If you have followed me over the years, you’ll know that while I’m not a farmer, I have always been into gardening, and in most years, I easily grow enough vegetables so that we rarely buy any of the staples (beans, corn, carrots, potatoes, cabbage… you get the idea). I am also fortunate enough to have a small greenhouse that allows me to not only enjoy sunny late-winter and spring days, but to stretch my growing season. In my greenhouse I start most of my veggies and flowers and I also grow tomatoes and hot peppers all season long, as well as early-season lettuce and cucumbers that I typically start eating in late May or early June.
Now, what does this have to do with weather? Well, over the years I wished I had better ways to track temperature and humidity in the greenhouse along with soil moisture and temperature — not only in the greenhouse, but in the main garden. I had always wanted to upgrade my Davis weather station, but the prices kept me from doing so. As you may know if you are a regular reader, I decided to buy a new weather station, and instead of digging deep into my pockets for a new Davis station, I bought an Ambient Weather WS-5000 — and you’ll also know that this weather station is a rebranded Ecowitt HP2553. Cost for the Ambient station is about the same, but shipping and duty push the price up compared to the Ecowitt, which can be bought through Amazon.ca.
Now that I have had the station for about a month, here are my first impressions of the station and some of its pros and cons.
Assembly and setup
Assembly of the station was very easy and straightforward. About the only assembly that needed to take place was attaching the wind and temperature sensor to the curved rod which allows you to attach it to a pole. The rain gauge just needed the cone attached, which took about 20 seconds. Now, these sensors all need AA batteries that are supposed to last about one year (we’ll see how that works out) and in our cold winter climate they recommend lithium batteries. Attaching the rain gauge to a metal pole was easy, with the design requiring you to install it on the top of the pole. The wind and temperature sensors were also easy to install on the metal pole with the provided U-bolts.
Before installing the main sensors on the pole outside, I powered up the display console and made sure the sensors paired, or linked up. They did so with no extra intervention from me. Making your way through the settings on the console is a bit annoying — it would be nice if they had an app you could put on to your phone to help you along. I had to read and look at the manual a few times to figure out just how to navigate correctly through the menus — to switch readings to metric, for example. (What? Reading the manual? My wife is rolling her eyes at me…)
I placed my main sensor suite about 75 feet from the display console, because that’s where the pole was, and since it’s winter there is no putting a new pole somewhere else. The station shows full bars on the connection strength which gives me hope that I will be able to move it to a slightly better location further out once everything warms up. Before I received the weather station from Ambient, I had created an online account with them. Following the instructions in the manual, it took about three minutes to connect the display console to my Wi-Fi network, then connect to my Ambient account. Data was instantly available from my station on the Ambient website.
I had also purchased several additional sensors. For the temperature and humidity sensors, you needed to change the dip switches so they could be viewed as different sensors and so they were showing metric. Just like with the initial setup, this only took a minute or two. Once I put the batteries in, they immediately connected to the display and with a little effort going through the setup screens I was able to rename the sensors — for example, I call one “greenhouse” for obvious reasons. I played around a little bit with different distances and locations with these sensors and found I could get a signal at a distance of about 200 feet, even with some buildings in the way. I will play around more with this once things warm up and dry out.
I’ve included here a list of some of the pros and cons I’ve noticed so far about the WS-5000 station. I’ll have more on the online part of this weather station in an upcoming article.
- Relatively low cost.
- Easy to install and set up.
- A lot of additional sensor options that are relatively cheap.
- Additional sensors are quick and easy to install.
- Quick and easy to get your data online.
- Wind speed and direction look to be responsive.
- Indoor temperature sensor is a stand-alone unit, which allows you to put it where you want indoor temperature to be measured; it does not have to be where the display unit is.
- Wind speed/direction and temperature/humidity sensors are together. To me this is a big one, as wind speed should be measured about five metres or so off the ground, whereas temperature should be about one metre off the ground. With this setup there is no way to do this.
- The indoor temperature sensor has its own small display, which does not seem to show metric units (minor, but a little annoying).
- For my setup I needed 12 batteries, which for lithium was about $15 on sale. If they last a year this will actually be a pro, as these batteries are much cheaper than the 123 batteries the Davis station uses.
- Lastly, you need a Wi-Fi network to connect to the data — and the data is stored on Ambient Weather’s online ecosystem. This is only a problem if you are like me and want to have direct access to your data.