Are you having trouble deciding which weather station is the best one for you?
If you are new to personal weather stations the choices can seem overwhelming. So many brands and each brand offers a bunch of different models. How can you tell which is the best weather station?
I’ve been building, buying, and enjoying weather monitoring equipment ever since I was a kid, And that was a long time ago!
While I’m not claiming any special expertise, I have owned a variety of home weather stations so can hopefully offer you some useful guidance.
My main weather station has been operating full time for more than 12 years and can’t last much longer. Or can it? We’ll see…
Anyway, my search for a new weather station has been quite educational and I figured I should share what I’ve found out with you.
By the time you finish reading this guide you’ll feel a little more confident that you’re choosing the right weather station brand and model and for the right reasons.
Choose from the leading weather station brands
My first suggestion is to stick with the well known makes.
Avoid the clones and knock offs. Saving a couple of bucks now but then having a bad weather station experience later just isn’t worth it, especially if this is your first weather station purchase.
Second, there is no single “best” home weather station. The best weather station is one that performs for you the way you want.
Weather Station Wars
The weather station brands are competing with each other for your business. They are very aware of each others strengths and weaknesses and design their products accordingly.
To gain competitive advantage in the marketplace each weather station company will look to be stronger where the others are weaker.
Keeping this in mind, comparing the different product lines is made a bit easier.
The leading weather station brands are…..
…In order of customer satisfaction (by looking at forums, reviews, and other feedback)
- Ambient Weather
- Davis Instruments
- Oregon Scientific
If you are new to personal weather stations and don’t have any particular requirements any of the leading brands will be fine. If you’re anything like me, any weather station that keeps working is a good one.
However, if you are curious about what features are available or if you have some particular requirements in mind read on…
Three companies are way out front:
- Ambient Weather -Known for affordability, excellent displays, and features usually found only on much more expensive brands.
- Davis Instruments – Renown for accuracy, durability, and expandability particularly in regards to farming and gardening.
- Acurite – Has a wider selection of displays than anyone. Also expandable with additional remote temperature/humidity sensors.
Each of these brands have distinct advantages over each other. If this is your first home weather station I would suggest that you stick with one of these brands and then drill down to find an acceptable model.
These three weather station brands made it to the top…
Let’s start with the newest weather station company, Ambient Weather. For starters, they offer the widest range of distinctly different weather station models than anyone.
You can buy a bare bones model with the five standard sensors and a display that would made a great first time weather station for a kid. No sense spending a bunch of money if they are not going to be interested…
…Or you can buy their top of the line weather station along with the Weatherbridge and upload your weather data to many more online weather services.
Many of their weather stations come standard with seven sensors which their competitors either don’t have at all or comes with additional cost.
They even have a model without a display at all and is read with your mobile device. A display will cost you money, so why buy something you don’t need? This model is a good choice for you if you’re often out and about, or if your station is installed in a remote location.
Ambient is the industry leader when it comes to internet connectivity.
They have a variety of ways to connect including WIFI, an internet bridge called the Observer, and a tiny dedicated computer known as the WeatherBridge. The Weatherbridge is small enough that it can fit in the palm of your hand and it takes care of all of your software needs.
Ambient’s weather stations are also compatible with IFTTT, Amazon Alexa, and Google Assistant. Hmmm…..
One of the things that impresses people the most is the support Ambient Weather offers. They respond to phone calls, email, and often to comments on Amazon.
They do beta test their weather stations to work out the bugs and I’ve heard they also test your station before it is shipped to you.
More sensors — nothing more to buy
Ambient comes standard with a 7 in 1 outdoor sensor. The regular five; temperature, humidity, wind speed and direction, and rainfall, plus two more, solar radiation and UV light are already built in.
An idea picked up from Davis is using solar cells charge a supercapacitor to power the outdoor sensor array for all day and a good part of the night. The batteries take up the slack.
Range of indoor displays
A range of displays are produced, from high quality TFT models that can be read from any angle, to color LCD units, and like I’ve mentioned they have a model with no display at all, where your weather information is accessed with your computer or mobile device.
