A Good Weather Toy For Christmas?

Every year I get a few emails wondering what kind of home weather station a person should get for someone for Christmas.  Now seems like a good time to revisit a post from last December.

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

46 Responses to A Good Weather Toy For Christmas?

  1. I have used Maximum many years ago.Very good quality. I have some Products from Novalynx in Sacramento. Very good stuff. I also purchased a weather Dtation from Columbia systems in Hillsboro. The ket is good maintenance. Always put instruments in a Shelter or Fan aspirated shelter to get best readings. I also had very good luck with an Anemometer from Cape Cod.I also have a Weather station from a company called sensatronics,but they do not produce it any more.It worked very well.

  2. Cliff Gavic 1,100 ft says:

    Interesting on the weather instruments. Back when, I went to captain’s nautical supply in nw Portland and picked up a weather station (Davis?) for $400. I had the opportunity to call in the weather to channels 6 and 2 as a weather watcher from estacada almost daily.

    I moved to an apartment complex where they were remodeling and didn’t warn people. A power surge happened (with no special outlet) and my weather station friieed. Uugghh!

    Mark, if you still have the weather station atop the estacada jr high building, that’s good.

    Otherwise, all the other info coming from the other site 700 feet north of estacada would be inaccurate.

    I have a couple of small stations now with me here in sandy.

  3. Shawn in Scappoose says:

    With the east wind season coming on. Was wondering if anyone had a opinion about a mobile product that I have been looking at. Not sure if I can provide links but google
    VORTEX STORM CHASER™ WINDOW MOUNT ANEMOMETER
    Made by inspeed. I like that fact that this mounts to your window and you can easily take it on and off. Also there is a magnetic mount one that is less expensive, but I have a black vehicle and really worried about scratches with that unit. Plus the Magnetic mount isn’t as tall as this window mount. I think having this thing at crown point would be a blast. What do you guys think?
    There is always someone there in a Mercedes with his moon roof open using a hand held unit, I also thought about that, but might be kind of hard to hold it with your hand, thinking I would miss some gusts doing it that way. Always wondered if that is someone from this blog. Anyhow, I am ready for a east wind party at crown point this year………

    • I have the same hand-held model but I added a length of channel iron to make it about 5′ long. I used it thru the moonroof of my Toyota 4Runner. Seated one end in the console cup tray and the other up thru the roof, then closed the moonroof just enough to hold it in one spot. It works great!

    • Mike didn’t you measure 105?

    • Shawn in Scappoose says:

      Mike that is interesting. I could do that. I will have to think about that. The only thing I wouldn’t like is the readout would be out in the wind right? So you wouldn’t see what that big gust that just rocked your car until you pulled it down.

    • No Tyler, that was not me. My high gust the day all of us weather geeks (and news reporters) were there was 80 next to the steps. I was not there very long.

      Shawn, the actual windspeed meter can be put on the dashboard. You can read it in real-time.

    • Shawn in Scappoose says:

      OK I see.

  4. Steve Pierce says:

    Oregon AMS members, et al:

    Your Oregon AMS executive council will be meeting very soon to plan our chapter meeting topics for January and beyond. Other than the obvious items such as anti-human caused global warming and another meeting on the opposing side, please let us know by 12 noon this Friday, December 2nd of any other topics you would like to see covered at an upcoming AMS meeting. We will follow up on any and all leads you provide us. Please e-mail them to: stevejpierce@comcast.net

    Thanks!

    Steve Pierce
    President, Oregon AMS

  5. WhiteEagle - Garden Home/SW Portland says:

    I still have my good ol’ Oregon Scientific WMR-968 that I bought back in 2006. The base unit still works well, but I’ve gone through several temperature/dewpoint sensors. One of the things I liked about Oregon Scientific is that I had a good relationship with the store manager at Bridgeport, and he was very responsive about fixing any issues I had. Unfortunately the store closed a while back, so that plus is now gone.

    The rain gage works well, but it tips every mm, which means I only get tips every 0.04″. It’s been chugging along for 5 years now. The temp/dew sensors are quite accurate, but again they only last so long. My anemometer crapped out a while back and I’m too lazy to fix it, but it worked well while it worked.

    So you probably get the sense by now the sensors aren’t really built to last.

