CHOICE membership

Home weather stations

weather

#1

This is probably too small a niche, but I’ve learned enough to think it might be of interest.

In May, I bought a weather station. The aim is to log data for analysis on my desktop computer.

The model I chose is described as “solar powered” and “WiFi”. I thought that meant that the unit would run on solar power (with a solar-charged battery for night-times) and that I’d be able to access it by WiFi to download data.

Neither proved true. The saga is documented here:
http://david.boxall.id.au/201808/


#2

Every few months I get tempted to invest in an amateur weather station and that one was one of those that looked to be a sweet spot in price performance, but as I live in a very leafy estate the only place I could mount the sensor array is atop the roof, so I keep procrastinating. Since my local high school has a (quite old) Davis system that publishes on the HS web site it has not been pressing.

What I learnt from the iterations is that one should always find and download the owners manual for any amateur weather station of interest. Most have surprises. The most respected company seems to be Davis with quality and accuracy, but the Australian price is a ripoff compared to the US price including shipping and GST (any surprise?), and every review I have read is critical of their ancient console interface.

The others all seem to have issues. A few do not even seem to have correction adjustments for N/S orientation to account for Southern Hemisphere customers or those who have to orient the array offset because of shading or whatever.

Since yours is not fit for purpose have you tried to return it?


#3

I started out asking for a refund. The vendor wants to charge me for returning it.

I’ve now decided to try building a receiver to intercept the 433MHz signals from the sensor unit to the console. The number of projects to that end indicates that reliance on the “cloud” is a serious design error. I’ve only just begun my research and it looks like just listing other’s efforts will take quite some time.

The console does appear to be faulty. I’ve just responded to the vendor to that effect.


#4

I’ve used a Davis weather station for quite a few years, and it has been going well despite a lightning strike permanently wiping out wind direction a few years ago (and everything else in the outside sensor unit for a few hours, before it made a miraculous recovery).
UV radiation (recorded along with solar radiation) is taking its toll, the small solar cell which powers it certainly looks rather weatherbeaten and discoloured now. The main issues have been ants nesting in the electronics, and spiders stopping the tipping bucket rain guage from working properly, so regular checks are required to remove webs.
Yes the software that comes with it is pretty basic, but you dont have to use it! I use Cumulus, which works well, and upload my weather half hourly (apart from during NBN outages) here: http://gunagulla.com/weather/Cumulus/index.htm
I also upload a small text file every couple of minutes for near real-time weather on a phone app.
Cumulus was being actively developed for a number of years, but the author no longer has time to support it (it was donation ware), however, the current version is extremely stable, and there is a user forum to help with any issues.

I bought mine from Qld, however, I’ve since discovered it was a grey import, and uses US frequencies for the outside sensor unit radio link to the base station. This frequency is apparently not allowed to be used for such purposes in Oz, but out here in the sticks it isn’t a problem, although it may well be iin built up areas.


#5

The model I bought comes with no software at all. It relies on a mobile app. for setup and “the cloud” for everything else. I tried Cumulus and EasyWeather, to no avail.

There are obviously lots of variables. The “cloud” thing completely floored me.


#6

I think the PanTech is the same as Fine Offset, see: http://sandaysoft.com/forum/viewtopic.php?f=13&t=1554&hilit=PanTech


#7

Yes, my unit is a re-branded Fine Offset. The WH1080 connects to a PC via USB. My WH2950 uses WiFi. For some strange reason, it won’t connect directly to any other node on my network. The mobile app. connects, presumably via the only open port (45000).


As I pointed out, these devices usually operate on port 80. The fact that port 80 is not open indicates some problem with my unit.


#8

“I’ve learned enough to think it might be of interest”
Crosses my interest path every year or so - is on my ‘one-day’ list.
Perhaps a retirement project!

Although niche, when I search the various weather upload sites, all of them have ~local inputs, the nearest only a few hundred meters away. Selecting the upload site seems a project on its own!

A also looked briefly at the one you purchased, and the Davis products, but didn’t come away with the ready to buy feeling.


#9

I don’t know if this is of any help but comes from the manual (if you don’t have one)

"26
Weather server
a)wunderground
b)weatherbug
c)weathercloud
When customer first power up the device, display is in factory default mode, which will
force wifi entering auto configuring mode: the wifi icon will flash rapidly indicating wifi has
not been connected to any router before.
If device has been setup for wifi being connected to router, a manual wifi provisioning
process need to be enabled. To enabling wifi provisioning process manually, please do
this:
press “Rain” and “Alarm“ button at the same time for 4s, display will force wifi module on
board entering auto configuring mode: the wifi icon will start flashing rapidly, indicating that
WIFI provisioning process will start again.
Steps

  1. Start APP on your mobile device:
    WS Tool.
  2. App will scan for any devices that has already connected to router
    Press “add device” button to start adding a new display device to your router.
  3. Enter router password. Router SSID is always same as your mobile device that
    is being connected to router. So router SSID is not selectable. Press confirm to start
    the provisioning process.
    27
  4. Now you can see new device with ID is added. You may touch “Easy Weather –
    WIFIxxxx”label area to start WU
  5. Tap to select which weather server to be connected.
  6. Enter your PWS ID and password.
    Now your weather station is connected for weather server. Download WU app to check
    your weather station records."

#10

There’s a link to the latest manual on my web page. There’s also a collection of YouTube videos. Bear in mind that this has been going on for almost three months.

