Weather Station Buying Guide
Most consumers search out reviews for advice when making large purchases, especially online. On this site, our mission is to provide you with all the tools necessary to purchase your next weather station. We offer reviews for many of the top home weather stations. Most people don’t want to blindly follow what someone tells them to buy. For that reason, we’re populating this site with all the research you need to make your own decision. This comprehensive weather station buying guide in an attempt to help you navigate the many options available to you.
As with most products, not all weather stations are created equal. Prices vary significantly. Thus, the best weather station has a price point that far exceeds that of a lower end weather station for home. Perhaps you don’t need the most accurate weather instrument in the world. Maybe you’re a budding weather enthusiast and you just want to purchase something affordable that has the basics. Regardless of why you’re in the market for a new home weather station, we hope to help you figure out what’s best for you and your specific needs.
Here are some of the guidelines to keep in mind when shopping for your home weather station.
How will you use this home weather station? Does your job require accurate weather measurements? Are you a novice that just wants to learn more about the local weather? Is the data needed for something much more weather dependent? Farmers, fishermen, hunters, sports stadiums, academics, gardeners, and emergency responders all use personal weather stations, and for different reasons.
Here are some example uses. Farmers or gardeners might want to know the average rainfall from last season in a particular area. Understanding recent rainfall levels can help them identify if irrigation is needed. Meanwhile, sporting events need to know if a lightning-producing storm is coming their way in order to keep fans safe. Likewise, emergency responders to a hurricane or flood need to understand the real-time conditions in order to respond safely.
As you can see, for some users, accurate and frequent weather data points are crucial. On the other hand, others are fine with data that updates a little slower or is a little less accurate. The very first thing you’ll need to do is identify how you’ll be using the weather station. This will help you narrow down which of the following categories are most important to you. You will also be able to identify which are not worth paying extra money for.
Connectivity can be an important factor in your selection. In reality, most newer models are considered a wireless weather station. This is because the weather data is transmitted wirelessly from the weather instruments to the display console. In the past, cabled versions were prevalent, due to wireless costs. However, today wireless is mostly the norm since prices have come down.
Of course, wireless units make installation practices much easier. They require less drilling and running of wires. This is especially helpful in applications where the weather instruments are far away, high above ground, or on rugged terrain.
Our weather station reviews identify which units are wired and which are wireless. More importantly, since most are wireless, have included their maximum data transmission distances. In other words, how far away can you put the sensor array from the display console for a given weather station model? It’s important to keep in mind that this number is a maximum distance. Terrain and other objects like trees or buildings can also degrade the connection when in the line of site between the sensor and the console.
For several home weather stations, this connection is all that’s available. In essence, the display is used for all data viewing.
On balance however, many weather watchers want to do more than just view the weather data they have logged. When available, the some weather station models have the ability to send data to a local PC or connect to a smartphone app. In addition, some units allow sharing of data with a network of home weather stations, such as the Weather Underground.
Connection to PC
First, we’ll discuss connections to your local PC. This can be helpful if you want to chart or graph historical trends or rainfall for a season. After all, you could log your weather data indefinitely on your PC. Most display consoles will only carry a certain amount of data before it’s lost. Connections to PCs come in the form of WIFI or hard-wired units via USB or Ethernet cables. Furthermore, these can be connections directly to the PC or through your home’s internet router.
Second, let’s discuss connecting to smartphone apps. Generally speaking, most personal weather station manufacturers offer a free app that covers both IOS (iPhone/iPad) and Android platforms. Even some of those that don’t offer well-built applications for smartphones offer online servers for connecting your personal weather station. Keep an eye out though. Many basic stations don’t provide connections to these apps.
Finally, one of the most popular connections for all personal weather stations is to the Weather Underground. The Weather Underground has made it their mission to make quality weather information available to every person on this planet. Through their online network, they collect vast amounts of weather data. They have assembled a proprietary forecast model by combining this with their team of meteorologists. Their personal weather station community is leveraged to provide one of the most reliable and localized forecasts available.
To be sure, this category can seem to be materialistic on the surface. In fact, some models don’t even come with consoles. A few brands obviously put a high priority on offering some really nice vivid, high definition displays. It makes them more attractive and easier to see from across the room. However, other brands, Davis Instruments for example, place emphasis on their instruments, accuracy, and features. In fact, some of their displays can seem a bit more dated. With this in mind, important tangible items do exist on displays also. These can include its size and if it’s a tabletop unit or wall-mountable, among other things.
Sample Home Weather Station Displays
At the same time, it’s not all about looks. Most home weather station displays are powered by an AC adapter (using the wall power). An often critical item is whether or not the display also has the option of battery backup power. Since home weather stations are often most needed is during storms, viewing them during a power outage could be critical. As surprising as this might sound, this is not available on all models.
Additionally, there are other “bells and whistles” that come on some display consoles. These include things like weather tickers, forecasts, graphs of historical data, and alarms. Weather tickers provide real-time data rolling across the screen. Forecasts are based off of algorithms using recent data from your home weather station. Some displays deliver historical data in a graph format so longer term trends of things like temperature or rainfall can be seen.
Furthermore, forecasts are another feature that some displays contain. Since the data for the forecast is from your home weather station, it’s extremely relevant to your immediate area. Unfortunately, accuracy depends on many other features besides location. These include accuracy of the weather station as well as the update frequency. Update frequency is how often the instruments report back another data point. Finally, alarms for new highs, new lows, and for preset levels chosen by the user are now offered on many units.
