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Low-Budget Home Weather Stations? 34

Toby Truman asks: "Working at the Fenwick Island Weather Station, I already have access to million-dollar meteorology equipment. However, some tinkerlusting college friends have been asking me about home weather stations, a subject I don't have a lot of experience with. Have any Slashdot users experimented with DIY weather stations, and if so, what do they recommend?"
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Low-Budget Home Weather Stations?

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  • Aside from a tourist-trap in Delaware, google does not believe in Fenwick Island...:)
  • by Perdo ( 151843 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @02:55AM (#2954058) Homepage Journal
    If my dog is under the covers when I wake up in the morning, I wear a coat to work.

    If the dog is outside the covers, No need for the coat.

    If the dog is outside when I wake up, I consider taking the day off it's so nice.

    If the dog is under the covers and there is a wet spot at the foot of the bed, I'm not going to work because it must be snowing.
  • (Score:3, Informative)

    by ghamerly ( 309371 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @04:09AM (#2954160)
    I've been interested in this since I found out about weather underground [], which lets you feed your own weather information (gathered from your instruments) to their site for others to look at. They have thousands of people feeding them information. Besides this, they carry National Weather Service and they have a lot of other information that other sites don't seem to have. However, still being a graduate student, I gasped at the prices for a mid-range personal weather station (~$500, from my brief search).

    See wunderground's page on personal weather stations here [].

    • The only thing that's kept me from getting one of those geek-toy weather stations is the question of WTF would I do with the data. Finally, an excuse!

      Weather Underground has a nice coolness factor, despite their unfortunate choice of names []. Clever icons, well-designed site, yada yada. Please note that, although Weather Underground doesn't have an official AvantGo channel, the printer-friendly versions of the pages work very nicely on handhelds.

  • Pine cone (Score:4, Funny)

    by heikkile ( 111814 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @05:54AM (#2954375) Homepage
    I suppose you already have a thermometer sitting outside your window. Hang a pine cone from it with a short string. Now you can see

    * Temperature (from the meter)
    * Clouds (look out through the window)
    * Wind speed (how fast the cone is dancing around)
    * Humidity (how far the cone has opened)
    * Snow (is there any on the cone)

    That is about as much as you can ever see through a window. If you need to know the wind direction, you have to measure it on top of your home, or somewhat away from any buildings. Same for a measurement of its speed.

    Of course, being on slashdot, the proper way is to let someone else do the measuring, and read it off over the net.

  • Announcement: OpenAVL is an Open Source
    project intended to provide services to
    (among other telemetry applications) use
    Amateur Radio (as well as other wireless
    technologies) to connect users to such
    Weather stations... this has applications
    to emergency services...

    The tasks include:

    - Adapt an existing Open Source system
    (in Linux/C) to the purpose

    - Design & Develope a new one (Linux &

    Have a look:

    (There is also a SourceForge project area
    (details at the above Yahoo site).

    For those who know it, we envisage an Open
    Source counterpart to the closed-source
    UI-View - from the UK - (whose -extensions-
    to the open APRS protocol seem -yet- to be
    published), combining ideas from the Austrian
    program with an extended feature-list.

    New talent always welcome... both to [try to]
    break it (i.e. test releases) and to fix it.
  • by Ripper ( 26784 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @06:40AM (#2954447)
    Brian C Lane has Linux software available for measuring temperatures. It uses the Dallas Semiconductor 1-wire thermometer and includes directions for building & connecting it to the serial port. You can find it here [].
  • It is quite easy, start by what you want the weather station to do.

    Then start looking hardware which can be connected to a computer or a microprocessor, e.i. things like wind speed/direction. Other things you can build cheap without loss of precision, f.ex. temperature sensors for $2-4.
  • Since I am a ham radio operator, I typically use APRS (Automatic Packet Reporting system), in which many hams have their own weather stations attached to, so you not only get the weather data from the nearest airport, etc. But you get it from many, many locations, and it is plotted on a map which can help alot during a fast moving storm.

    The station I use is the Peet Bros []. Ultimiter 2000. This company is very helpful, and they even publish the format of the RS232 data []!

    There are several sites on the net that you can get APRS, such as [] and if you're not a ham, you can still usually get data from the 'net since many fixed stations gate their data to the net. There are versions for DOS, Linux, JAVA, Windows, MAC, and possibly more. Also, those "trained weather spotters" you hear the news talk about? Most are hams. Go to [] to find out more.

    73's -.. . -. ---.. ...- .. --

  • weatherstamp (Score:3, Informative)

    by cr@ckwhore ( 165454 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @10:14AM (#2955053) Homepage
    Check out

    The weather stamp is a project kit based on the Basic Stamp microcontroller. If you're not familiar with the Basic Stamps, they're easy to program and very versatile. The weather station is good for a few measurements and only costs between $30 and $50.
  • Using Tim Witham's wx200d software (Sourceforge, Linux only) and an Oregon Scientific WM-918 weather station, you can log all the interesting factors (wind, temp, humidity, rainfall, etc.) and produce web charts. The WM-918 can be found for as little as $249 on the web.
  • Oregon Scientific makes a complete line of weather products. You can see them (US Customers) at ils.html [].
  • Heathkit used to make a weather station in the late 1980's and early 1990's before their demise. IIRC, it had a cable that could be connected to a serial port on a computer.