Upload your station’s weather data
Your weather data can be uploaded in several different ways. Choose IP with the Observer, WIFI from the display, or ethernet with Ambient’s licensed version of Meteobridge called Weatherbridge. With the preloaded software on the Weatherbridge you have access to many more upload destinations than are normally available on other models and brands. The Ambient weatherbridge can be used with other brands of weather stations also.
Ambient’s customers are pretty happy…
Customer satisfaction with Ambient Weather is second to none. People are very happy with not only the weather stations but the very responsive customer support.
Keep in mind while looking at the following weather station models that Ambient Weather, while being one of the fastest growing companies, is still relatively small and they tend to run out of stock pretty fast.
Most Popular Ambient Weather station models
Ambient’s Model 2902A
Ambient Weather’s most popular home weather station is the WS-2902A. This is Ambient’s newest release and quickly became a best seller with lots of happy costumers. Many positive comments. This weather station is definitely on my list.
A lot of people find the unusual look and the ease and speed of setup attractive.
This model has seven sensors on the outdoor array and three indoor measurements giving you ten weather data points to track. Indoors you’ll have an attractive LCD display with colored readouts on a black background.
Another nice feature is it’s wireless. 915 Mhz from the outdoor unit and then 2.4 Ghz to your wireless router. No cables!
What people are liking about the 2902A is the seven sensors in the outdoor weather equipment instead of the usual five, the fast and easy installation, and the clean wireless look of the indoor display.
One thing that hangs some people up with installing this and other home weather stations is that the installation steps must be followed in order.
But who ever reads the direction first, right? This is why so many people comment about how great the customer support help desk is…
The 2902A is a good all around weather station for experts and amateurs alike.
You can read a review of this weather station model here.
Model 1002 WIFI
Coming up next is the model WS- 1002 WIFI . Here you get the 7 in 1 outdoor sensor the 3 in 1 indoor sensor. All of this information is transmitted to a very easy to read full color TFT display. The color display then transmits the weather data by WIFI to your wireless router.
By using the indoor weather station display as both the receiver and re-transmitter of the data from the sensors there is no need for the Observer or cables. The Observer is a separate small module that Ambient uses on some models for the receive / send function.
Thin Film Transistor (TFT) displays are nice in that they can be read easily from an angle unlike the usual LCD displays where you pretty much have to be right in front of them.
The model 1002 is one of Ambient Weather’s top of the line home weather stations. Many people like the easy to read color TFT display along with it’s WIFI function. A nice desktop weather display with a clean wireless installation.
The model 1401 is the perfect home weather station for you if you need to monitor your home’s weather conditions while you are out and about.. This is a fully functional weather station with Ambient’s signature 7 in 1 outdoor sensor.
The 1401 has no indoor display. Your weather information is accessed online with your computer or mobile device. For people that are not around where a display would be placed, why pay for something you don’t use?
Ambient Weather’s model 1201 IP is almost the same as the 1002 WIFI except in the manner it connects to the internet. Instead of the display transmitting wifi to the router, the 1201 IP uses the Observer module to receive the data from the sensors and it sends that weather information to the router through an ethernet cable.
The IP line from Ambient includes a unit they call an “observer ip module”. The observer receives the data from the indoor and outdoor sensors and sends the data to the display wirelessly and to the router though a cable. This allows some flexibility in placing the display.
With weather stations where the receiver is installed within the display, the display should be line of sight with the outdoor sensor. With the 1201 you just need the display within range of the observer. The Observer must be within range of the sensors but the display can be placed where it is convenient to you.
This model is attractive to people who want a top of the line weather station but prefer to use the ethernet connection to the internet. The nice thing here is you can put your display wherever you find it handy to view and put the Observer where it picks up the signals from the sensors the best.
Notable mention: the model WS-5305
Ambient Weather leads the pack on price with the WS-5305 wireless home weather station. Model WS-5305 is the cheapest 5 in 1 weather station you can buy. The ws 5305 is a very basic weather station with a monochrome LCD display and no internet connectivity. It does however have the basic five sensors common to all: temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction.
Note: the WS-5305 has no way to connect to the internet. Also, it lacks a barometer used in weather forecasting.