WS Tool didn’t work at all well. I found another app. that’s a bit better.


#11

I too asked Choice to test weather stations (Extreme tests - what would you like to see?) in February 2016.

I bought an over $200 Weather Station Model XC0348 from Jaycar and installed it on a short mast on our roof.
Similar to yours in that it was solar rechargeable (actually worked with rechargeable batteries), and had a remote console which connected via USB to my laptop. I used Cumulus to download the data as the software that came with is was fairly basic.

Location wise, we live less than a kilometre from the ocean and about 75m elevation. Our home is on a hill, and is exposed to the weather. We have been hit by the ex part of two tropical cyclones, so I wanted to be across the weather. During the first one, I recorded 115k/h winds.

Unfortunately, the unit stopped working after two years. Investigation showed that it was disintegrating. The solar panel was perished and not producing any power; all the wiring which was actually very fine, was corroded and broken; and the plastics used inside and out had became brittle and was fracturing and crumbling away.

Ironically, a relatively expensive weather station supposedly designed to be exposed to, and to withstand the elements had no weather resistance.

@BrendanMays: I volunteer our home If Choice wants to give weather stations a durability test in real life conditions!


#12

Thanks for the offer @meltam, it would make for an interesting test :cloud_with_lightning_and_rain::tornado:


#13

Np was just a thought. I would also further investigate that your desktop firewall is setup to allow the traffic from the unit so that you may be able to see it. Perhaps running a VM as an Android might be a option to seeing the live data on your PC (see https://www.osboxes.org/android-x86/ for some Android VMs but there are others).

While all of this does not fix the problem that you explain on your web page it might help mitigate some of it.


#14

A desktop firewall would not affect communication from the console to the web. Router settings might. The fact that only a high-numbered nonstandard port is open could be a problem. That could get blocked anywhere in the 'net or the NBN. Over nearly three months, I’ve tried turning every security feature off completely, to no avail.

The Android app. only serves to set up the console on the network. It can access data from the web, once it’s been uploaded, but not directly from the console.


#15

The firewalll though could be why:

Also turning on port triggering and DMZ to the address eg 192.168.1.142 could also be answers to the issue. Port triggering might also work better with a dynamic DNS service if your external IP address is allocated on connection to your ISP ie not a fixed IP address.

Of course the problem could be as you noted that the item is faulty and none of these changes will fix the problems you have.


#16

I am the same but more annual than every few months (maybe part of the /birthday Christmas wish list?).

I have used Environdata weather stations for work in the past and always thought wouldn’t it be great to have a small quality system in the back yard. This would mean I would avoid either emptying the gauge out during very high storm total rain events (which exceed the capacity of the gauge I have) and would keep recording even if I was unable to measure for some reason.

Soon after I think it would be great, I look at the specs for the cost and realise very quickly that it would be a luxury or dream to get one which would meet my hearts desire.

As a result, I am happy with temp data from our local BOM station and also the trusty analogue rain gauge in the back yard.


#17

I have been playing around with cheap weather stations for about 10 years and have a no name station with 2 in house displays. I have to replace parts every few years and they are either WA or WH parts. I have found that a good solar panel is very expensive and the plastic based panels that come with garden Lights, fans and weather stations just go milky after a year or so. The parts I get are less than $50 for each one. I cannot get a wireless link as they use 433Mh and I am not going to waste time trying to find something that will connect. I can use a USB cable from the in house display and have a continuous reading. I had a look at weather underground suggested systems but the price in Australia is silly. And now that we have a Harvey Norman tax on overseas purchases some manufacturers don’t want to deal with Australia.


#18

I paid $162 for a “Acurite 5 IN 1 Wireless Professional Weather Station Color Monito Phoneapp 01536” from ebay in January.
First - US model with no simple fix to wind direction for southern hemisphere, and no intention to make a fix. In fact their help people told me to snap the wind vane off its spindle, drill it out very carefully and put back. Already on roof, not happening.
Second - It must remain connected physically to the USB on your computer, which must remain on and connected to the internet to post to an online weather site (I thought it would wifi straight with the modem, nope)
Seems pretty accurate and has gone great since March - wind direction looks right to me anyway on the display even though 180 out and a bit sheltered by peak of roof. It must be clear of the top of your roof or any obstructions or wind is not accurate anyway, but temperature inside and out, rainfall, humidity all seem pretty spot on to me.
Just for info


#19

I take it the external sensor has to be oriented to the sun for the solar panel to work?

If so I had one that worked fine with the solar cell facing south, this may or may not work with yours. If not why not turn it 180?


#20

The universal truth is our sun shines from the North, and depending whether you are on Cape York, the Mornington Peninsula, or the shores of Dove Lake, you get decreasing exposure as you go South, hence the manuals and systems are designed to be aligned toward the equator, most often in the Northern hemisphere.

Testing the panel for South facing performance with a roof mounted array is not necessarily easy, and could taker months to know the +/- because the underlying power is battery backed, whether alkaline or rechargeable.

A solar panel not working well facing South in the Southern Hemisphere would be unsurprising as well as a common issue in Australia. The sensor arrays use the shaft position as the constant for where North is. Some have a software setting to orient the wind vane while others such as the Acurite 5 IN 1 do not, so any ‘correction’ requires drilling out the alignment notch to mount the vane on the shaft at 180 (or whatever) degrees to get proper directional readings. It is both inconvenient to have to do that plus sans the notch something else needs to be done to keep the vane from shifting around on the shaft (not hard, but).