Home Weather Stations

Every year I get a few emails wondering what kind of home weather station a person should get for someone for Christmas.  

I thought about this today as I was up on the roof of Corbett Grade School (finally) replacing the 8 year old Davis Vantage Pro station with a Vantage Pro2.  It went very well since it was the exact same clamps and setup.  Do you know how hard it is to get a dry day, WITH little or no wind this time of year in that location?  I’ve been waiting weeks for the chance.  You can see the gap in data here while it was getting replaced.  I’m pleasantly surprised at what good shape it is still in considering the extreme conditions (constant winter wind and frequent glazing by freezing rain).  Still fully functional.  The newer instrument has wireless range that should allow it to reach farther into the school.  Big plans to put a nice display in there for all the kids.

So here are a few thoughts on home weather stations…

1.  It’s a great hobby and nowadays most stations (some with an extra cost) can post the data to the internet via CWOP.  Weather Underground also takes home weather station info, but that doesn’t get into the vast data stream CWOP  is part of.

2.  The cheapest basic stations you can buy at Fred Meyer, Costco, or other large stores like that.  Some will only be in the $150 dollar range.  Be careful though, I’d say anything that’s less than $200 may die on you at some point.  I really do think you GENERALLY get what you pay for when it comes to weather equipment.

3.  If you have the money, once you get up in the $300 dollar range, you can get some really nice stuff.  In fact for the average person interested in weather, I see no reason to spend more than $500.  The new weather sensor at Corbett was about $500, which included the $120 or so for the Weatherlink data logger.  www.ambientweather.com is one place to see lots of different weather sensors.  There is a bewildering assortment of stations there.  I’ve used www.provantage.com and only had good experience with price, shipping, and delivery. 

The only 3 brands I’ve had personal experience with are Maximum (first anemometer way back in 1985), Davis Instruments, and Peet Brothers. 

-Maximum has real high-quality stuff, but I’ve never used any of their digital equipment. 

-Peet Brothers hasn’t changed their line much in 10 years as far as I’m aware.  I have the Ultimeter 2100 at home; it’s NOT wireless, but has been very reliable.  With today’s technology I think wireless is the way to go, so that would cross them off the list unless they are moving up into the wireless world.  Jim Little and I originally used these sensors when we made a small little metro area weather network in the 1990s.  That was before anything other than airport observations were available.  How exciting it was to see Estacada, Forest Grove, Corbett, and Aloha show up on the map every hour!  Seems a bit mundane now, but remember we actually had spotters call their reports in each day!  That really seems old now.

-Davis Instruments had a bad reputation in my mind back in the 90s.  I don’t think they deserved it.  I worked for a weather forecasting company around 1991-1993.  We installed some of the Weather Monitor sensors for ODOT out on Cabbage Hills in Pendleton and throughout the Gorge since we were forecasting for windsurfers.  No real internet back then, so we dialed them up by modem.  What a pain!  The modems never seemed to work for more than a few weeks, then someone would have to go out and turn them off and back on.  I remember the farmer with the truly MASSIVE dog halfway up Emigrant Hill (the only house you can see winding up the long grade) telling me next time we had to disrupt his wheat harvest to reset a “G-D” modem that we could yank it out of there.  I never returned, fearing for my life.  The last 10 years though, as mentioned earlier, those Davis Vantage Pro and now VP2 instruments have done a stellar job.  So next time I get a new one at home it’ll be one of those.

If you have thoughts or experiences with weather stations (good or bad), please go ahead and comment, otherwise keep discussion of weather off this post please.

Chief Meteorologist Mark Nelsen

57 Responses to Home Weather Stations

  1. Timmy - scappoose says:

    My thoughts on snow tonight.
    Pdx-dls is up to -9mb great sign
    Scappoose and other wind-sheltered areas are near freezing. The dls just dropped to freezing.
    It is 8 pm, we have at least 10 hours of no radiational heating.
    Bring on the precip.

  2. Boydotwo221' says:

    Mark, my brother I had a very reliable anemometer/weather station. It was a Lionel Weather Station circa 1960. To determine the wind velocity you had to count how many tiimes the flashlight bulb on the base station blinked in so many seconds.

