2018 January 29    Weather   Weather & Outdoor Gear

Introduction


"What's the weather outside?"  Sometimes it's nice to know this without having to get up and go there to find out.

Digital weather stations are more affordable now.  Are they any good, though?  Mass-produced, low-cost gadgets sometimes "cheap out" on key features.  Such as, accuracy.

With that in mind, I decided to do an informal review.


A Quick Note

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In This Article

1.  The Batteries

2.  Basic Features

3.  The Fancy Stuff

4.  Bad Points

5.  Good Points

Conclusion




1.  The Batteries


This one uses two AA batteries for the outdoor sensor and three AAA's for the indoor.  They recommend lithium batteries for the outdoor, especially if the temperatures go to -4 F or below. 

I used alkaline batteries, the temperature went to -4 or -5, and it still seems to work OK.

With that said... if you're going to install the sensor where it's not convenient to change batteries, you might want to order some lithium AA's to go with it.  After that deep-freeze, the alkalines may not last very long now;  who knows? 

The lithium batteries also happen to work great in cameras that take AA's, giving extended battery life.  That multi-pack (link, above) has a lower per-unit cost than the 4-pack.  Smart if you have a lot of gadgets that take this size. 

So once again, you need two different battery sizes for the weather station: AA and AAA.

Some of the other models described in this article could be different. (The AcuRite 00634 needs 7 AA's and zero AAA's.)


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2:  Basic Features


Outdoor Temperature is the one feature that they all have.  Most also display Indoor Temperature, as well.  I think anything by Acurite will have the ability to select Fahrenheit or Celsius.

Nearly all of them display the Time and Date, as well.  A good thing about the better models from Acu-Rite is that they have "Intelli-Time".  Straight from the package, this thing already had the correct time.  How did they do that, when it's been sitting in a warehouse with no AA or AAA batteries in it?  It's got some kind of CMOS battery that holds the factory-calibrated time for you.

(How well these keep time from month to month... that's another question.  I still like wristwatches.)

Indoor Humidity is another basic feature.  Most of them have this, with the possible exception of the ultra-cheap ones. 


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3:  The Fancy Stuff


Moon Phase.  This is good to have if you do night photography.  Many nature scenes at night look best with a bright moon in the background.  You can't really Photoshop the lighting effect of a moonlit landscape, complete with the shadows;  only the real deal will suffice.  The moon also affects visibility of other objects in the night sky.  So, if you're into backyard astronomy, there's that.

Barometric Pressure.  The barometer is one of the basic, must-have weather-forecasting instruments.  Some of the cheapest digital stations don't include this feature, though.  Mine has it; I wouldn't recommend a weather station without this.  Once you learn what numbers and trends correspond with which weather, you may also feel you can't do without a barometer.

Lightning Sensor.  Nope, these units don't have one.  AcuRite makes a more expensive one that does offer this... but there's another way to detect lightning.  This article mentions a cheap and easy "lightning sensor".

Wind Speed.  Mine doesn't actually have this feature.  I wish that it did, especially for those cold, windy days.  Get this weather station instead of the one shown in this review, and you'll have this feature.  (Here's another link that should have the same one.)  It has both "wind speed" and "wind chill". 


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4.  Bad Points


When you first install it, it takes a while for the temperature reading to "catch up" with the actual outdoor temperature.  30-second update intervals make it seem even slower.  (Better models update faster.)

In day-to-day use, though, it seems to work OK.  Not as nimble as a liquid-column thermometer, but still usable. 

My main question is whether the temperature is accurate throughout the range.  I don't think it is.  Some people say Acu-Rite is not that good, but it's also not that bad.

You can calibrate the temperature-- or any other reading-- yourself, if you want to.  When I thought I got it accurate for -4 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit, then it seemed like it was 2-3 degrees off in the range of 30-50 Fahrenheit.  A big deal?  You decide.  If you're serious about the accuracy of weather data, consider investing in one of these, not a cheap unit like mine.  And don't forget the mounting pole kit for it.

Another bad point about this AcuRite #00510:  it has only "indoor" humidity.  It doesn't read "outdoor".  Here's a model from AcuRite that offers the feature.


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5.  Good Points


Barometer is handy, for sure.  It also has a learning feature, where it gradually learns to predict local weather more accurately.  The only means of prediction it has is to display a pictogram.  It shows a cloud, or a cloud with sun, or a cloud with rain and lightning, etc.  So mainly, I'm just glad this has a barometer.

Another nice thing is the large numerals for the outdoor temperature display.  But then, pretty much all digital weather stations have that.  So this one doesn't have any major advantage over them.



I like that you can manually correct the temperature readings (and other stuff on here).  With a better unit like one of these or one of these you wouldn't need that so much, but you might use it a lot with the Acu-Rite.

Wireless range is up to 165 feet, which is pretty good.  The higher-priced units go to 330 feet or more, but 165 ft is an improvement over the cheapest ones. 


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Conclusion


Digital weather stations are fun and useful.  The one I tested here is pretty good, but there are a couple features I really wish that it had. 

If I had this to do over, I would at least get one that displays outdoor humidity, not just indoor.

This one has that, plus it also shows high and low measurements from the past few days.  And it displays "Heat Index" reading, which mine doesn't do.

Best in the under-$100 range, though, would be one that has wind speed.  It also has pretty much every other feature, too.  They make a color-display version, but the plain LCD model seems to provide a little bit more information (and costs less). 

I still really want that Davis weather station, though, or possibly this one from Ambient Weather.  They are going to be more accurate and reliable than the cheap stations. 


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