As a way of contributing to and paying back a forum that I have learned much from this post shares some of my findings as a novice into the world of weather, weather station technology, and trying to decide what to buy.
Entering any new technical area can be confusing with new terminology, acronyms, inaccurate information, etc. The first thing I wanted to understand is what products are available, how they worked, what are the limits in both vender specifications and real world environments. After initial research I decided to focus on three vendors in the all-in-one weather station market. The three were the Davis Instruments, Acurite, and Ambient Weather.
I was disappointed in the vendor comparison reviews I was able to find. Not much detail, seemed dated, information was inconsistent, no real world testing, etc. So in order to better understand and compare capabilities, I created a comparison chart of the three vendors (see attached). A couple of comments on the chart:
• I have no bias or preferred vendor, my objective is to find the systems that best met my needs
• There are more than three vendors, I only limited my search to three to save time.
• The specifications are from the vendors published specification or from queries into vendor customer service organizations. Note this comparison chart does not look at ease of set up, usability, and reliability. Also, my research to date has not focused on the capabilities of the web and/or mobile applications available from system vendors, third party, open source, etc.
• The prices referenced are from Amazon and/or vendors website. Prices of course are subject to change, negotiation, specials, etc.
• Since Acurite is one of the vendors I was evaluating and they have officially announced their next generation of product line with some specifications, I have included these products in the chart. In Acurite’s press release dated January 1, 2017 the company states, “the systems will be available later this year”.
Some lessons learned from my journey to help you make the most informed decision and to avoid the ‘I wish I would have known’.
• Like all projects define your objectives for a weather system, including ranking/prioritizing specific measurement needs and features. Also, think about usability and how you will view/use the information. Of course what is your budget?
• Think about your location climate, landscape, and where you are willing to put your sensor before buying. Very few people will have the perfect location to meet official weather standards for the most accurate measurements. Take the time learn about these factors from this forum, vendor web sites, etc to understand the issues, challenges, trade offs. You will more than likely have to compromise, which is why prioritizing, is key.
• Accuracy. We all want our system to be accurate, isn’t that the point of a PWS, what is happening at my property now as opposed to app that pulls data from XX miles away and updates every hour. Accuracy depends on the specification of system and location of the sensor(s). The most accurate weather stations have separate components that are placed in the appropriate locations according to standards. The all-in-one weather stations are a trade off in overall accuracy by design for lower price and ease of installation. My take is all three of the vendor’s products provide an accurate representation of the weather from the sensor. They all work, they all have had some issues along their respective product life cycles, some of which are product related and some are user related. Some products can be more (see specs for how much more) accurate with better sensors, more frequent update intervals, and reporting, which may or may not be important to you. However, my take is a system with average specifications properly located will be more accurate than a system with excellent specifications that is poorly located. A comment of Internet weather community sites, such as weather underground. While they can be interesting, fun, and informative, I wouldn’t use them to test accuracy of your weather station other than at a high level due to difference in distance, evaluation, update time, sensor location, type of system, etc. The most precise way to test your system for accuracy is with hand held instrumentation at the sensor and/or install 2 products side by side.