I would very concerned with durability, but for the price you can always buy another one without too much pain.
The Ambient Weather 5305 would be a good first weather station for a budding junior meteorologist. If they lose interest, oh well, but if they catch the weather bug, pick em up a better weather station later.
Other uses might be a step up from the common indoor/outdoor thermometer, easy temporary installations, or for simple weather station demonstrations.
Ambient uses this 5 in 1 sensor in a series of home weather stations with increased features and function.
Davis leads the pack when it comes to accuracy, durability, and reliability. They’ve been at this business for a long time.
Best wireless transmit range
A Davis exclusive feature (so far) that might make a Davis weather station your choice is the 1000′ transmission range from the outdoor sensor to the indoor display. The industry norm is a range of 300′ to 330′.
The FCC has rules covering the transmitter power in consumer electronic devices. Davis uses a spread spectrum transmission technique that results in a very clean and interference free signal to the indoor receiver/ display.
So even though Davis is limited to the same transmitter power as everyone else, using spread spectrum they have achieved three times the normal range.
I wonder how much of the price of the weather station is this feature…
If you have a large property or some obstructions of the radio signal from the outdoor sensor, this may be a solution. This all comes at a price of course.
What may be a couple of downsides to the Davis Instruments products is that connecting to the internet requires an additional piece of equipment to be added to the indoor display. And that indoor display, while more functional than the other brands, has a dated monochrome look and is a bit harder to read.
Two main models
Davis has two main weather stations, the Vantage Vue and the Vantage Vue Pro II. The Vantage Vue is an all in one weather sensor cluster they refer to as an Integrated Sensor Suite or ISS. The ISS detects and transmits the big five measurements.
Davis is best known for their Vantage PRO II station which has a detached anemometer that can be placed high in the air. This allows for better wind information and also allows the rain and temperature sensors to be placed in an appropriate place.
The PRO II is also expandable with additional sensors like solar radiation, UV, leaf wetness, and soil moisture. It can also be daisy chained with additional PRO IIs for use on large properties like a farm.
So what do I get for my money?
Davis has a top notch reputation for producing the best general purpose weather stations. As a result they can charge more for their products.
One of the main features setting Davis apart are it’s top wind speed of 180mph for the Vue and 200mph for the PRO II.
As a matter of fact, the PROII just set a record for a home weather station for measuring 200mph wind in a hurricane. Does your wind exceed 100mph? If so, this is your weather station. Of course, with winds like that, what you mount your home weather station to is critical. Your backyard wooden fence might not be good enough…
Another feature is the resolution, as in finest of measurements and the smaller tolerance as in + or – from the reported data.
Still yet another feature no one else has (yet!) is a transmission range of 1000’ from the sensor suite to the display in your house. This comes in handy not only if you must place your sensors farther away than 330’ but also if you place it closer but have obstructions in the transmission path. It is also much more immune to interfering signals from other radio transmissions.
The indoor display can show your history of weather data as graphs along with the regular numeric readout. I don’t think anyone else has this feature.
Some downsides to Davis are the price, the indoor display while complete and very functional is not very attractive and the internet connection cost you more money and you get a IP connection to your computer. To upload to the internet will require an always on computer. If you want to see your data on your smart phone you’ll have to do this.
Davis Vantage Vue
The Davis Vantage Vue model 6250 is their most popular home weather station. This is a 5 in 1 outdoor sensor unit Davis calls the Integrated Sensor Suite, or ISS. A lot of people really like the ease of installing all in one weather stations like the Vantage Vue, just aim the solar panel South and you’re done.
There is something of a trade off with the all in one weather sensor with placing the unit for the best measurements and also being easy to maintain. Oh well…
When you look at the stats on the Vantage Vue compared with the competition you’ll find the Vue ahead in almost every factor, from accuracy to update frequency.
Do you want to post your weather station data on the internet? You’ll need one of these.
My review of this weather station model is here.
Vantage Pro 2
Davis’ Vantage Pro 2 is considered the gold standard for personal weather stations by many. If you want superior accuracy, update frequency, 1000′ transmit range, and the ability to place the individual weather station components where they should be and not where it has to be, this should be your choice.
