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choosing_a_station

Choosing a Weather Station

Whether or not you've purchased a weather station, we encourage you to take the time to read this section before running WeatherSnoop.

Because WeatherSnoop supports so many different stations, we have a policy of not recommending one station over the other. Instead, we suggest that you research the offerings based on the stations that WeatherSnoop supports and make up your own mind.

Weather stations tend to come with two major components (a) the console and (b) the sensor suite. Though there are exceptions, this is the canonical setup. The console may or may not contain a display, and usually remains indoors. The sensor suite, which typically contains sensors for temperature, wind speed and direction, and humidity, will need to be setup in an outdoor area.

Selecting a weather station is a process that can take some time. There are many things to consider, but we've condensed them down to what we call the “four C's:”

  1. Cost: prices for weather stations run the gamut, from below $100 to $1500 or more
  2. Capability: some weather stations measure more data than others, the data quality is better, or they can be expanded with additional sensors
  3. Connectivity: a weather station will connect to your Mac via ethernet, serial or USB
  4. Convenience: there are both wired and wireless weather stations and depending on your location, one may be easier to setup than the other

Let's examine each of these in a little more detail.


Cost

Cost is usually the overriding factor in deciding a station, so analyze your needs and budget, and select a station that will work best for you. Be aware that as a general rule, the more you pay for a weather station, the more features it will have and the more durable and accurate it will be.

Depending upon your location and placement of the sensors and the general weather in your area, a more economical setup may work just fine. If you are more of a hard core weather enthusiast and want as much data as possible, or live in an area where inclement weather is more prevalent, you will want to look closely at the durability of the sensor suite.


Capability

Virtually all weather stations measure the basics: temperature, wind, and humidity. Most stations also measure rainfall (which requires a rain bucket or other measuring device). Weather stations may also provide other derivable values such as dew point, wind chill and heat index.

For every piece of basic data measured, there is a sensor. More sensors mean more data, but can also mean more cost. Also, some weather stations also measure indoor temperature and humidity – others don't. There are also stations which allow additional temperature, humidity or other sensors to be added over time.

You should take note when researching stations to find one with an array of sensors and options that match your expectations.


Connectivity

The station that you select may or may not have different connectivity options; however, it is important that you understand the connectivity of that station before you purchase it. Each option has its own set of requirements.

Virtually all weather stations connect to your Mac through one of three interfaces:

Ethernet

Weather stations that connect to your network via ethernet are convenient because the console can be placed pretty much anywhere you have a network connection. All you need is an ethernet cable. You can plug the ethernet cable into a switch or router on the same network that your Mac exists on.

USB

USB is another popular option for newer weather stations, and simply requires a USB cable. While USB hubs can and do work well, we always recommend that for optimal operation, users plug USB weather stations *directly* into one of their Mac's USB ports, especially if connectivity problems appear.

Serial

Although on the down trend and mostly on older stations, serial ports (typically RS-232, but also RS-485) are still in use. This can be the most challenging of setups, because Macs don't come with serial ports. If you choose a station with serial connectivity, you will need to purchase a USB-to-Serial adapter. One end of this adapter will be a 9 pin (DB-9) connector that plugs into your station console, while the other end is a USB connector that plugs into your Mac.

We *highly* recommend USB-to-Serial adapters that use the FTDI chipset. If you don't have such an adapter, this one will work well.


Convenience

When it comes to purchasing a weather station, convenience is another important factor to consider. Since the sensor suite must be outdoors, it needs to connect back to its console via some method. Weather stations are either cabled or wireless and both have their advantages and disadvantages.

Cabled stations require some planning to install, because a clear path must be made between the station and the sensors. This can be problematic depending on how easy it easy to run cables from the inside of your location to the outside. On the other hand, reliability between the console and the sensors is virtually assured with the cable connected.

Wireless stations are more convenient because there is no need to tether the console to the sensor suite. The sensor suite communicates back to the console wirelessly. However, placement is important. If the sensor suite is too far away from the console, erratic behavior may occur and data can be missed. Also, wireless sensor suites typically run on batteries, which require periodic replacement (though there are solar-based sensor arrays that mitigate this somewhat).


Next Steps

At this point, hopefully you have either purchased your station or have an idea of what is needed to do some research. When you're ready to start running WeatherSnoop, take a look at setting up your site.

choosing_a_station.txt · Last modified: 2015/08/01 11:06 (external edit)