wrong! I would like to take this time to wish everyone a wonderful holiday season and I hope you get some perfect holiday weather, whatever that means for you.

About the author

Co-operator contributor

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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