    The anemometer was blown off the roof one early evening on 12 October 1960. The light bulb was flashing so fast we couldn’t count. Then all of a sudden………..nothing. We went outside to check and it was missing from the roof!

    That of course was the famous Columbus day storm.

    I now have a Peet Bros 2100 weather station that works fine. One thing they eed to improve is the fact that you have to keep your computer on in order to log data. There is no battery to back up to download it later.

    • Fred482 says:

      The weather vane flew off our barn roof too, along with part of the roof. There was roofing and siding stuck in the big fir trees for years after that one. I thought it was cool because we got out of high school to help clean up for several days. The down side was we didn’t have power back on for three weeks.

      I do hope you meant 12Oct62 and not 60, if so I missed another one.

    • Boydotwo221' says:

      The weather station was 1960 vintage

  3. Fishinhappyrock says:

    Can anyone explain why Hillsboro is so much colder than PDX? Right now Hillsboro is reporting 28 degrees and Portland is reporting 41 degrees.

    • oregonalex says:

      That’s a bogus reading. It was more like 40 at 11. It is off topic here, but yes, you are right, Hillsboro is usually the coldest spot in the PDX metro area. When I moved to Oregon twenty years ago, I specifically picked Hillsboro because I was interested in growing subtropical plants and assumed that Hillsboro, being closer to the coast, would feel some moderating effect of the ocean. Boy was I wrong. It was not until I got my weather station (to get back on topic) that I realized how bad Hillsboro really was coldwise. It is frequently 10 degrees colder than PDX airport at night. On the positive side, it does not rain here as much and the sun is out more. That probably explains the cold partly – there is more radiant cooling at night. The Tualatin valley is also a large pool of cold air between the Coast range and the Portland hills. These are my assumptions, I’d love to hear more informed opinions.

      Mark always picks on poor Hillsboro in his nightly lows forecasts and unfortunately for me he is usually right.

  4. bill holbert says:

    I live in Washougal at 571 foot elevation 2 miles from Columbia River. I have a Rainwise System with sensors in an Instrument shelter with a fan in the shelter. It has been very reliable with weather view system on a dummy computer. I also have a system from Novalynx ( Sacramento) three Meters wired.The Rainwise is wireless. These sensors are in a powered shelter.Very Accurate. All in all I have been very satisfied with reliability.I also had Maximum stuff many years ago. My first Meter was a Danforth white Thermometer I bought in the early 1960’s. Also had a Cape Cod Wind Guage and direction indicator. It was donated to Clackamas Community College Environmental studies at the observatory when Jerry Hermann was there.

  5. N3EG says:

    I have a vintage Heathkit ID-5001 from 1987 that has been rebuilt a few times. The dead fluorescent backlight was replaced with LEDs 3 times since 2003, one humidity sensor, one temp sensor, and the rain gauge have been replaced, and it needs recalibration twice a year – but it’s still working and sending out good data. It was salvaged from a local government entity who replaced it with a Davis that has been trouble-free for 7 years.

    I also have two WMR9-something units with sensors – one complete for $65 from Surplus Gizmos in Beaverton and one from the local Goodwill for $7.99. These have had the wireless links drop out so often while testing that I’m thinking of retrofitting them for wired operation before using them.

  6. Fred482 says:

    Good job on the info, Mark. Thanks, it’s timely for sure. I started with an Oregon Scientific WMR968, a Christmas gift from Pam some years ago. It worked well until battery/solar panel problems developed, due to inadequate sealing properties of the cases. Moisture problems inside the box, corrosion of battery terminals, etc. The solar panel finally developed cracks in the surface, rendering it inoperative.

    I replaced it with a Davis Vantage Pro2 wireless unit a couple of years ago. It works well and seems accurate, no problems with the console. The remote Anemometer station went out recently. Inspection found a loose battery contact in the circuit board, a cold solder joint. I purchased a spare unit, installed it and sent the original to Davis for repairs. It’s just out of warranty, of course!

    The FD uses Davis at the main station in Silverton, an old model but still functional. I’m used to the controls and the display, which prompted me to invest in the Davis unit at home. Small glitches aside, I like the unit and would recommend it to others.

