A Dream Come True: My New Weather Station

– Posted in: Acquisitions, Tools and Equipment, Weather
16 comments

Ever since I realized that the National Weather Service at our local airport under-reported both the lows and the highs at our first house, ever since I discovered we were a lot more likely to have frost than our region at large, I’ve wanted to track the weather in my yard, the uber-local weather. For years–before we had internet–I was happy to have a wireless, electronic max-min thermometer, such as the one pictured at left.

Then I discovered that ordinary, regular people (not just meteorologists) could have a weather station deemed accurate enough to upload its data to the internet for the general public to view–on WeatherUnderground’s Personal Weather Station Network. You could prove to the whole world that you did indeed have frost when the NWS said it would only get down to 42°F (5.5°C)!

I wanted one that could do that–oh, it would be so cool!–but when I started shopping around, I just couldn’t justify spending the money. After all, the thermometer I had, a simple rain gauge, and a notebook to record the info would give me a good sense of when the last frost occurred in spring, when the first one occurred in fall, and whether we were overdue for a good rain–which was all I needed to plan when various tasks needed to be done in the garden.

Really? A Weather Station? For Me?

When AcuRite contacted me earlier this month offering to send me their top-of-the-line weather station, I was dumbfounded. I had to read the email several times and visit their website before I could really believe it was true and reply back. Then I did a little skip and a jump and walked around with a goofy grin for the rest of the day. Sheesh.

Where should I set it up?

While I was waiting for my weather station to come, I downloaded the manuals and looked them over. I also found information from NOAA on siting the sensors so they give the most accurate information .

professional-sensor-siting diagram

Depending on what’s being measured, there are different siting requirements for the various sensors.

Here’s the thing: the specifications for the most accurate temperature recording are quite a bit different than the specs for the most accurate wind speed and direction recording–and all of those sensors are located on the same device, AcuRite’s 5-in-1 PRO Weather Sensor. For accurate temperature and humidity recording, the sensor needs to be:

  • between 4 and 6.5 feet (1.2 to 2.0 meters) off the ground
  • on open level ground at least 30 feet (9 meters) in diameter
  • away from any obstruction for a distance of 4 times the height of the obstruction

However, for the best wind measurements, the sensor should be

  • 30 – 33 feet (9 – 10 meters) above the ground
  • away from any obstruction for a distance of ten times the height of an obstruction

And the rain gauge should be in a location with no overhead obstructions (Duh! How else would the rain get in?) and protected from wind. It’s clear that when all the sensors are attached to one device, compromises must be made. I knew that temperature would be the most important factor for gardening in my climate, so I went outside to see where the best spot would be to optimize that measurement.

ash tree

We estimate this ash tree to be 35 feet tall. That means the weather station should be 4 x 35 ft, or 140 feet away.

weather station in backyard marked better

However, 140 ft away from the ash tree puts it too close to the apple tree in between the chicken coop and the garden shed. (Click on photo to enlarge.)

I thought 100 ft from the ash tree was a good compromise, but I really didn’t want to have a pole stuck in the middle of the yard. In the end, I decided to set it up at the corner of the kitchen garden, marked with an X.

Here’s how we did it

I had already put batteries in the weather station and the display, and I knew that the indoor display was successfully receiving the data from the weather station sensors. I asked my son Rundy to help me get the weather station set up in its permanent location. I bought a 4″x4″x8′ pressure treated post and a 30″ post spike similar to the one pictured at right.

Rundy uses a digging bar to "predrill" the hole for the post stake.

Rundy uses a digging bar to “predrill” the hole for the post stake.

As it turned out, he hit a rock and so moved to the other side of the corner stone. Since I wanted the station about six feet off the ground, Rundy cut two feet off the eight foot post.
My son used the scrap two feet of post to drive the post stake into the ground.

He used the scrap two feet of post to drive the post stake into the ground.

Then my son removed the scrap, inserted the six foot post, and tightened the post bracket.

Then my son removed the scrap, inserted the six foot post, and tightened the post bracket.

Next he screwed the weather station’s mounting base into the post. (There is no photo of this step because I had to hold the mounting base in place while he operated the drill.) The mounting bracket has a pole that you slip the weather station onto. It moves freely on this pole so that you can turn it so that the solar panels face south.
After the station was oriented correctly, Rundy drilled in the set screws that would prevent it from rotating on the mounting bracket.

After the station was oriented correctly, Rundy drilled in the set screws that would prevent it from rotating on the mounting bracket.

We made sure the whole set-up was level by using the little bubble level on the top of the weather station, ensuring that the rain gauge would measure precipitation accurately.

Now to connect…

I now had a functioning weather station, but it wasn’t yet connected to the internet. To accomplish that, I needed to get the internet bridge hooked up to our router, a simple matter of plugging in the provided cord and waiting. The internet bridge gets the data from the weather station, and uploads it to MyAcuRite.com. It’s at this website where you can read the full array of data that the weather sensors are measuring, which includes a lot of information that is not on the indoor display. For example, if you want to know what today’s high temperature was, you have to either go to the website or access the same information with the smartphone app.

updated my acurite dashboard

The complete range of data measured by the weather station must be accessed through the internet. (Click photo to enlarge)

Each of the squares in the dashboard is a widget. The widgets that have a chart button can generate a graph of historical data. You can also download the data as a .csv file. I am going to try to make a habit of doing this, because if any of the widgets in the dashboard were to be deleted, all their data would be deleted with them. Update:(2-DEC-2016) In September 2016 the software that sends your weather data to the cloud has been completely redone. The new dashboard (now pictured above) is easier to read. You can still set up an email or text alert for any of your sensors. Around here, the last frost can show up as late as the first week in June, but we don’t wait that long to plant the tender things, because the last frost might not come that late, and who wants to waste two weeks of growing season? So, after we’ve planted our frost-tender flowers and vegetables, I’ll set the temperature widget to notify me when it drops to 35°F. That should give us enough time to cover things up before frost.