The Vantage Pro 2 is also expandable. Add a solar radiation sensor and UV sensor and this model catches up to the Ambient Weather 7 in 1 models.
But you can keep going with soil temperature, soil moisture, and leaf wetness. These measurements are very important to farmers and serious gardeners.
This weather station model seems to be the choice for people living near the beach. Salt water just eats things up but the Vantage Pro 2 apparently holds up longer than the others.
As with the Vantage Vue, you’ll need the Weatherlink data logger to send your weather info to a website.
Acurite sells more home weather stations than anyone in North America!
Have it your way
Their weather stations are basically modular. In general, the sensors, displays, and internet equipment can be transfered from model to model.
Older and newer outdoor sensors
There are two versions of the outdoor sensor; an early model with only one solar panel and the later model with two panels. The lower priced models usually come with the single panel sensor, but not always.
Sometimes Amazon has a sale bringing a newer model weather station’s price down below the older models. Keep an eye out. There is a two panel upgrade kit for the old models.
Fan for temperature accuracy
These solar panels run a fan in the daytime to keep air flowing over the thermometer for more accurate readings.
So, the solar panels run the fan and the batteries operate the rest of the weather station. There is an advantage to this; if you live in an area of low sunlight the Acurite models have enough battery power to keep running.
If it’s dark or cloudy you won’t need the fan anyway.
The displays range from monochrome to several with color backgrounds with black numbers, and also black backgrounds with colored numbers, and finally, High Definition TFT. (thin film transistor)
Internet connection choices
The Access is new to the Acurite line in 2018 and replaces the older SmartHub.
There are smarthub stations still available on Amazon but they are older stock and are getting cleared out. I read somewhere that support for the smarthub will continue into 2019 but you will eventually have to upgrade to the Access.
Some models have no internet connectivity, but with the others you can choose from the Access, which is wired to the router, or PC connect, which is a usb connection to your computer. Or, you can get the Access and PC connect together.
One of the best weather station accessories
An awesome accessory offered by Acurite is a remote battery pack. This allows you to bring the batteries down where you can easily change them without climbing up to your weather station or having to bring it down and put it back up.
Self Calibrating Forecasting
On most weather station you have enter your elevation so the barometric pressure makes sense. Using the fact that sea level pressure has an average over time of 29.92 inches of mercury, Accurite takes your average pressure over about a month and by comparing to the sea level average can calculate your elevation above sea level.
Add additional sensors
Accurite has additional thermohygrometers you can install in places like bedrooms, greenhouses, basements, etc. If this looks like something you can use, maybe Acurite has your weather station.
What is the Access?
New to Acurite is their internet bridge called Access. The Access replaces the earlier Smarthub. With the Access battery backup, Access can store up to a month’s worth of weather data in an event such as a power failure or a problem with your ISP.
Acording to Acurite, the internal antenna has been improved and the connectivity has been upgraded.
Brand New Models from Acurite!
Acurite has been beta testing a new line of weather stations called Atlas. It looks like Acurite is going to compete with Davis.
The release date keeps getting push back. Going up against Davis is difficult so we’ll see…
Models 01012M and 01013M
As I mentioned, Acurite has upgraded their product line this year. Some numbers, buyers comments, and feedback are starting to come in and the 01012 is looking pretty good. This model has the newer two panel solar powered fan along with the new Access receiver.
Do you want a simple and attractive weather station? The 01012 is certainly that. Want a different indoor display? The Acurite model 01013 is the dark theme display version with a colored readout on a black background.
With the addition of a couple of temperature/ humidity sensors you would have the updated equivalent of the earlier models 01075rm with a color display and 01085rm with the dark theme display.
As a matter of fact, any of the smarthub equipped personal weather stations can be upgraded by replacing the smarthub with the Access. Some people who sent in their registration cards are being sent discount coupons for a new Access.
I didn’t know anybody sent those cards in. Do you? Maybe it’s a good idea…
As mentioned, Acurite has a bunch of different indoor display choices. This model weather station station uses a high definition thin film transistor display, aka TFT. TFT displays are very clear and easy to read and maybe the biggest benefit is that it is easy to see even if you are not right in front of it. Have you ever had someone try to show you something on their laptop or phone but you couldn’t see it? The TFT display does not have that problem.
