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How To Choose a Weather Station
From High Precision Professional Weather Stations to Basic Temperature Weather Devices, This is the Guide You Need to Select Weather Monitors and Weather Instruments
There are so many different ones to choose from at so many different prices, it might seem a daunting task to pick the right one for you by yourself. That's why we answer our phones and emails! So, don't hesitate to call or write when you need help. For you do-it-yourselfers, here's a quick guide to selecting a Weather Station in any price range:
If all we've done is confuse you, pick up the phone or send us an email. We're here to help and sometimes it's just easier when we talk or write directly to one another!
- You only get three things from a scientific instrument: Reliability, Features & Accuracy. The more you spend, the more you get. The less you spend, the less you get. There is simply no escaping this absolute fact.
- Decide which features are most important to you, i.e.
- display of barometric pressure
- pressure tendency arrow
- pressure graph
- rain, rainfall rate per hour / day
- rainfall rate per week, month, year
- wind speed
- wind direction in compass points or degrees
- outdoor humidity
- touch screen display
- LED or LCD display
- solar radiation for evaporation
- UV (ultra violet light)
- heat index
- wind chill
- solar powered outdoor sensors
- wireless transmission distance required from outdoor sensors to indoor weather station display(s)
- weather forecast
- moon phase
- atomic clock, day, date
- sunrise and sunset times for your latitude & longitude
- adding more sensors
- do you need a completely sealed unit because of dust, sand or salt (Orion)
- do you want to hook up to a computer and/or upload your station to the internet
- do you want to store your weather data permanently to your computer
- might you desire home automation or irrigation control now or in the future
- are quality, dependability & accuracy important? If so, what can you "handle" in inaccuracy and how much are you willing to pay? The less you pay, the less of each you get.
- Write down the maximum you want to spend.
- If you are looking for a full featured weather station, stick to High Precision Stations & Professional Stations.
- If you are looking for a limited temp only or outdoor temp and humidity station, look under Temperature Stations.
- If you want an accurate, long range wireless, interference free, durable station, you must choose from High Precision Weather Stations.
- If you choose from any other category, do not be surprised if wind and humidity report low or if temps and humidity vary a bit more than you might like. From our observations of the weather stations side by side for years, it is our opinion that the most predictable shortcomings occur in the under $300.00, Chinese manufactured stations. From our daily observations, we see them regularly reporting wind speed averages that are far too low to reflect what you can see and feel outside, and humidity readings that are often 8pts plus or minus. Chinese manufactured stations to which we are referring include but are not necessarily limited to La Crosse, Oregon Scientific, Honeywell, Meade, Springfield, Taylor, Acurite, Chaney, Thermor, Sharper Image, Radio Shack, Ambient, and Zephyr.
- High precision stations DO NOT have atomic clocks. They have manual set, digital clocks for time stamping of data. Most high precision manufacturers consider an atomic clock to be somewhat of a novelty and have chosen to spend their resources on what they consider crucial elements that lend more accuracy and durability.
- Do you need a computer interface with software? If so, most Pro Stations have this ability as an option. Temp stations do not. La Crosse Pro Stations are now equipped with Wireless to PC USB (WS-2810 and WS-2811, WS-2812). Davis has a USB or Serial option and they have now released the 6555IP software with a direct ethernet connection to the internet. RainWise, Capricorn & Orion are Serial. NOTE: We DO NOT recommend the 6555IP, also called "WeatherLink IP." With this software, you may not ever choose to upload to your own personal website or other sites that Davis does not configure or allow. It does, however, allow for a 24/7 connection to the Davis WeatherLink web site, even if your computer is turned off. But given that you should NOT ever turn off your computer, we strongly recommend the Davis 6510 WeatherLink software. The only site to which you cannot upload is Davis' own WeatherLink site. The rest of the world is wide open with the 6510. And it's half the cost of the 6555.
- Honeywell & Oregon Scientific are feeling much more like distant memories now. The OSI WMR200 is a complete bust in our opinion. We have withdrawn it from our offerings. Honeywell sold to Meade Telescopes and the new customer support policy was not acceptable to us. Oregon Scientific's policies for warranty and support are equally troubling to us, so much so that we are recommending against the purchase of their products. The newest OSI WMR300 costs as much as a comparably equipped Davis unit. So, what's the point of accepting what we believe to be a much lesser station for relatively equivalent dollars spent.
- Do you want a regular backlight, EL backlight, LEDs or the red luminescent back light? Or is no backlight OK? All Pro and High Precision stations are back lit one way or another. If you want an "always-on" display, most Professional Stations and High Precision Stations have a backlight, although the lower priced Chinese manufactured units may not. RainWise is the only LED console that can be seen from across a large room from any angle.