Weather instruments included with a personal weather station vary by manufacturer and model. Most PWS’s have the following basic sensors…
Less Common Instruments
- UV Sensor
- Lightning Detector
- Soil Temperature
- Soil Moisture
- CO2 Sensor
- Air Quality
There are pros and cons to this format. First, it makes the station much easier to install and requires less components to find a place for and physically mount. On the contrary however, it’s actually more beneficial to mount the thermometer out of direct sunlight, but with some air movement. In addition, it’s recommended that the anemometer be mounted at least 10m above ground, or as high as is convenient. These will give you the most accurate readings with each instrument.
For this reason, you’ll see that the best weather stations actually split the weather instruments out. They can be mounted independently since they are separated in more than one package. The Davis Vantage Pro2 model pictured below is a good example of this. To clarify, users can mount them all together, or separately, whichever fits their needs.
There are three basic power sources for the instruments on home weather stations. They are solar energy, battery powered, and wired personal weather stations that get their power from an outlet. The obvious drawback for wired is the need for an outlet nearby. Of course, users also find this very inconvenient when the power goes out.
By contrast, battery powered units are more convenient when the power goes out. However, batteries lose juice and need to be replaced eventually. Consequently, replacing batteries can become a really tough job. For instance if you’ve mounted the weather station in a remote area, over rugged terrain, or very high off the ground. Likewise, they’re no fun to replace during a snow storm! As a result, you might lose some vital weather data prior to getting new batteries to the sensor array.
Ultimately, unless you have AC power at the weather station location, solar powered units are recommended. In some cases, solar energy is stored in super capacitors for top performance during the day. The station then uses battery power at night when the sun is down.
Accuracy is another key to consider in your selection of a home weather station. Again, models can vary significantly in this category. In certain applications, this might be very critical. For instance, this is true for famers and emergency response crews when temperatures hover around the freezing point. In addition, crucial research projects in academia might require a high degree of accuracy to ensure success.
In contrast, weather station accuracy is not usually as important for amateur weather watchers. Surprisingly, most of the units reviewed are relatively accurate anyway, often within 1-2% of the total range.
We’re here to guard against purchasing something that doesn’t fit your needs. As such, we’ve provided measurement accuracy for all of the weather instruments on each of our weather station reviews. In some cases, the manufacture only offers a range and/or has not provided an accuracy amount.
Here’s an example of the accuracy stats we provide in our reviews:
- Temperature: ± X° F
- Humidity: ± X%
- Barometric Pressure: ±0.0X inHG
- Rain: ± X%
- Wind Direction: ± X°
- Wind Speed: X mph
Like most of the categories in this buying guide, the update frequency of a home weather station matters to some weather watchers, but not all. Update frequency is how often data from the weather instrument is transmitted to the display console. In general, this varies by model. The higher end units typically provide more updates to the user in a given period of time. Some units update the user every 2-3 seconds. By contrast, others allow 30 seconds and even up to a few minutes between data updates.
You might be asking yourself, when is update frequency on a weather station important? Well, weather conditions can change rapidly, particularly wind speed. For example, since wind gusts are temporary bursts of wind speed, lower-end weather stations often miss them. Namely, this is because they update data less frequently. For this reason and others, the frequency of updates are an important factor in capturing accurate weather data.
In addition, there are other reasons update frequency matters besides picking up wind gusts and other rapidly changing weather patterns. For instance, the more often the weather sensors update, the more data points the station has. For this reason, accuracy increases for building averages, trends, and forecasts.
Generally speaking, one of the first questions always asked is, “what does it cost?” While price isn’t everything, the phrase “you get what you pay for” does typically apply with home weather stations. After all, it’s time to consider everything discussed above. Obviously you need to determine if the extra features are worth the extra money. Or, do you just need a basic model?
If things like accuracy and update frequency are dire to public safety, you’ll need to buy the best weather station money can buy. Conversely, if you want something that’s just easy to connect to your smartphone for convenience, you’ll be able to find a more affordable model. Certainly the same is true if you don’t care if it’s highly accurate or updates more than every 30 seconds.
Ultimately, one of the best sources of recommendations and honest feedback are unforced reviews of actual product users. Altogether, we’ve gathered and studied thousands of reviews and feedback assembling our weather station reviews. In addition, highlights of our research are provided so you don’t have to spend the time doing it yourself.
However, trending comments in feedback can show a pattern. Obviously, these patterns will arm you to make a sound buying decision. Especially when combined with the rest of our buying guide.
Advantages vs. Disadvantages
Of course, it’s always good to weigh the good and bad before you buy. Given that, we have included a pros and cons section in each of our weather station reviews. Whereas, both highlights and detractors are provided. You can ponder them when making a decision. Ultimately, you must to decide which features are needed. With this in mind, you will obviously need a larger budget if you refuse to give anything up.
Home Weather Station Reviews
On the whole, our weather stations reviews greatly reduce the amount of time spent researching the best weather station. Notably, we assembled our reviews based on the criteria in this buying guide so they’re easy to follow. Please reach out to us if there’s a home weather station model you’re interested in and we don’t have a review posted for it. In general, we’ll do the research and quickly publish a review for that model if we consider it to be relevant to the site.
To summarize, the selection of the best weather station for you can be a daunting task. Certainly, there are several key differences in the available models. First, you must decide how the unit will be used. Next, use the categories here to greatly reduce your learning curve. They will assist you in determining what’s important to you during your search. In conclusion, we eliminate the need to visit numerous websites by pairing our top weather station reviews and user feedback. By arming you with this data and the guide above, anyone can become an instant expert on personal weather stations.