Perhaps you live in an area that has microclimates or where professional weather stations of the Federal Aviation Administration and National Weather Service are rare. Perhaps you are a weather geek and can decipher Skew-T plots. Paul Goodloe or Alex Wilson might be your favorite celebrity crush.
It doesn’t matter how close you are to the weather, so long as your interest in it is reasonable, and your ability to maintain a weather station outside your home, you can reap the benefits of having one.
Donaher says that “Tracking the weather over time…helps to give a better understanding of the climate and trends.” She also points out that sharing your local weather data with others can help meteorologists gain a better understanding when major weather events occur.
However, there are some caveats. Peters gave me some tips for installing the stations that we tested. He said, “The problem for almost everyone who wants one is that most residential areas do not have the right spot for the equipment to be properly positioned for wind observations.
My station is about 6 feet high
“ My station is about 6 feet high, and the surrounding trees tower 40 feet above it. I also know that my wind observations will not be as accurate than those from the Shelby County Airport weather station located about 5.5 miles away.
You won’t be able place your weather station correctly, so it is likely that you won’t. Accurate wind measurements require an anemometer at 10 meters (32.8ft) above the ground.
The distance to any obstruction must be at least 10ft. Guidelines for accurate temperature measurements are not less difficult. These considerations shouldn’t stop you from purchasing a personal weather station. Peters stated that this is not a problem.
However, it is important to make sure you are aware of any potential problems and minimize them. As long as you have a decent siting, you will get better localized information than your favorite weather app.
This guide focuses on models that are suitable for beginners. No matter what their level of interest, most people we talked to wanted to spend $200-300 on a good weather station.
However, they were almost all uncomfortable between $500 and $600. A higher price tag than $600 will get you better quality and greater accuracy, especially in wind and rain measurements. However, most people don’t have to spend that much to get into weather stations.
How did we pick?
- We began by looking into Weather Underground’s PWS Network. Next, we selected a few key locations across the US and took note of the weather stations that appeared most often.
- This gave us an idea of the brands and models that weather enthusiasts use. To get a better idea of which models are most recommended and why, we then looked at Weather Underground’s Weather Station Wiki.
- Interviews were also conducted with close to a dozen acquaintances and friends, coast-to-coast, who either own personal weather stations or are interested in purchasing their hardware.
- After whittling down the list to 16 models, it was time to look into user reviews. Based on the above, we came up with a few key criteria that would help us decide which weather stations to test, and how to judge them.
- Connectivity: Although Reddit posts, user reviews and other evidence suggested that wireless weather stations could be unstable, no one we interviewed wanted the hassle of wiring. We focused our attention on wireless systems, and tried to stress-test all stations brought in for evaluation.
- Accuracy, sensitivity and precision: It can be difficult to get the most accurate meteorological data measurements, especially when you are collecting them all from one place.
- We therefore compared data from weather stations (especially all-in one units) with measurements from an outdoor thermometer and a physical rain gauge.
- This was especially true on rainy days and bright afternoons when direct heat from the sun or heat reflection could cause outdoor sensors to have temperatures that are higher than the ambient temperature.
- According to user reviews, the most important issue with affordable weather stations that we reviewed was their ability to withstand the elements. Your weather station can freeze or bake depending on where you live. Sometimes, even both at once. Long-term testing is the best way to tell the truth. We therefore focused our research and testing on quality of build and materials.
- Easy of use: Good weather stations can be used almost continuously. Each station we evaluated presented their historical data in a different way.
- Some stations focus on a large-picture overview while others offer high-resolution snapshots that are minute-by-minute. We weighed ease of access against the depth and detail in archival data. We appreciated models that were simple to use, even though they didn’t have the easiest setup.
- Customer service: While you are likely to encounter problems with any complex scientific instrument at some point, all of our picks performed well during testing.
- We reviewed customer reviews to see how companies dealt with customers who had problems. We also called customer service anonymously with problems (or in the case for one model that we didn’t test, real issues) and to see how they were resolved.
- These criteria allowed us to reduce our 16-strong list to just four models that we wanted to test.
- Davis Instruments’ Vantage Vue wireless device, which includes WeatherLinkIP data loggers and software packages for online data logging.
A modular, accurate weather station
The Netatmo is one of the most simple weather stations to install and use. It also offers affordable add-on modules that provide a reliable overview of local weather trends.
This Netatmo addon uses ultrasonic sensors, which are not used in most wind gauges.
This rain gauge is small enough to be placed almost anywhere. It can also be calibrated to give more accurate rainfall measurements, which is a rare feature for this price range.
The Netatmo Weather Station with its add-on Wind Gauge/Rain Gauge proved to be the easiest to set up and use. It also provides an accurate and reliable big-picture overview on local weather trends.
The modular design of the Netatmo Weather Station makes it stand out among other weather stations. It allows you to place sensors in the most convenient locations and expand the system easily with additional sensors.