Yahoo! My Own Personal Weather Station!

The final step was to sign up for a personal weather station at Weather Underground, following the directions in the manual. My weather station is KNYOXFOR9, one of several in my county. I guess I’m not the only weather nerd in this part of rural NY.

I have to admit, when I opened up the box and found several smaller boxes inside, each with an instruction manual, I felt pretty intimidated. Fortunately, my excitement overcame my fear, because it was really pretty easy to set up. In fact, I found the indoor display easier to use than the LaCrosse max-min that we’ve had for ages. The hardest part was figuring out where to put the outdoor sensor unit, and that was because I’m picky that way. If you look at where other people put their stations, you’ll see most folks are not nearly so picky and are very happy with their weather station.

Who else out there has a weather station? How do you like it? And who else wants one?
Update: For reviews of the latest models of home weather stations, visit WxObservation.com.

AcuRite offered me my choice of products from their site in exchange for participating in their case study, which involved providing them with a few paragraphs telling them how I used their products to help improve my everyday decisions and activities, especially as they relate to gardening. They did not ask me to write this blog post; that was my own idea. Also, Cold Climate Gardening is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com. If you buy something from Amazon after clicking there through my site, I earn a small commission. The links to AcuRite earn me a commission from them.

About the Author

Kathy Purdy is a colchicum evangelist, converting unsuspecting gardeners into colchicophiles. She would be delighted to speak to your group about colchicums or other gardening topics. Kathy’s been writing since 4th grade, gardening since high school, and blogging since 2002.

If winter is slumber and spring is birth, and summer is life, then autumn rounds out to be reflection. It’s a time of year when the leaves are down and the harvest is in and the perennials are gone. Mother Earth just closed up the drapes on another year and it’s time to reflect on what’s come before.

~Mitchell Burgess in Northern Exposure

Comments on this entry are closed.

John May 7, 2015, 6:08 pm

I’ve always wanted a weather station ever since I started using Wunderground.com for my weather. It looks like they were less expensive than I thought too. I’ll need to find a place to put one, though.

Zoey Jordyn May 5, 2015, 3:55 am

Another dream come true 🙂 Congratulation Kathy! I`ll definitely try it.

Jen PermiKids May 1, 2015, 8:23 pm

Hi Kathy, great article, we’re looking at one for our community garden at the moment and this one seems to really fit within the budget.

Donalyn@The Creekside Cook April 30, 2015, 8:57 am

That looks really fun and useful, Kathy – so glad your dream came true!

Rosie Joyce April 29, 2015, 5:20 am

It seems nice, so cool for weather enthusiast and gardeners for tracking the local weather. Congrats 🙂

Mel April 27, 2015, 11:28 am

Oh my goodness, how totally cool is this! I have to try it!

KennyS April 27, 2015, 5:32 am

Thats awsome, I remember how I had to make one in my school class back in the day 😀

Donna@Gardens Eye View April 26, 2015, 5:35 pm

Me, me….I want one too. This is so cool. I have several weather apps and watch the weather and track it here as best I can…wow would that be a hoot to be given one of these…lucky lady you are Kathy! Love to hear how you like it.

Frank April 26, 2015, 7:19 am

Very cool! I would have never expected it to be as easy as that to set up and connect. I just checked your weather and was disgusted to see how low the overnight was. You have a long way to go before those heat lovers get planted!
Did I already mention this is cool? Let me say it again 😉

Layanee April 25, 2015, 7:21 am

I used to have a weather station but it only worked for about a year. I did like checking the info daily. What fun that you can track on your phone and computer.
I would consider another one. Have fun with yours.

Paddy MG April 24, 2015, 12:23 pm

Hi Kathy! Another great post. I’m extremely jealous, although I’m not sure I’d be able to install it all myself, have to get some younger men down to help me! I would love to have my own station. Soon!

commonweeder April 24, 2015, 12:15 pm

We had a wireless weather station for quite a while, but I don’t think we were quite as careful siting it as you were, but it did get unobstructed wind. My husband is the ‘meteorologist’ and loved being a part of the Weather Underground, but it was too cold where we are in winter and the wireless equipment batteries couldn’t hold a charge so we gave up. Fun to do, though. Maybe in our new house.

Kathy Purdy April 24, 2015, 2:22 pm

AcuRite recommends lithium batteries for colder climates like ours. You should try again! I think the technology has improved quite a bit.

LESLIE SHIELDS April 24, 2015, 10:11 am

Isn’t it nice when we get what we want? Congratulations

Jordan April 24, 2015, 9:08 am

Amazing find! This would be absolutely perfect if a homeschooling home wanted to teach their kids about meteorology, also. Thanks for sharing!

Kathy Purdy April 24, 2015, 9:32 am

Yes, it would be a great way for homeschoolers to learn about weather–and also how to make an Excel chart from .csv files, which is my next step.