Most people absolutely love this display.
Otherwise, the 01151M model is the same as the other Acurite 5 in 1 weather stations with the Access device for internet uploads.
This is a good home weather station for people with vision issues or for those situations where the indoor display has to be placed and read from a distance.
Acurite model 01079m
The model 01079m comes with the dual solar panel outdoor 5 in 1 weather sensor. The two solar panels run a fan in the sensor which helps keep air moving around the thermometer resulting in more accurate temperature readings. When the hot sun beats on the sensor temperature readings can sure get wacky.
This is a PCconnect weather station meaning the indoor color display connects to your computer via a USB cable. Setting up your home weather station is easily done right from your computer rather than online like most of the other models. You will also save money by not having to buy a separate internet bridge like Acrite’s Access or Smarthub but instead using your own computer’s internet connection.
Some people don’t like leaving their computer on all of the time and should look at the models with the Access included.
Should I leave my computer on?
There are arguments on both sides; leave the computer on all of the time, or turn it off when not in use. The best argument I’ve heard is that light bulbs usually burn out when you turn them on, but not so much when you leave them on.
What I do is connect my weather station through an older computer which I leave on and turn my other computers off at night.
This model is the most popular of the PCconnect line because it has been around so long. The 02064 ships with the earlier one panel solar powered fan. With this model weather station the display is connected to your computer through a USB cable. Your weather data is uploaded using your computer internet connection. The upside to this is you can configure the weather station data from your computer instead of online. You can also run 3rd party software allowing you to upload the weather data to other services than weather underground.
The downside for some people is, to be completely useful your computer must stay on and connected all the time. To me this is not a problem, I always have an older computer around that use for my weather station exclusively.
The Acurite 01536 wireless weather station along with the model 02064, are lowest priced Acurite weather stations with all of common sensors included plus internet. Be aware that this station connects to the internet with a USB cable to your computer. To take full advantage of this, your computer must remain on all of the time. Also, this weather station model uses the older 1 solar panel sensor.
If you don’t care to upload your weather data to the internet, then this weather station will be of interest: model 01500 with monochrome display, The model 01524M uses the older one panel style 5 in 1 sensor with a wireless connection to the boring monochrome indoor display. A positive view would say it’s unobtrusive.
While this station is fairly popular, I don’t think you get much for your money. If you do not want to upload your weather data to the internet just pick a model that looks good to you and don’t go through the connection process. Easy…
Model 01024 with color display and lightning detection
The model 01024 is a nice looking weather station with the newer two panel outdoor sensor and the top of the line TFT display.
A separate lightning detector can be placed indoors anywhere within range of the display. The lightning sensor detects the electromagnetic pulse of the lightning bolt and sends the data to the display. On the display you can see how far away the lightning was and whether newer strikes are closer or not. It works up to about 25 miles. A running total of the number of strikes is also shown.
If lightning is common where you live and you are concerned, check out this page.
A couple additional notes about Acurite:
I’ve noticed a lot of the old single panel sensor models are still for sale but not with the Access models. Old single panel units can be upgraded by replacing the solar module with a new one. No need to buy another weather station.
With the introduction of models using the Access, Acurite no longer sells additional temperature/ humidity sensors bundled with the station. Yet… You can still buy the sensors separately and they’ll still work. I think they are being careful and are waiting for feedback on the Access’ performance before they start adding more sensors.
Something new coming…
Development of the Access also coincides with the introduction of a new product line by Acurite. The Atlas and Atlas Elite have been in development and beta testing for last couple of years. It looks like Acurite is going to try and compete directly with Davis Instruments.
Competition is good! Good for us, that is.
We’ll see… Anyway, Acurite is taking pre-orders for the Atlas occasionally on Amazon, so it seems like they are close to shipping. The pre-order is sometimes listed, sometimes not. I’d wait until the usability reports come back from brave pioneers first anyway…
…Being on top is tough!