- Almost all the units come with a one year warranty. RainWise comes with a 5 year warranty on its solar panel and battery; 2 years on everything else. If the amount you are spending is a disposable amount in your mind, warranty is not an issue. If this is a lot of money to you, warranty should be a big issue.
- MADE IN THE USA? Only Davis, RainWise, Columbia Weather (Capricorn, Magellan, Orion, Pegasus). All others including Honeywell are made in China predominantly. Only a scant few are from Europe and they're as bad as the Chinese units in our opinion. European nautical weather and time products remain an excellent choice (nautical barometers, barographs, analog nautical temperature and humidity gauges).
- Are you shopping for value which is the most features for the dollar, or are you shopping for the highest quality and accuracy in a product? If you don't mind 5-8 degrees, a 4-8% RH variance or a 20%-40% too low of reporting in wind speed mph's, then the value priced, Chinese stations are an excellent choice. But if you're a even somewhat particular about data accuracy, stick with the high precision stations. Remember that if your wind speed is off and your temperature is off, your wind chill reading is useless! And if your temperature is off and humidity is off, your heat index and dew point are worthless!
- Will you maybe enjoy expanding your system at a later date with more air, soil or water temperature probes? Soil moisture or leaf wetness sensors? Solar Radiation and/or UV sensors? Home automation like fans, motorized shutters, automatic sprinkler or irrigation control? Make sure the system you choose is one that will accomodate your current and future needs. Most La Crosse pro stations and the RainWise MKIII are closed systems; not expandable. All Davis, except the Vantage Vue are easily epxandable with readily available sensors. RainWise, too. In general, Capricorn & Orion can be "pre-expanded", that is, many additional sensors can be configured but these must be ordered in advance.
- Wired or Wireless? Not much of an issue anymore unless you live near high tension power lines. But atmospheric bounces, nearby radio or TV broadcast antennas, cell phone towers/repeaters, emergency services departments, hospitals, military bases or SETI sites can cause electromagnetic, electrostatic and/or RF generated interference(s). All units running a 433mhz or lower are much more susceptible to interference than are the relatively impervious Davis, RainWise, Capricorn, Pegasus, Magellan & Orion systems with their combination of power and frequency. Davis' 1000ft/300m range and its 900-928mhz frequency hopping technology and the RainWise 2.4ghz systems have not encountered interference issues ever with us! Even the Rainwise 418mhz system has never been victimized by interference. In our experience, a cable connection may be necessary if you are planning to use a 433mhz device in an interference prone area. But the scant-shielded cabled systems of today seem to be more susceptible to lightning induced interference, except for the scientific quality cabling of Capricorn, Pegasus, Magellan & Orion systems. So, unless you choose Columbia or unless you are forced to, GO WIRELESS!
- Will it drive you nuts if you are experiencing 40-50mph winds outside but your non-Davis, non-RainWise, non-Columbia Weather station says 28mph outside? We hear this as a common complaint, that is, the wind speed reported is SUBSTANTIALLY lower in lower priced stations. And from our personal experience, our opinion is that the customer complaints are valid. How can this be when the less expensive units claim + or - 3% or better? What if the specs were true but were based on a less than accurate, power saving methodology? What if the + or - spec is based on that methodology's performance instead of comparing to the "real" wind outside? If that will not drive you nuts, then you can get a wonderful, full featured weather station by any of our manufacturers at any price level. No joke. But if variances from reality will drive you nuts, please choose a high precision station!
- If your weather station is for business, government, public or private safety or investment (i.e. wind generator), please choose a high precision station. If you are going to be basing critical decisions on the data, please choose accordingly. If safety is involved, please consider at the least a Davis unit which can be individually certified with a NIST certificate which is good for one year from date of calibration and can be re-calibrated as you may need or require.
- Some folks are quite concerned with the maximum wind velocity that can be captured by their weather station. Generally, this issue is moot. Because when the wind is sustained at 80mph with Gusts to 120mph+, debris begins flying. Serious debris. Your Davis or RainWise could measure up to 150+. but realistically, high speed debris will contact and destroy the sensor between 100-130mph max. The Capricorn system has a steel, high performance anemometer option to help resist debris field damages, but at some point, as we've seen in Tornadoes and Hurricanes, nothing survives in one piece. An ultrasonic Orion would be the most likely to survive. But at 100mph+, branches, boards, RVs, and flying cows can ruin anything.
- If you want evaporation rate: Davis, RainWise, Capricorn, Pegasus, Magellan & Orion. If you want UV, see all Davis Vantage Pro2 Plus, 6162, 6163.
- If you want a big, easy to read screen, see the Davis Vantage Pro2 and the exceptionally easy to read RainWise MK-III. The La Crosse 2810, 2811, 2812, 2813, and 2815 have been discontinued and are no longer available.
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