The Netatmo system is not one large integrated sensor suite. It is made up of smaller wireless modules that can be carried in one hand. The main Weather Station has two components: one indoor, one outdoor. Each of the Wind Gauge or Rain Gauge are separate units.
The modules don’t need to be placed in the same spot. You can, and should, place the outdoor sensor for temperature, humidity and dew point under a cover or patio cover, the wind gauge on your rooftop antenna, if you have one, and the rain gauge in an open area.
It’s simple to place each sensor where it will most accurately collect data.
Netatmo’s big picture measurements were more precise than we anticipated. High and low temperatures data, as well as sustained wind measurements, were all right on target.
The Weather Station is very easy to set up. It doesn’t even require the paper instructions that it comes with. Installation is done entirely through the app. It takes just a few clicks to pair the indoor module (which measures indoor temperature, humidity, barometric pressure, CO2 levels and indoor temperature) with the outdoor modules.
However, the main outdoor module must be protected from the elements. This is the only caveat. It’s easy to add the separate Wind Gauge or Rain Gauge to your app. They are also small and battery-operated so mounting them is easy. (Heh.)
The Rain Gauge and Wind Gauge mounts are made using a 1/4″-20 threaded camera screw. Although Netatmo sells mounts, we found that clamping GoPro mounts were more effective and cost-effective.
The modules were placed near the other stations during rainy and windy testing to ensure that conditions are similar. However, the clamping mounts made it possible to experiment with positioning at other times.
We never saw the signal strength drop below three bars at any point during testing.
Netatmo has the best interface among all weather apps we tested. With a simple swipe of your finger, you can access the current indoor and outdoor conditions as well as your local forecast for the next seven days. It is easy to switch from a snapshot of current conditions to a historical overview by simply rotating your smartphone from landscape to portrait orientation.
The Netatmo has a unique, smart-home feel. This is due to its modern user interface and intuitive navigation.
Although it doesn’t integrate with SmartThings smart-home hubs, such as SmartThings SmartThings SmartThings SmartThings SmartThings SmartThings SmartThings SmartThings SmartHome Hubs, it can pair with Alexa and has a robust IFTTT channel.
Being a weather geek, I found the app and Netatmo Web portal didn’t allow me to do the deep dives I wanted. However, most of our guests and family members who tested the system said it was able to provide a big-picture overview that they were most interested in.
It’s also easier than any other system to connect to the system via the smartphone app. Simply tap the switch labeled Contribute WeatherMap and you’re done. While we didn’t encounter any problems during testing, Netatmo customer service was contacted quickly to resolve an invented networking issue.
The help section on the company’s website will answer most questions about the system. Additionally, the hardware is covered under a limited warranty of one year.
The Netatmo system was excellent at picking up weather conditions, but it was not always as sensitive to changes in temperature or precipitation as the Davis Instruments station. For example, on March 22nd we experienced a series rapid temperature drops which in the records of other picks accurately appeared as a succession stairsteps.
The Netatmo sensors failed to cool down quickly enough to capture these stairsteps. Instead, they reported a steady decline.
- The Netatmo system missed some moments of wind, but it did capture sustained winds. It also reported a few tenths an inch less on the accumulated rain on the rainiest day. This was pre-calibration.
- Although the Netatmo rain gauge was closer to the Davis and our actual rain gauge, we couldn’t get them to match up perfectly.
- The Netatmo system isn’t as durable as the Davis Instruments Vantage Vue. We love the fact that the Netatmo’s wind gauge measures are made using four ultrasonic transducers instead of the more traditional vane and spinning cup approach. This should help reduce wear and tear on moving parts.
- However, the Netatmo system and the rain gauge still feel like sub-$100 devices. The modular system’s design means that if components wear out or are damaged, they can easily be replaced without having to completely re-engineer your weather-monitoring system.
- Upgrade pick: Davis Instruments Vantage Vue Wireless
- This pick is worth its higher price because it has a better build quality than Netatmo, more sensitive rain and wind measurements and more frequently updated data. It’s too expensive for most people.
- The Davis solution, unlike most other weather stations that we tested, requires this separately-purchased add-on to log online weather data.
- The Davis Instruments 6250 vantage Vue Wireless Weather Station is an excellent choice if you are looking for a weather station that can be used to dig into meteorological data in the area and provide accurate data.
- This station is the only one that we tested to earn Weather Underground’s “gold star” status. It has passed all quality-control tests. It is more complicated than the Netatmo’s and costs more.
- The Vantage Vue wireless temperature measurement system was perfect throughout our testing period. The Vantage Vue also showed a greater sensitivity to shorter wind gusts, which was noticeable in comparison to other stations.
- On rainy days, its measurements were consistent with those of the Netatmo, although they differed by 0.01 on average.
- The Vantage Vue also records annual accumulated rain, so these little differences can add up over time. The LCD console refreshes the current weather conditions every few seconds. However, the Netatmo app only reports every four to five minutes.
