I thought I would start earlier than usual with my yearly look at weather-related items you may want to buy for that weather geek in your life. This way, you have lots of time to look around to try and find the best price. Unfortunately, it kind of hurts when you have to buy from the U.S. due to the dollar, but for some weather items this might be your only choice.
In the world of buying weather-related items, things haven’t changed that much over the last five or so years. Ambient Weather still has the most complete list of weather instruments available anywhere, so I find it the best place to begin your look. Where you end up buying from is totally up to you; I am in no way connected to Ambient Weather or any other supplier of weather-related equipment.
With computer parts getting ever cheaper and the demand for personal weather stations growing stronger, the price of these weather stations keeps coming down. With home-based weather instruments and weather stations becoming more and more popular, there has been a significant increase in the number of instruments and stations available. More competition almost always leads to better prices. That said, let’s take a look at what’s available this year.
If all you are looking for is a simple weather station that will give you the outdoor temperature, humidity and barometric pressure, you have plenty to choose from. The majority of these units comes with fairly impressive indoor consoles that easily display all the weather information. They will usually automatically record daily maximum and minimum temperatures and most will store and display around five days of weather history. They all come with a minimum of one wireless outdoor sensor that can usually be placed upward of 100 feet from the indoor console, but the actual distance you’ll get depends on which structures are between the indoor unit and the outdoor sensor. These stations typically cost anywhere from $25 to $50. That said, you can usually find one of these stations on sale at Canadian Tire for less than $15, and for a quick check of outdoor temperatures you can’t beat these little stations. I always take one of these portable stations with me while camping and they work great. They typically only last a couple of years, but for $15, what can you expect?
For those of you looking for a full-blown weather station that records temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, wind speed and direction, along with precipitation, I’m happy to say prices for these stations continue to drop. When I first bought my weather stations they cost about $1,000. That same station today, about five years later, even with the exchange rate, is about $850. Where the biggest changes have taken place is at the lower end of the weather station scale. You can now get a decent starter station that offers all of this and also allows you to connect the station to your computer, starting around $100.
Now, like anything, for the most part, you get what you paid for. Five or 10 years ago these $100 weather stations were unreliable and flaky. Today these stations are generally fairly solid and will give you several years of reliable data. So why spend the money on higher-end stations? First off, they tend to work day in and day out, sending data to your receiver every second or two. I know with my Davis station I get surprised and annoyed when it stops working for some reason. Why? Because it just works, period. Usually the reason it stops working is because I’ve ignored a “change battery” message for too long. Even though they are solar powered, they do need a backup battery for nighttime — and in our environment, winter nights tend to be pretty long.
If I had to make a personal recommendation it would be to buy a Davis personal weather station. I’ve been using their weather stations for nearly 15 years now and have had very few problems. These higher-end weather stations are built better, record data more precisely, and download the data more often. They start in price around $250 and can go all the way up to over $1,000. Davis makes the Vantage Vue station, which has all the bells and whistles you would want for recording everyday weather all in one easy-to-install package. If you want to customize your station a little bit, or you want a little more control over where you place the different sensors, I think your best bet would be a Davis Vantage Pro2 or Vantage Pro2 Plus station.
I currently use the Vantage Pro2 Plus, and it allows me to place the rainfall and temperature sensor in one area and the wind sensor in another area. It also gives you soil moisture and leaf moisture sensor options, along with additional temperature sensors. Add in a data logger and you can store up to several months of data without having it connected to your computer. How much data you can store depends on how much detail you want. For example, I save my data every five minutes and can store about two weeks of data. Change that to every hour and you now can go for about six months.
For those of you looking for smaller, more unique weather items, we’ll take a look at some of the more interesting ones soon. Stay tuned!