    If I had enough money for a Davis VantagePro I’d probably spring for it. It’s only a $100-$200 more than the Oregon Scientific and I generally like what I hear about it. Hmm…maybe it’s tiime for Santa to bring me one 🙂

    • dk says:

      I also have a WMR-968 that I bought in 2002. Everything works except the base station has lost it touch screen ability. So I am unable to see max min, wind chill etc. anyone know how to fix the touchscreen? I hate to toss it when all of the sensors still work fine.
      I am also looking at a Davis Vantage Vue.

  6. Farmer Steve says:

    I have the Davis Vantage Pro 2 as well (which Mark recomended) and it is wireless, been running for two years now and have no issuse’s with it what so ever and couldn’t be happier with this purchase,great weather station.

  7. W7ENK says:

    Aaaand, this went in the wrong post… My bad! :facepalm:

    Feel free to delete this Mark. I’ll post it in the more appropriate “other” post…

  8. Brucie555 says:

    I would like to make a couple points and disagree with Mark just slightly about wireless units.

    1. One big downfall of wireless is that they can NOT transmit continuously or their battery life would be measured in hours. So to save power, the sensor head must transmit a burst of data every few seconds and go to sleep. With slow changing parameters like temp, baro, humidity/etc that works just fine. But with fast changing events like wind, this can cause the system to miss high peaks while it’s asleep.

    This is true of most digital instruments. I work in electronics and often times even fast sampling digital instruments are just not fast enough. I still keep an analog DVM around for certain applications.

    I remember building an anemometer with my dad in the early 70’s We made the head out of ping-pong balls cut in half. Used a large analog meter and drove out I84 in the convertible to calibrate both it’s fixed calibration points as well as linearity. We lived up by 12-mile corner in those days, it was fun to watch that fast movement needle swing back in forth with the gusts. The meter we used had very light dampening – so it would deflect full scale in about 1/2 second. The sensing head we built was light and would “spool up” to gusts quickly. I’ve not seen anything digital or modern that gave the real sense of the gusts the way our old analog system did.

    2. All of the wireless systems I’ve seen use 433Mhz to transmit back. That is actually in the middle of a Ham Radio band. The Ham band is actually runs from 420Mhz to 450Mhz. The range from 420-440 is “secondary” – meaning other low-powered devices are allowed in that range and hams must accept interference from those devices. BUT, it also says that devices must accept any interference they receive too. These weather stations use about 10mw (0.010 watts of power). Hams can legally run up to 1500 Watts peak in that band. I know of people running 500 watts of SSB (Singe Side Band) in that range, and anyone using that band while they are on the air is out of luck. Even if they are not on the same frequency, the strong transmitter close by will “desense” the little cheap receivers Trust me, I’ve got a power-tilt bed in this same band, and running just 25 watts of FM up in the 440-450 range will stop the bed from working down on 433Mhz.

    So if that big gust of the year hits your station, right as it’s asleep and/or the local ham yaking it up – your going to miss that event. As I always tell people with networking, DON’T use Wifi unless you have no other choice. Wired networking is superior in so many ways that Wifi should be reserved for things that need wireless like roaming devices. But run Cat 6 to those desktops and enjoy no drop-outs and much faster speed! Don’t even get me started on how over-used 2.4Ghz is!!

    Bruce

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      Now THAT is some very good info. Thanks Bruce

    • gidrons says:

      Great info and a fascinating read. So can a Ham radio make your bed move while you’re sleeping?

    • Brucie555 says:

      No, they use a FM modulated carrier to send a modulated digital burst with some control codes encoded inside that signal. This prevents other remotes from controlling it. Same with weather stations. Other signals won’t give false readings on your station… they can just prevent your data from getting through to your control head and displaying properly. Again, with something slow changing like temp/humidity/etc – this will be of little problem. The change will just register later. But you could easily miss a wind gust if that happened.

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      I almost lost my coffee when you mentioned the 2.4Ghz part! In my neighborhood out of the 10 wireless networks that I can detect 8 of them are all on the exact same channel (channel 6). I have channel 11 all to myself lol!

      To those that want to know how to fix this issue of network congestion, use inSSIDer 2.0 software to detect the wireless networks in your area. Note, channels 1,6 and 11 are the most common (simply change your router to a less populated channel).

    • Brucie555 says:

      Yea, a lot of people have no idea what all is in that 2.4Ghz ISM band. The biggest user is Microwave ovens. Even a non-leaking oven can really raise the noise floor in and around it’s self when warming your coffee!

