A home weather station is one of those gadgets that you didn’t know you need until you own one. While they have only recently become popular, these devices have been around forever — at least one company has been producing personal weather stations for the better part of three decades, and that’s Davis Instruments.
Things have changed. Within the last several years, new companies have sprung up and brought the cost of ownership down to a level where the average consumer — as well as the weather enthusiast — can afford. Not all home weather stations are created equal, and accuracy is key.
We’ve gotten the opportunity to personally test many weather stations recently, and we’ve found the best of the best. Paired with the best weather apps for your iPhone and you could potentially become your own personal weatherman.
Davis Vantage Vue
Why should you buy this: The granddaddy of weather station manufacturers has a version of its top-of-the-line weather station that doesn’t break the bank.
Who’s it for: Weather watchers who need accuracy and long term reliability
How much will it cost: $300-$530
Why we picked the Davis Vantage Vue:
Davis Instruments dominates the personal weather station market merely because of its staying power: The company’s first digital personal weather stations were sold in the 1990s. But Davis’ weak point was always the price.
Enter the Vantage Vue. The station is Davis’ attempt at bringing the accuracy and reliability to a price point where it’s competitive with newer stations. While the Vantage Vue is still relatively expensive, it’s accuracy is unrivaled. All sensors are housed in a 5-in-1 unit, which measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind direction and speed.
While all-in-one sensor units present some challenges — you’ll need to decide whether more accurate wind speed readings are more important than accurate temperature readings, and so on — our testers gave high marks to its accuracy and reliability.
The station has yet to give us a single issue through a full six months of testing, and required little if any maintenance. One area where we walked away a tad disappointed was its connectivity. This station uses software Davis has used for the past 15+ years, all but unchanged (no, we’re not kidding).
While it does offer a web page, even that is basic, and you’ll need to spend anywhere from $130-230 extra to get a dongle that connects the station console to your computer. Considering just about every other manufacturer includes this with their stations, it’s a bit disappointing. But for the accuracy alone, it’s hard to say no to the Vantage Vue.
The best home weather station for a connected home
Netatmo Weather Station
Why should you buy this: Netatmo Weather Station’s readings are accurate, and its connectivity options are top notch.
Who’s it for: Smart homeowners and those who need internet connectivity out of the box
How much will it cost: $130 – $285+
Why we picked the Netatmo Weather Station:
Of the recently released home weather stations on the market, there is only one that has managed to put a considerable dent in Davis’ dominance. Smart home device manufacturer Netatmo’s Weather Station has accuracy and connectivity options that no other weather station currently has.
Netatmo was tested for close to a year at our test site, even through an especially tough Northeastern winter in 2016. Through below-zero temperatures, sensors buried in feet of snow, and torrential downpours, the following spring not a single sensor malfunctioned and there were little signs of wear and tear. The CO2 measurements also give you an idea of the air quality inside your house.
The connectivity is also top-notch. The station connects to the internet during setup, and automatically reports data to the Weather Underground. Where it really gets good is the IFTTT support. Use Netatmo’s rain gauge to stop your Rachio sprinkler system when it rains. Tell Nest to turn on the heat if the temperature gets too cold outside. The possibilities are endless.
There are some negatives. In our tests, the humidity sensor stayed saturated in wet weather long after rain ends, and we noticed a tendency to under-measure rainfall. You can also end up shelling a lot of money — almost as much as the Vantage Vue — for the complete station as the wind and rain gauges are sold separately, and if you want to add up to three additional temperature sensors.
Regardless, over the long term — especially for those of us bought into smart home technologies — Netatmo seems the better option over Davis, even if it may lag behind in accuracy from time to time.
The best home weather station for expandability
My AcuRite Weather Station
Why should you buy this: AcuRite’s newest stations are internet connected with a best-in-class mobile and web-based app, with tons of sensors.
Who’s it for: Those who want to monitor more than just basic weather conditions
How much will it cost: $90+ (depending on additional sensors)
Why we picked the My AcuRite Weather Station:
Much of AcuRite’s business comes in the form of partnerships with brick and mortar retailers: In fact, it’s the exclusive in-store weather instrument provider for Walmart and several other stores. Due to this, the company is often stereotyped as a “budget” brand, but may be unfair.
The My AcuRite platform is an example of this. While it still produces tons of low-cost models, My AcuRite is intended to be a competitively priced model to go up against the Vantage Vue in terms of feature set and capability.
Its sheer breadth of sensor options puts the Vantage Vue to shame (there, you can’t add any). You can add additional temperature and humidity sensors, indoor sensors, a water detector sensor, liquid and soil temperature sensors, and a ‘spot check’ temperature humidity sensor, none of which are more than $50, and are the cheapest of any of the major brands. AcuRite also sells a lightning sensor now, but unfortunately that’s not yet compatible with the My AcuRite system.
My AcuRite’s web and mobile apps set the bar for what a weather station app should be. Everything you’d possibly need. The device updates readings continuously, and you can set all the alerts you’d ever want. The app’s graphs are visually stunning, and the app is even better on a tablet.
There are a few quirks. Temperature readings during sunny days regularly read high, as did barometric pressure. The station also has an installation process that isn’t always smooth, and the directions sometimes led us astray. We’re told that most of these accuracy issues — and integrated lightning detection — will be addressed in the Atlas weather stations, AcuRite’s direct competitor to the Davis Vantage series. You’ll pay much more for the Atlas, though.
The best weather station for sky watchers
Bloomsky Sky2 + Storm
Why should you buy this: While you can get the Bloomsky Sky Camera alone, pairing it with the Storm turns it into a capable weather station.