Some of the other brands suffer from some distinct disadvantages such as poor quality control where some people get excellent equipment and some others get lemons. I have experience on both sides of this one, had one high priced weather station last less than 6 months before the electronics failed and a less expensive and lower rated station that has been running for 12 years and counting.
Poor customer support plagues some brands. I have personal experience with this also and it is extremely frustrating. This can be critical to new as well as long time weather station owners. A lot of electronics and software go into modern weather stations and if something goes wrong or is hard to understand you’ll want some help.
Some companies just cannot compete on price so you will end up paying too much for what you get.
Of course, no brand is stuck at the bottom and there is no guarantee of top billing in the future.
Can I have it all?
Almost! For instance, you can buy a Davis or Ambient weather station for their features and if you like Acurite’s additional sensors you can pick up a simple receiver display and sensors and you’ll have it all.
Some other things to consider when choosing a home weather station
ASSEMBLY & INSTALLATION
Assembling these units are all similar, the wind cups and the direction indicator on all have to be slid an a shaft and tightened with a set screw. One has a rain gauge that you just insert the tabs and twist into place. They all have batteries and sometimes it’s a good idea to put them in first before you do anything else. Some stations don’t like to be turn on with only the solar panel for power.
With any of these weather stations it’s a good idea to place the sensor across the room and see if it’s communicating with the display. If that works well, put your sensor around where you would like to install it and see if it still works. Could save you lots of time.
The all in one units fit onto a pipe and the Davis Pro 2 fits onto the side of a pipe.
Each company has their own service for you to upload to. From there you can send the data on to WunderGround and also see the data on your smart phone. Software configuration is done through an app on your phone. If you are connecting to the internet through your computer you have the most options. You can not only use the provided online service but you can install software on your computer that you can configure locally but also has even more weather services for you to upload to.
This is one of the way your new weather station software is configured. If your weather data is sent directly from the weather station to the internet through your router this is the only way to do this.
All three of these companies offer a 1 year limited warranty. Limited in respect that the problem is actually with the weather station and not due to improper assembly, installation, or use.
All three of these companies have responsive help lines. You can use email, phone, chat, or Ambient Weather will sometimes answer a question posted on Amazon.
With Acurite introducing a new product line their response time is a little slower. Have some patience.
Replacement parts are readily available should something break. If a buzzard lands on your anemometer, no problem.
What’s Up With Home Weather Station Prices?
Why do weather stations cost what they do? Quite a few things go into the price. Do you get a better weather station the more money you spend? Usually, but it’s not quite that simple.
In no particular order, here are some pricing factors:
- Features – While all of the complete weather stations include sensors for temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed and direction, many other features are extra. The quality of the indoor display and the type of internet interface vary widely.
- Durability – Most home weather station brands put their stations through real life tests and of course, they all fail eventually. Durability comes at a price.
- Quality of data – For instance +or – 1°F is better temperature data than + or – 5°F. Increased data quality comes at a price. The quality of the electronic components and design of the circuitry along with making sure the sensors don’t interfere with each other adds to the cost.
- Quality control – Testing the weather station before packaging and shipping it to you costs money but results in higher customer satisfaction and ratings. Also beta testing the weather station and getting feedback from experienced weather station owners and experts in weather observation adds to the price. Sometimes being in a hurry to bring a product to market backfires.
- Competition – The most successful weather station makes have found a way to stand apart from the others, by having a lower price, more or better features, or by giving you higher quality weather data. The top three companies have done this and are going to be hard to beat.
- Company overhead -Things like advertising, debt, infrastructure, payroll, and country of manufacture, and so on, determines the lower end a company can price their products. Since price is a lot of peoples prime consideration, overhead can be a business killer.
- Whatever they can get away with – Hey, if can build it cheaper, faster, and better why not take full advantage…
Well There You Have It!
That’s my take on the best home weather stations you can buy today.
From the Davis Instruments stations ability to hold up and operate under extreme conditions, to Ambient Weather’s innovative seven sensors in one, and Acurite with their solid product line and reputation you’re bound to find a weather station that you’ll be delighted with.
It was a lot of fun for me reading about all of these stations and all the comments people left on Amazon and reports posted elsewhere online.
Thanks for reading and I hope you got some useful information.