  7. chiefWright says:

    Are there any weather instruments with integrated internet and no display? When I get a station, I’d prefer one that sends data directly to the internet without my PC in the middle. Wired ethernet to my DSL modem would be fine; the modem is always on. I prefer to keep all PC’s off unless they’re in use, and I don’t need a display as I would get my own data thru CWOP or Wunderground as I do today with existing data.

  8. HoodRiver says:

    Mark, I notice that the Corbett school weather station is using WeatherView32 display software. That’s the software I’ve been using with my Davis stations for years now. Pretty graphics, but spendy, and tech support (at least for me) has been spotty. I started using it mostly because it has built in historical climate databases for thousands of cities, and I wanted to have that information on my Hood River weather web site.

    Is anyone else here using WeatherView32?

  9. k5mitch says:

    I bought a Lacrosse WS2308 @ Costco back in 2005 it served we well for the first few years, then the rain gauge stopped working, I fixed that. Now I am getting wind spikes which is a common problem with this unit. There is a fix by replacing the original wire with shielded cat 5 cable but I’m not going to do that. I have found if I run a ground wire from the negative battery terminal to earth ground I do not get wind spikes. I will wait for this unit to completely die and buy a Davis.

  10. Mountain Man says:

    My 2009 Davis VP2 is awesome. Wireless model is advised plus you can buy secondary temp sensors if your best spot for temp is not your best spot for accurate precip. measurements. My old Davis pro (about 8 years old like the one mark took down) never skipped a beat until a 3-4 inch diameter branch from 50 ft. away slammed into it almost exactly one year ago. I live in a forested mountainous area of the Gorge (Western Skamania County) so a casualty from a stray branch is bound to happen now and then out here. Though I have been too lazy to put my station online, some great software is available for this station.

  11. ShutUpandBeHappy says:

    I have had an Oregon Scientific WMR 968 since 2003. I know they don’t have the best reputation, but it’s done pretty well for me. I was even running on original lithium batteries until recently. This year, I did have the transmitter go out on my temp sensor, but I was able to buy a replacement on eBay for about $45 and it’s been flawless ever since.

    I have noticed that the temp sensor is prone to reading hot, but that’s probably partially due to where I have it set up. The only downside of solar powered wireless sensors is that the transmitter unit needs good sun to work, while the temp sensor needs to be hidden in the shade away from heat absorbers to get an accurate reading.

    The only other negative is that the anemometer doesn’t register short gusts real well. I’ve done some testing with it and it definitely takes a 5-6 seconds of sustained wind speed to register. If the gust is less than that, it doesn’t register the full velocity of it. I think the fastest speed I’ve ever registered is only 33 mph and it’s mounted on a 10 foot pole above my roof on a SW facing slope with no trees in the vicinity. I’m pretty sure there have been stronger winds than just 33 mph.

    That being said, I really do enjoy it even if I lose a little resolution. I bought this station for ~$300 and it’s been great most of the time. I also have it plugged into an old computer and I can give you specific details for any minute at my house for most of the last 7 years. It’s always fun to go back and look up old events and compare extremes.

    I recommend one to any weather geek. Lots of fun!

  12. Robert in Hazel Dell says:

    I have a LaCrosse WS-2316 I received as a gift 3 years ago this Christmas. I believe it was about $100 from Costco at the time. It has worked great for a first weather station. I have uploaded to Weather Underground, CWOP, and NOAA’s Mesowest site (http://www.wrh.noaa.gov/mesowest/mwmap.php?map=portland) through CWOP since I got it. The measurements have all been right in line with surrounding stations, so I feel pretty confident in the accuracy of it.

    The unit did not come with an aspirator fan, however, and the only location I could put it on my house was on the SE corner which received some direct sun. Being that this was my first weather station, I didn’t want to put a lot of money into it, so I built a very inexpensive Stevenson Screen/Radiation Shield that has worked quite well (http://sites.google.com/site/hazeldellweather/wxstationshield).

    All things considered, I have been very pleased with the unit for a “get your feet wet” weather system, although I’m sure I’ll upgrade whenever it finally dies.

  13. Runrain says:

    Never thought 55 deg could feel so balmy. Just arrived in Phoenix. Looking for low 70’s early next week.

