Usually I wait until November to discuss getting a weather station for Christmas, but with the prices of computerized parts continuing to get cheaper and our Canadian dollar getting closer to par, these weather stations are becoming more affordable each day. Another issue our Christmas shoppers must deal with is that the best deals on these weather stations seem to come from U. S. businesses, which means a few extra days for shipping.
Last year I did a rundown of what features home-based weather stations have, but each year it seems we see more weather stations designed for the home user. Once upon a time, there were only a couple of weather stations from which to choose. At the top end they were way too expensive, and at the bottom end they were simply too cheap. Today there are so many different good weather stations that it is becoming hard to choose between them.
As with most things, money will usually buy you quality, keep this in mind when you see a $50 or $75 complete home weather station in your local box store. I’m not saying they are necessarily bad, but you often will get what you pay for.
WHAT TO LOOK FOR
What exactly makes up a weather station? The first and probably most important parts are the sensors. Complete weather stations will consist of an anemometer (measures wind speed and wind direction), some kind of self-emptying rain gauge, along with temperature, humidity and barometric pressure sensors. Most weather stations will also measure indoor temperature and humidity. Some higher-end weather stations will include solar radiation, UV, and additional temperature and humidity sensors, leaf wetness, and soil moisture.
Once you have these sensors there are a number of other weather parameters that can be calculated such as: dew point, wind chill, heat index, and evapotranspiration. Most stations include a display console which will display the data for you to see, and some stations will also include a data logger that allows you to send the data to a computer.
The display console or data logger communicates with the sensors through cables (wires) or cable-free (wireless) transmission. The console records the highs and lows, provides programmable alarms, and often connects to a personal computer for advanced data collection and graphical analysis. Software can connect to the Internet, create web pages, send email alerts, post data to free weather servers, and integrate weathercam images. All-in-all, they can pretty much do almost anything you want them to do.
When choosing a weather station there are a few things you need to watch. This year, instead of discussing all of these features I have included a handy chart that I adapted from the www.ambientweather.comwebsite.
This is the most comprehensive list of weather stations that I’ve seen. To fit everything on this page, I had to eliminate most of the data displayed in the table and I also dropped off some the more expensive stations. The dark green dots signify the best rating, followed by light green, yellow, and then red. Prices are in U. S. dollars and you will need to add a few more dollars to account for shipping and handling fees (I hate to say it, but it is usually still cheaper than buying local). By the way, I have no association with this website beside the fact that I buy my weather stations from them; I do not get any special discounts. They simply carry the largest selection of weather stations that I have found.
Next issue we’ll step away from high-tech weather stations and look at what’s available for those of you interested in more traditional weather instruments.