A home weather station is one of those gadgets that you didn’t know you needed until you own one. While they only recently became popular, these devices have been around forever, and at least one company, Davis Instruments, has been producing personal weather stations for the better part of three decades.
But things have changed. Within the last several years, new companies have sprung up and brought the cost of ownership down to a level that the average consumer can afford. But much like the best weather apps for Android and iOS, not all weather stations are created equal, and accuracy is key.
We’ve recently had the opportunity to test many weather stations and find the best of the best. Let’s find out which station could potentially become your own personal weatherman.
At a glance
|Ambient Weather WS-2902 Osprey||Best weather station overall|
|Davis Vantage Vue||Best weather station for accuracy|
|My Acurite Weather Station||Best weather station for expandability|
|Bloomsky Sky2 + Storm||Best weather station for sky watchers|
|Acurite 00589 3-in-1 Weather Station||Best weather station for the budget conscious|
Why should you buy this: Ambient Weather has knocked it out of the park with this hyper-connected weather station.
Who’s it for: Smart home owners and those looking for functionality and value
How much it costs: $153
Why we picked the Ambient Weather WS-2902 Osprey:
We’ll admit that we were super skeptical of Ambient Weather’s claims of accuracy rivaling that of Davis Instruments’ Vantage series, even though it’s long list of connectivity options bests any station on the market by a wide margin.
For the most part, those claims held up. In our tests, the WS-2902’s instrumentation performed generally well, save for the barometric pressure sensor – which did require recalibration regularly. Normally an issue like that would have been enough to continue to give the top spot to Davis’ Vantage Vue, however Ambient Weather blew us away with its connectivity options.
Although the Osprey does not have its own app – something we hope Ambient Weather addresses in the future – it can connect to your Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, and even IFTTT. With IFTTT, you can use your WS-2902 to intelligently control your smart devices, for example turning your Rachio sprinklers off when it’s raining or turning on the lights in your house on a cloudy day using measurements from its solar radiation sensor.
But that’s not all: you can also connect it to Weather Underground or Weathercloud, or make use of Ambient Weather’s API to make applications of your own. Ambient Weather also provides its own service called AmbientWeather.net, which will give you a graphical look at all of your weather data from one central place.
While you can’t expand the number of weather sensors – perhaps to monitor temperatures in other rooms of your house or the water temperature of your hot tub or pool, AmbientWeather.net does allow you to add additional devices on your account to do that. However at its price point we’d expect this, and it’s a great deal even with the lack of expandability.
The best for accuracy
Why should you buy this: The granddaddy of weather station manufacturers has a version of its top-of-the-line weather station that, while pricey, is super-accurate.
Who’s it for: Weather watchers who need accuracy and long-term reliability
How much it costs: $310-435
Why we picked the Davis Vantage Vue:
Davis Instruments dominates the personal weather station market because of its staying power: the company’s first digital personal weather stations were sold in the 1990s. That said, Davis’ weak point was always price.
Enter the Vantage Vue. The station is Davis’ attempt to bring its accuracy and reliability to a price point where it’s competitive with newer stations. While the Vantage Vue is still relatively expensive, its accuracy is unrivaled in the category. 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 vice versa — our testers gave high marks to its accuracy and reliability.
The station has yet to give us a single issue other than needing a good regular cleaning in over two years of continuous use. One area which is a disappointment is its connectivity. You’ll need to spend an extra $125 for a dongle that connects the station console to your computer. While the company has scrapped its MS-DOS ported software (we’re not kidding) in favor of a web-based application and a brand new app, it still seems a bit crazy to have to spend that kind of money to connect to the Internet.
But for the accuracy alone, it’s hard to say no to the Vantage Vue.
The best for expandability
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 it costs: $140+ (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. That’s not necessarily true.
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.
My AcuRite’s web and mobile apps set the bar for what a weather station app should be. Readings are continuously updated, and you can set all the alerts you’d ever want to. The graphs the app produces are visually stunning, and the app is even better on a tablet. With the updated AcuRite Access (the connectivity unit for MyAcuRite), you’ll also gain Amazon Alexa support.
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. Most of these accuracy issues (and integrated lightning detection) is addressed in the Atlas weather stations, AcuRite’s direct competitor to the Davis Vantage series. You’ll pay more for the Atlas, though.
The best for sky watchers
Why should you buy this: While you can get the Bloomsky Sky Camera alone, paring it with the Storm turns it into a capable weather station.
Who’s it for: Cloud watchers who aren’t satisfied with just watching weather conditions.
How much it costs: $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 its 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, though, and 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 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 webcam. Add the Storm in to complete it, and it’s the most expensive station in our list.
The best for budget conscious buyers
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 it costs: $85
Why we picked the 01604M Pro Color Digital Weather Station:
AcuRite gets a second mention on our list for its svelte Pro Color Digital Weather Station (Model 01604M). For under $100, 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.
Wind direction and rainfall measurements aren’t 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’s no way to transfer this information off the device because it has no internet connectivity.
Accuracy is okay, but noticeably poorer than the 5-in-1 sensor suite. Owners also report that placement is key with the sensors, the sun can throw temperatures off. Additionally, wind speed readings seem to run on the low side.
As with anything, you get what you pay for. But this is 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 two 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 it is considered for inclusion in 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 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 winds are measured from the direction it’s coming from!)
Rain Gauge – Rain gauges just need to be placed in a spot where splashback 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.
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