  14. Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

    oh, forgot to mention. Need to clean the spiders out of the rain gauge now and then 🙂

  15. Heisson Rob says:

    I have a LaCrosse 2310, which was sold with “The Weather Channel branding 5 years ago. I run it wirelessly and send updates to CWOP and Weather Underground. It’s OK, but not wonderful. The wind gauge freezes up easily, the rain gauge needs cleaning twice a year, and there seems to be some irregularity with its humidity reading. Oh, and the wind gauge doesn’t do gusts.

    I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t jealous of those with a Davis Vantage Pro 2. I’m going to get one of those when this one dies, and there are days that I consider throwing a rock at this one to try to accelerate it’s death. 🙂

  16. sounds like mr.davis
    should be a very wealthy man by now:)

  17. PaulB/Eugene says:

    I got my very first weather station in 1978 and set it up in our front yard in Vancouver…remember having it get encased in ice during the great ’79 silver thaw..was wondering how to get the anemometer to work again…this was a cheap dial/analog deal….

    22 years later I bought an Oregon Scientific WMR 968?…..sensors kept dying on me…sure enough it failed just in time for the South Valley Surprise in 2002. Decided to junk the darn thing and…

    Used VISA to buy the Vantage Pro2. Have been entirely happy with it ever since. Would recommend the fan aspirated model if you are able to get it so that you don’t have to worry too much about getting invalid readings. If you have a Mac computer..then you would want to download Lightsoft Weather Center software to upload data to the web (CWOP, wunderground, etc).

    Someday, hope to do what Mark has done and set up a Davis on rooftop of our kids’ elementary school.

    • PaulB/Eugene says:

      Forgot to mention the Davis Weather Monitor that we had across from Gabriel Park in SW PDX from 95-99…..was a wired model but held up….it survived the Dec 95 storm…only had peak gust of 49mph on that one.

  18. Well,
    The NWS Portland is putting the snow curse on us again. I am willing to bet just about any amount of money that this forecast is going to be a bust.

    http://forecast.weather.gov/MapClick.php?zoneid=ORZ006

  19. Boydo3 500' North Albany says:

    Mine’s a Davis Weather Wizard something. Pretty happy with it. Had it for 15 years. I had to replace the reed switch in the rain gauge once and lube the anemometer. It has an interface for wiring to the computer too (never done that).

  20. Josh "The Snowman" From Everett, WA says:

    Davis is the way to go!!!!!

  21. oregonalex says:

    I’ve also had wireless Davis Vantage Pro 2 for the past five years.

    I tried to save a few bucks and got the cheaper version with only the daytime fan aspiration kit. The daytime kit was woefully inadequate – the temperature was frequently several degrees off. I quickly upgraded to the 24-hour fan aspirated unit, which has worked well except for a few minor snafus.

    The most important factor for a satisfactory experience with (any) weather station is proper siting. The weather station itself needs to be sited where it can be easily accessed for maintenance and away from structures and concrete, with full sun exposure all day and any time of year.

    The anemometer really wants to be as high as possible above any obstacles such as houses, nearby trees etc.
    I had to get a separate anemometer transmitter and put the anemometer above my roof to get any meaningful wind measurements.

    In any case, having a weather station, especially with a direct feed of the data to my PC has changed my life. I very much recommend it to anyone with the slightest interest in the natural world.

  22. RobWaltemate says:

    Been using Davis Weather Moniter II since 1996. Had to get a new rain guage about 3 years ago, and I think I replaced the wind direction vane. Also the “modem” that records the data got burned out via lightning once, but the sencond one has been working for a long time. All hooked to a computer via a serial port, and conected to the wunderground using Davis weather software. All said, I am happy with it for as long as it has been abused by the weather here.

  23. 18Z GFS at KTTD — Very heavy rain event after Christmas. 5″+ in 48 hours.

  24. I have the Davis weather wizard III purchased christmas 1995.I also got the Davis add on rain gauge bucket at that time.

    My weather station is 15 years old this next month and still working great.

    • flurball says:

      BGB I think I was in line behind you for that purchase for the same thing 🙂

    • Tyler in Battle Ground says:

      Maybe my dad was in line behind you two? I received my weather wizard III that year and my data records began December 26, 1995.