      With Wifi, the channels are overlapping – something most users don’t understand. Meaning, when your on channel 6, your using some spectrum from channels 2 through 10 at the same time!
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/IEEE_802.11
      Now, Spread spectrum modulation techniques do very well operating with other signals in the area. They see other signals as just noise and ignore it. But get enough of them in the same space, and that “noise floor” will get so high it can have problems “pulling” your data out of that sea of muck. Personally if I was getting wireless weather equipment, I’d rather have it on 2.4Ghz as long as it was using some DSS modulation technique. But all the ones I’ve seen are just using 433Mhz with FM analog transmission modes.

      My suggestion to people who want to run Wifi is to avoid even using 2.4Ghz.if you can! The 5.2 band is much less utilized and your be amazed how many laptops/pads/etc have a 5.2Ghz radio in them. I just had a friend over this weekend who brought along an iPad he won. He found it could see my 5.2Ghz access point. Once I allowed him access, he was making VoIP calls on my network with the thing. But I always suggest that you use a dedicate access point. The units inside of home “routers” are cheap low-end radios. Also, use a directional antenna that blasts the signal into your intended coverage area and keeps it from flying all around the neighborhood. Finally, get a non-consumer access point with more than 20mw (0.020 Watts) output! We now live in a time when a commercial grade access point with 1watt output and a small parabolic highly directional antenna for $118. Put that in you attic pointed into the living space and enjoy signal levels strong enough to hold 150MBit 802.11n mode connection anywhere – anytime.

    • W7ENK says:

      A slight correction to your Point #2)

      The range from 420-440 is “secondary” – meaning other low-powered devices are allowed in that range and hams must accept interference from those devices.

      Actually, you have that backwards. Amateur Radio is primary in the 70-cm (420-450 MHz) band, in both the upper part (which is shared with the US Air Force’s PAVE-PAWS radar system), and the lower part (shared with LP devices), and as you stated can run up to 1.5KW PEP (Peak Envelope Power – the transmit power coming out of the transmitter before multiplied by antenna gain) [per FCC Part 97], whereas the secondary low-power devices are only allowed between 10-100mW ERP (Effective Radiated Power – transmit power coming off the antenna after being multiplied by antenna gain). It is those secondary devices that cannot cause/must accept interference [per FCC Part 15].

      With that being said, most Amateur activity is in the upper part of the 70-cm band, between 438 and 450 MHz on either voice simplex or repeater. Amateur satellite runs between 435 and 438 MHz, and the part shared with these wireless weather stations at 433 MHz is most commonly used for linking, controls and sideband operations. Of course, none of that is written in stone anywhere, but these are the generally accepted, “gentleman’s agreement” allocations within the band, near as I can recall, anyway.

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      Yea Brucie555 I couldn’t agree more about avoiding 2.4Ghz in general. Sadly, that is not an option in my household because all our laptops can only utilize “at best” wireless N up to 150 Mbps on 2.4GHz band (my laptop basically). The new router we have is capable of 2.4GHz 300N Mpbs and 450N Mbps on the 5.2GHz band but we have nothing that can pick up 5.2 so I disabled that aspect of the router. Overall, if I want fast I drag out the 100ft Ethernet cable to my custom built desktop computer lol!

    • W7ENK says:

      Additionally, there are some Canadian-made car alarm receivers that operate right around 447MHz (I think?) and (so I’ve heard) if you transmit LTZ (Long-tone Zero) in the city, you can set off these car alarms for miles around. I’ve never tried it, but I’ve thought about it. 😆

    • WhiteEagle - Garden Home/SW Portland says:

      Very interesting info!!! I will keep this in mind when I’m swearing at my WiFi connection 🙂

    • Jake-(Gresham) says:

      Sorry WhiteEagle but I forgot to add more bad news lol! Along with microwave interference and the neighbor’s networks your home cordless phone could also be running on the 2.4GHz frequency….

      Doesn’t everybody just love technology!:P

    • Brucie555 says:

      Actually Bluetooth operates in 2.4Ghz band as well.

      W7ENK – I see your QRZ profile says your 30. I got my license back about the time you were 1 or 2. I used to do a lot of 70cm work – and even had 2M and 70cm repeaters up on “Dick Mountain” (Top of Multipol ski lift) back in like 1982. Back then, 440-450 was primary, 420-440 was secondary. But according to this link, we are BOTH wrong. They claim the entire band is secondary now….

      “The Amateur Radio Service is a secondary user in the 420-450 MHz band, both by the Table of Frequency Allocations and the FCC Part 97 regulations.”
      http://www.wd6awp.org/index_files/56e62be32cb2524d0faa988c6408fe37-0.html

      I gave up on the hobby for the most part starting in the early 90’s when it wasn’t evolving into new technology/digital modes. Heck, we still use modulation modes invented 100 years ago in Amateur Radio.