    I'd suggest searching on Ebay for one. Hopefully, it will come with the manual, which will have the specifics of how to talk to its serial port.

  • Davis Instruments (Score:3, Interesting)

    by pease1 ( 134187 ) <> on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @11:42AM (#2955504)
    Several years ago I picked up a Davis Instruments [] Weather Monitor II []. Back then, there were only a couple of home weather stations on the market. The cost was about $500 with various sensors.

    Eight years later, it's done ok... the biggest problem is the wind sensor gets hit by lightning and it frys the station. The last time this happened, two years ago, I put off repairing it ($75) until I remount and properly ground the anemoneter (wind sensor). This will be one of my summer projects.

    The humidity sensor dies every now and then, but Davis almost always replaces it for free. The biggest problem with that is where I mounted it; too high for regular access - I have to borrow a ladder.

    I've pulled Cat5e to the attic and I'm about ready to deploy a "weather cam" pointed northeast out of an attic window so I can display realtime images. As the weather station comes back online, there are a number of windoze products out there that will log and create HTML pages with the data coming out of the WMII.

    The WMII has been a fun little toy...

    An underlying theme is the mounting of the sensors. Every location will be different, but can be a pain. The newer wireless sensors are very appealing, since you could mount them away from a house and not face some of the height/access problems you encounter on a roof top.

    If I were to start over, I'd look at the now much richer market place like this:

    • Available/tools/programs for logging, saving and making web pages for a station;
    • Wireless support;
    • Varity of sensors for the station;
    • Warrenties given even the sensors get beat up and have to repaired/replaced;
    • I'd favor products that have open, published data standards; Davis doesn't that I know of. Apparently third party products have reversed engineered the data stream.
    Pease 1

    You expect weather forecasts to be right?

  • Davis
  • by whatnotever ( 116284 ) on Tuesday February 05, 2002 @01:54PM (#2956493)
    I recently hacked a temperature sensor out of an old <a href=" g">Gravis joystick</a> and a broken diode. I had to calibrate it "by hand" (in the code to read from the joystick port), of course, but it seems to be accurate to within a degree (F) or so. So for the cost of one diode (on the order of one cent?) and one ancient joystick (free from a friend), I got myself a handy little temperature sensor. Oh, and with <a href=" rdtool/">rrdtool</a>, I get nifty graphs, too!
  • Check this [] out.

    Pricey, though, at $499 before the PC adapter ($169)

    However it is wirelessly connected to its sensors.
  • Just a bit of info that I have come up wiht in the past 3 months or so that I have been looking into this type of thing myself.

    Cabela's (Outfitter for hunting and fishing) has a few options from Origon Scientific like a few other users have mentioned, and I have also see the ones by Davis like your link show. My first recogmendation is find out if they are looking to spend $20 or $700. Then find our what they want to see on it. Temp only or humdity, wind speed with direction, barometer, UV index, and rain fall? Then look into seeing how their home is setup. Can they use wired or should they go with wireless - most wireless transmits on 433Mhz +/- a bit. Not a concern for users of WIFI and whatnot, but might cause trouble with their garage remote system, but I have heard nothing of this sort yet.

    I live in an apartment, and I for now and for the past 3 years have used a $20 indoor outdoor thermometer that Radio Shack sells that was designed for automobiles. Works fine, but only delivers the temp. It also has a backlight for early morning/late night viewing. (Helps me decide if it is worth going out to try to see a meteor shower or two this winter dispite all the light polution in the Twin Cities.) It does all I need for now, but when I get a house, I would love to get a wireless system that has wind speed and direction, as well as humidity. BTW, I think the newer version of the Radio Shack Auto thermometer has a "freezing alert" pico buzzer in it now. Might get anoying at times, like 3AM.

    One warning about mounting remote sensors, keep them in the shade if they are temp sensors for the obvious reason. Most people forget that though when mounting them. Under a deck, or on the shaded side of the house (usualy the north side if you are north of the equator,) works better than the sunny side. Also remember that the remote transmitters will use and eat batteries unless you buy the solar kits with the rechargable packs on them. They get pricy though. Wires may be a pain, but they are cheeper. That and when it's 20 below and a windchill of 30 below, you will be happy not to have to go outside to change the batteries so you know how cold it is.

    Also, check out Target and other discount stores. I have seen a few with remote sensors for under $100 there. Not the top of the line, but still, they give internal temp, humidity and barametric preasure, and I think I saw one with the same three measurement for outside.

    Also remind them that they will not be walking around the house/apt. with the reciever after the first week as they will loose the novelty of it. There is no point, IMO, to spen $500+ on something that will be forgotten about in a few weeks. Also, I hate the concept of these programs for windows based computers, but lots of local TV stations will offer a "weather bug" that will sit on the systray and show the current temp outside at the TV station. Drawback, internet connection needed for updates, computer needs to be on, resources are consumed, and most have adds built in to offset the cost of the data feed bandwidth and the development of the program.
  • This [] mexican company provides one-wire units for $79. Linux sofware is available here []. I have one on the top of my house, works great to track the temperature and wind.
  • I did a home weather search on Google about a year ago and there are quite a few products and distibutors. One that comes to mind right away is Oregon Scientific []; they sell direct and also at some electronics and discount stores. Don't forget Boltek [] for a lightning detector!


FORTRAN is the language of Powerful Computers. -- Steven Feiner