      My dad had it before the Dec 12th storm and debated giving it to me early lol

  25. Jeff B says:

    I have had a Davis Vantage Pro 2 for four years and it has worked flawlesly for me. It records lots of weather info so you can go back and compare all kinds of temps and wind speeds (and more). It cost about 500$ at fry’s when I bought it and I would definately not get the LaCross or Oregon scientific if you are serious about watching the weather. Now, Davis makes the vantage Vue which is about 250$ and is more geared towards the serious home weather watcher as opposed to the Vantage Pro 2 which is geared toward someone like a nursery owner because it has lots of add-ons like soil moisture sensors, evaporation sensors etc. Hope this helps.

  26. Tyler in Battle Ground says:

    I’ve always had Davis, started with a Weather Wizard III then a vantage pro and now a vantage pro 2. I’ve never had issues, just upgrading. I just set up a new vp 2 at my new house in Battle Ground.

    Current temp is 33.4 with no wind out here.

  27. oldwxwatcher says:

    I’ve had a Vantage Pro for about five years. It performed flawlessly until this past Spring when the 1 Farad capacitor in the remote unit failed. Since that is charged by the solar cell and is what mainly powers the unit, the CR123 backup battery discharged pretty quickly. Fortunately, my favorite electronic parts house, All Electronics, had an exact replacement capacitor for only $3.50 so I ordered one and was back in business in about a week.

  28. Dave in SW PDX (300') says:

    I need a weather station that is compatible with Mac OSX. I think the Davis Vantage series and their Weatherlink software is Mac-friendly…

  29. flurball says:

    I’ve had a Davis Wizard III for at least 13 years now. Twice in that time hit “tilt” and I’ve had to unplug it for a while and reset but otherwise it has been great. No internet hook up of course but it was fine for what it had and what was available at the time.

    I look forward to upgrading to the wireless and my wife will appreciate the lack of holes in the wall to lead it outside. Merry Christmas baby.

  30. Davis Vantage Pro 2 is great, spring for the fan aspirated unit…

    Possible mountain wave event unfolding for late friday nite/Saturday AM up here in east King County.

  31. Derek Hodges says:

    I’ve never had a good experience with oregon scientific or some of the other low grade models. I agree with mark, you get what you pay for. Go for the Davis, thats going to be my next investment.

  32. homer55 says:

    Can anyone tell me the name of the phenomena we are seeing right now with our moon…it has a huge ring around it and I’m just curious if there is a name for it.

  33. Linda (Vancouver) says:

    I bought a Davis Weather Wizard way back in 1988 or 89 and I’ve never had a problem with it. I paid $195 for it back then and thought that was outrageous…LOL! It is capable of hookup to the computer, but I never got in to that beings I not that smart in the computer world. Anyway, I’ve been very please with my Davis product and would recommend them highly, simply because it’s never give me any problems and is accurate. If the one I have dies, I will most definitely replace it with another Davis.

  34. MasterNate says:

    I have had Oregon Scientific and I now have a La Crosse. The Oregon Scientific worked well for about a year but the solar aspect didnt last. The La Crosse wind guage never worked from the start and still doesnt. I am inbetween emails on a replacement. Other than that every thing else on it works great. I purchased both from Costco at great prices. Im going all out on my next station and will pay more money for less problems or better tech support. I would like to post online from my location. Hope this helps.

    • Jethro (Molalla ~320') says:

      My La Crosse worked great for about a year, but then the anemometer quit working, and a few months after that the thermometer quit working. I’ve decided I’m going to save my pennies for a nice Davis unit.

  35. ..too much!!!…Mark, I had a run-in with that guy and his dog back then; different project, different reasons…he was a grumpy sort…!!!

  36. Vegan's Nightmare says:

    Spot on Mark. I’ve had 3 different “weather stations” over the past 6 years in the $50 to $100 range for a total of $200+. They’re all dead. Spend the money to get a good one so you don’t have to do it a 4th time.

  37. Snowhound says:

    I finally know what to ask Santa for now.

  38. Dave in SW PDX (300') says:

    Thanks for the great info, Mark. I’ve been comparison shopping for a home weather station for a while now and your post will make the decision easier for me.

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