Who’s it for: Cloud watchers who aren’t satisfied with just weather conditions alone
How much will it cost: $300 for Camera, additional $140 for Storm
Why we picked the Bloomsky Sky2 + Storm:
Bloomsky is one of those gadgets we’re surprised that no one thought of before. On its own, it takes a photo of the sky every three to eight minutes, as well as a picture any time it’s built-in rain sensor detects rain. These pictures are taken from 30 minutes before sunrise to 30 minutes after sunset, and then automatically stitched together to create stunning time lapses. No power is needed: The Sky2 runs completely on solar power.
By itself, the camera only records temperature, humidity, and pressure continuously. You’ll want to spend the extra $140 to get the Storm add-on, which also runs on solar power and adds wind speed and direction, and UV exposure.
Imagery and data from your Bloomsky station is uploaded to the Bloomsky Map, where you can browse through the thousands of cameras already on the network. We generally had a good experience with our test unit (which is still active), and installation was easy, although the Wi-Fi connectivity was a bit weak.
We did experience some issues with temperature, especially in direct sunlight. Temperatures spiked more than 6-7 degrees above the actual temperature during these times, which means you’ll need to really think long and hard about where you’ll place the station. The Storm generally performs well, but is certainly nowhere near as accurate as top of the line stations.
Another negative is the price: At $300, it’s quite a bit for what some might consider a glorified, Kickstarted webcam. Add the Storm in to complete it, and it’s the most expensive station in our list, but if you’re a sky watcher, the combination of a webcam and weather station is attractive.
The best weather station for the budget conscious
AcuRite 00589 3-in-1 Weather Station
Why should you buy this: While AcuRite is moving towards higher priced and more accurate weather stations, the sub-$100 00589 model is one budget standout
Who’s it for: Those on a tight budget, who don’t mind some accuracy loss.
How much will it cost: $85
Why we picked the AcuRite 00589 3-in-1 Weather Station:
AcuRite gets a second mention on our list for its svelte 3-in-1 Weather Station (Model 00589). At a price of only $85, you’re getting most — but not all — of the most important variables. The station measures temperature, humidity, and wind speed, along with barometric pressure and trend.
Neither wind direction nor rainfall measurements are provided, although it does have a nice forecasting feature which attempts to learn your local weather patterns to make its forecasts more accurate. It can also store daily, monthly, and all-time high and low records, but there is no way to transfer this information off the device because it has no internet connectivity.
Accuracy is generally okay, but noticeably poorer than its 5-in-1 sensor suite. Owners also report that placement is key with the sensors, and if they are anywhere in the sun, temperatures are off. Additionally, wind speed readings seem to run on the low side.
But as with anything, you get what you pay for. Buy this only if you’re looking for the most basic of functionality and more of a general idea of the weather outside. If you can spend just $50 more, get the My AcuRite system: If that’s not possible, then the 3-in-1 is a worthy alternative.
How We Test
Weather stations at Digital Trends go through a rigorous set of tests to even be considered for inclusion in our “best of” list. We first gauge construction of the station as we’re assembling it, looking for any possible weak points or questionable design decisions. As we’re installing the station, we’re also looking at the install process itself. Is it easy to put together? Are the instructions clear? Does everything work out of the box, or are we struggling to get it to work?
Once the station is installed at our test site, the real work begins. At this point we’re looking for accuracy. Weather station readings are worthless, and no better than that app, if inaccurate. We compare our readings with a nearby official National Weather Service station, and look for differences while accounting for normal variances in weather conditions. Few stations make it past this point, as our standards are high. In general, readings with more than 2 percent difference are deemed inaccurate.
Next, we look at reliability. These stations are up for several weeks — months, if possible — gathering data. We look for issues like data dropouts or failing sensors. Is the station holding up well? Do certain kinds of weather affect the station in negative ways? We make note of it so you know what you’re getting into, and what you might have to deal with down the road.
Finally, we look at connectivity and feature set. This is Digital Trends, and we’re all about tech. We want to see easy connections to put your weather data online (Weather Underground, etc.), a well-designed mobile or web app, and other ways to integrate its weather data into your digital life. On the feature side, does it have all the weather readings a good station should have? Does it have a standout feature that other weather stations don’t?
If a station can pass these qualifications successfully, only then is it considered for inclusion on our list.
Tips for Setting Up Your Home Weather Station
To get the best accuracy out of your home weather station, it’s not as simple as just placing it outside and turning it on. Even our best and most accurate stations will give inaccurate readings if the sensors are not placed correctly.
In this section, we’ll give you some tips on how to get the most accurate readings, so let’s get started.
Temperature and Humidity Sensors — World standards call for temperature sensors to be placed at “eye level:” Traditionally, five to six feet off the ground. In addition, the sensor should be located away from any radiative sources of heat like buildings, pavement, and macadam. A grassy location is the most preferable.
The sensor should also be located in an area that receives full shade. If this isn’t possible, and your temperature and humidity sensors have radiation shielding, then an area of partial shade — where the sensor isn’t continuously in the sun all day — is acceptable. Try and avoid placing a sensor in full sun if possible.
Wind Vane/Anemometer — Guidelines state that an anemometer (wind gauge) be placed at a height of 10 meters (33 feet) off the ground, and at least six feet above any nearby obstructions or objects. Obviously, this will be hard if not completely impossible to do. Instead, aim to place your anemometer as far away and above any obstructions as possible, and don’t forget a compass to calibrate the wind vane — remember that winds are measured from the direction it’s coming from!
Rain Gauge – Rain gauges just need to be placed in a spot where splash back will not enter the gauge itself, and placed in a spot far away from obstructions so that rainfall isn’t blocked from entering the gauge.