- We spoke to Weather Station experts who called Davis Instruments the “Cadillac of weather stations.” Although that analogy is a bit dated and clichéd, it’s clear why this company has such a strong reputation. The Vantage Vue is just as M1 Abrams-like as the ATS Coupe.
- Although it may not be as bulletproof and robust as the Davis Wireless Vantage Pro2 most meteorologists love, it is not prohibitively priced.
- If you wish to log your weather data online, the Vantage Vue requires Davis’s WeatherLinkIP software package and data logger. Although the WeatherLinkIP adds some cost, we believe it is worth it, especially for those who are interested in analyzing hyperlocal historical weather data at a very fine level.
- It can be difficult to set up the integrated outdoor sensor suite, indoor platform, and WeatherLink IP. You have to flip between two large instruction manuals, one for each sensor suite and one that is for the indoor console. We found that the Vantage Vue communicates only with a network-connected hub.
- The WeatherLink IP is located inside the back of an indoor wireless console. However, this does not seem to have any effect on connectivity.
- Vantage Vue’s app for mobile is also primarily focused on current measurements. You’ll need a computer to explore the historical data. If precision and durability is what you are looking for, then you will need to spend almost twice as much.
- We have found that the company provides prompt and competent customer service. The company also offers a 1-year warranty.
AcuRite is a cheaper, all-in-one solution that can be set up quickly and features a user-friendly, but cluttered-looking, mobile app.
The AcuRite 01014M weather station is an excellent choice if you are looking for an affordable and all-in-one weather station.
The outdoor unit, like the Davis system, has wind, rain and temperature sensors. It is easy to set up and configure, unlike the Davis. In fact, it was much easier than the Netatmo.
AcuRite Access hub proved reliable and never lost connection to the sensor suite, which is located approximately 70 feet away.
The AcuRite reported temperatures that were 3 to 4 degrees too hot on sunny days. The AcuRite is incredibly well-constructed for its price. However, the materials don’t feel as tough as the Vantage Vue’s. Although the sensor suite feels a bit more durable than the Netatmo module, it still feels great.
The best thing about AcuRite is the fact that you don’t need to log in to your computer to access specific weather data for a particular day, week, or month.
- The mobile interface can be a bit overwhelming and the charts can be difficult to read. It’s great if you need to quickly find out what was the rainiest day of the month or how much precipitation has accumulated between 12:30 and 3:00 on March 11.
- The Netatmo system makes it much more difficult to see past conditions without scrolling. And the Davis’s smartphone app doesn’t allow you to retrieve that kind of archival data.
- AcuRite’s customer support was also excellent. The 01014M system has a one-year limited warranty.
- The BloomSky Sky2 Weather Camera station is a little unusual in the market for weather stations, but we couldn’t resist trying it. The Sky2 is an easy-to-use and well-received solution that measures temperature and humidity, barometric pressure, rainfall rate, and accumulated rainfall amounts.
- The companion Storm Wind & Rain Kit is required to measure wind speed and direction. We loved the Sky2 app, particularly the time-lapse video that shows the sky at the end each day. However, the Storm add-on which elevates BloomSky’s weather-station status is less reliable than the main unit.
- The Storm add-on’s network setup was more difficult than Sky2 and its range was limited. Customer service couldn’t help us to identify an unusual networking problem.
- Worse, the Storm’s solar panel, which charges it, doesn’t seem powerful enough to maintain the battery’s voltage after two cloudy days. This meant we missed wind reports and rain accumulation on the most active meteorological days.
- We wanted to test Ambient Weather’s WS-2922. It’s a great piece of hardware, and almost 90 percent of the user reviews are four- or five-star. We were not allowed to speak with company representatives about the products. However, after reading some of the negative or mixed reviews, we noticed that there were some customer service interactions which gave us cause to pause.
- As we mentioned, both professionals and redditors recommend the Davis Instruments Wireless Vantage Pro2 (24-Hour Fan Aspirated Radiation Shield) as the best solution. The WeatherLinkIP and mounting hardware add to the cost, making it more expensive than our guide.
Similar budget concerns kept us from testing WeatherHawk and RainWise offerings.
The Peet Bros. Ultimeter 2100 was a serious option for us. It has glowing user reviews, and the modular design is fascinating. Although some redditors expressed frustration with the complexity of wiring, almost everyone who was interviewed preferred wireless units.
La Crosse offered several options, but the 330-2315 was our favorite. However, user reviews have shown connectivity issues and an inaccessible indoor console.
Oregon Scientific’s WMR89A & WMR200 almost made it to testing. However, user reviews show that both the connectivity problems, setup difficulties, and accuracy far outweigh any of these positive aspects.
Tycon Systems’s TP2700WC is another budget-friendly option. However, most user reviews are three stars or below. Most cite poor software and connectivity issues.
Other systems that are not explicitly described here were dismissed by us due to a dearth of features considered essential by our experts and current and potential owners of weather stations we interviewed.