      But my point still stands on these weather stations (we were talking that – weren’t we?) I feel if you want accurate wind data – nothing will beat wired.

    • chiefWright says:

      Fascinating about wireless. Now I don’t feel so bad about stringing Cat5 all over my house.

      About windspeed. I just checked with Davis. The “instantaneous” windspeed measurement on the Vantage Vue and Vantage Pro is a 2.5 second average based on a single pulse per rotation. The sensor array determines wind gust as the maximum instantaneous measurement, and wind average as a 10-minute average updated every minute.

      This data is processed and stored in the sensor array and updated to the console at the user-specified interval. The 33 cm 902-928 MHz band (not 70 cm) is used for sensor array / console T/R. Unfortunately this band is getting pretty popular (it’s used by those 2-way handheld Motorolas, for example), but it might not be as bad as the 70 cm band. Yet.

      http://www.vantagevue.com/product_documents/weather/spec_sheets/6250_6351_57_SS.pdf

      http://www.davisnet.com/product_documents/weather/spec_sheets/6152_62_53_63_SS.pdf

      This of course won’t produce nearly the same resolution as an analog or multi-pulse digital encoder, but as long as the update intervals are set up properly, the Davis wireless system should be able to capture a sudden gust.

      And just like Mark, I have no skin in Davis’ game. Just looking for the facts….

    • W7ENK says:

      Oh, I stand corrected! 😕

      Yes, I need to update my QRZ page, I haven’t done so in a couple of years… just a couple, though.

      Are you still licensed? What is (was) your call? If you haven’t been active in the last 10 years or so, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the amount of digi-stuff there is to do in HAM radio now. I personally enjoy QRP with the digital modes on HF, and stretching UHF/VHF to (and sometimes beyond) their geographical limits… HF – it’s amazing what you can do on PSK31 with little more power out than you’d get light from a candle, and to set up a UHF/VHF field station atop an 8,000 foot peak just to see how far you can reach with line-of-sight… though I haven’t been active much in recent years either. I’m trying to get back into it.

      I’d love to put up my own repeater, but the waiting list is more than 20 years on 2 meters, and must be at least 2 years on 440 now, and the whole process is so ridiculously political, it’s more about who you know and how much you pay them than it is anything about the spirit of the hobby.

      Back on subject here, I have a wireless weather station, and I realize now that what you’ve described about the delay in transmit times might be why I always feel my station’s wind readings are lower than they should be. I should look into this further, thanks!

    • n3eg says:

      I have a WMR-968 set that I picked up cheap, and it all seems to work. The wireless, however, needs external antennas. With all the factors (distance, shielding, crappy switching power supply interference) I can barely get 80 feet. It’s annoying to rescan for sensors every day. I may even hack it for one-wire operation eventually. Good thing it’s only the backup, and I can still get parts for the 25 year old Heathkit ID-5001 semi-digital weather station.

      Also, I once hacked an Oregon Scientific temp sensor for one-second report rate. If I can do that in the future for the wind sensor, I’ll be sure to post the info.

    • chiefWright says:

      W7-

      When I started working for Tek 30 years ago, I was lucky enough to be in the spectrum analyzer group, and joined them for a day up on bald peak in the coast range. They had set up a 26 Ghz (yes, 26 Ghz) horn antenna aimed at similar setup at the campus in Beaverton. It took forever to get the antennas aligned, but when they were, the voice quality was unbelievable and completely noise free.

      It was amazing!

  9. W7ENK says:

    Wow, did that actually go through? I totally expected it to get caught by the moderation filter for having so many links…

    And, I didn’t expect all the links to expand into each video screen… I would have preferred it stayed just the list of URLs.

    Oh well… nothing I can do about it.
    Sorry for the length!

  10. boringlarry says:

    …bought a used LaCrosse 2308 a little over a year ago for 100 bucks (with a handheld anemometer thrown in), and I’m really happy with it,,,It’s wireless, or wired; wind reports work better if wired, stations can be separated, the heavy weather software I use doesnt seem to difficult…all in all, for my semi-nomadic way of life, it works really well…

  11. I’ve had Davis since day 1. Weather Wizard III from 1996-2004???

    Vantage Pro 2004-2008

    Vantage Pro 2 (x) 2008-present, one in Vancouver, one in Battle Ground.

    The only problem I’ve had was one of the boards on the first VP didn’t work, Davis replaced it free and in a timely manner. The batteries on the wireless solar station last a long time too.

    Did have a anemometer ruined by a lightning strike in 1996, but you can’t really blame Davis for that!

    I recommend the Vantage Pro 2, that way you can separate the thermometer from the anemometer (wind gauge). The temp sensor is recommended to be placed at 5′ above ground. If you mount your anemometer at 5′, you are like to have very low wind speeds as buildings etc block a lot of wind.

  12. oldwxwatcher says:

    I’ve been using a Vantage Pro for about six years. The only problem I had was when the 1 farad capacitor, which is charged by the solar cell and acts like a battery, failed a couple of years ago. Fortunately, All Electronics had a replacement and it was pretty easy to unsolder the bad one and install the new one. Other than that, the unit has worked very well.

  13. chiefWright says:

    Does anybody have experience with Ambient’s wireless systems such as the WS-1090 and their weatherHub for uploading? Unfortunately all of these models are “out of stock” on their website.

  14. robwaltemate says:

    I have had a Davis Weather Monitor II since 1996. I have had to replace the data link once due to lightning in the area, the anemometer once due to old age and lots of wind here near the cost. The self bailing rain guage was not measureing the correct amts of rain, and I did manage to corect it, but I am 9 credit hours short of a B.S. in Physics. The software for uplaoding to wundergound is not really user frendly to set up unless your into that sort of thing. Overall I am happy with it as it still working fine and the software lets you correct barometer, temps, and rain (to a certain extent). I bet I have over $500 into it easy, but a lot of that was back in 1996!

    • I too have had a Davis since the mid-nineties. Had to take down the anemometer once and do some repairs. Replaced the reed switch in the rain gauge once. Never interfaced with the computer. I am completely satisfied and dread the day I have to replace the whole system. Mine is not wireless.

  15. Yevpolo1990 says:

    Ambient weather one has been working well for me, no real issues….. Only 70 bucks too! Although it is not connected to the Internet which is not a big deal to me. Definitely advise to put on top of the roof if you are at a house, bad idea for an apartment because of the escaped heat. Make sure it’s on a pole about 3/4 feet above the roof.

  16. Muxpux (Longview) says:

    Thanks for this, I vaguely remember seeing it last winter but had forgotten about it. I tried looking around hoping maybe there would have been a cyber Monday deal on something but to no avail. I would like to pick something up but as with many things nowadays there’s just sooo many options and opinions.

    I know when I worked for the city of Longview they had a station set up at the softball fields west of town (Roy morse) so they could accurately tell if they needed to water the fields and such. I browsed it but it didn’t seem too user friendly, not sure if they are all like that.
    Being unemployed, this is a hard choice. I know you get what you pay for but 200-300 for a weather station seems a bit on the high side. Considering most people view them as a toy or novelty. There isn’t much justification for a NEED for one. Heck, my dad trusts his iPhone weather forecast, I know better. Granted people that know me know my love of weather, I just don’t see anyone justifying the expense of a station that does more than temperature.

    • W7ENK says:

      If you know where to look, and if you get lucky, sometimes you can find them for sale online, or at flea-market/swap-meets? I found mine at a HAM Radio swap-meet in Rickreall, picked it up for 35 bucks… works like a champ! 🙂

  17. W7ENK says:

    Mother Nature finally coughed up another spectacular sunset… It’s been a while! 🙂

  18. W7ENK says:

    Toys!!! ^_^

  19. Mark Nelsen says:

    Since I wrote this post last December, I’ve also had good luck with the Davis Vantage Vue weather station. I installed one of those with the state parks people up at Vista House-Crown Point. No issues so far.
    AND, I want to point out no one is paying me or giving me free stuff for this post. I have no “dog in the fight” as they say.

    • robwaltemate says:

      That is a wireless isn’t it? It gets a lot of wind too. If I ever ware out my Monitor II, it is what I want to get.

    • Mark Nelsen says:

      I think most of them nowadays are wireless. But now I built a greenhouse and would like to see the temp in there. Might have to ask my wife if I can splurge and get a Davis with an additional sensor.

    • Walt Hellman says:

      I have the Vantage Vue and a lot of testing indicated the unit read high in direct sunlight by as much as 4 deg. F. Davis replaced the whole unit for me but I found the same results. I ended up putting the station at a location so that it’s in the shade at the high temp for day so at least the high temp is right.

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