Choosing Your First Personal Weather Station – 3 Ideal Starter Systems

Your First Weather Station heading

So you finally decided to not just rely on the weather forecast anymore and take control of your personal weather by obtaining your own weather station. Good on you! But where do you start and what do you look out for?

To be honest I am actually excited for you, and a little jealous. My first little weather station, now about 20 years old (pictured left), really sparked my interest and my passion and thirst for understanding the weather. Getting to know how it worked and actually reflected actual weather conditions was a whole new adventure.

To be honest, I didn't really know exactly what I was buying back then. The 2 different temperatures being displayed (found out it is inside and outside temperature), the bar with different heights running from left to right look very cool. (Which is the bar indicating the barometric pressure over time). I won't go on about all the other the other features, but you get the idea.

Ok, back to reality. Personally, I really don't think it's necessary to go all out and get a complete weather system with and array of outside sensors, with a wireless connection to your base station, which logs to up to a year's data and connects to your wifi router.

So what you should you be looking?

A basic standalone unit and a simple outside sensor. Even basic personal personal weather stations come with more than you really need to get started and familiarize yourself with how everything works.

There are 3 weather elements your weather station should be able to measure:

  1. Inside Temperature (and outside temperature on your remote sensor)
  2. Air Pressure (barometric pressure with a build-in barometer)
  3. Humidity (moisture in the air measured by a hygrometer)

If you have access to these 3 important measurements, you will be able to learn how these readings correlates with the accompanying weather. Paying attention to them will help you to quickly learn and understand how they are able to reflect current and feature weather conditions.

The majority of home weather stations comes with a forecasting abilities (sun, cloud & sun, cloud, cloud & rain icons etc.) which is a result of the the units build-in algorithms and calculations based on the data it gets from the different sensor.

You don't need to blindly rely on these "forecasts". If they are fairly accurate though, it is a great way to start making your own forecasts as you learn to read the measurements and see how close you get to judging the weather correctly.

Right, lets get to the actual weather station. Keeping in mind that this will probably be your first personal weather station, I examined 3 systems that are very reasonably priced and got all the necessary basic functions built-in to give you a proper start. 

All 3 of them gave surprisingly accurate readings, are very user-friendly and have a decent quality design. In order of functionality and price, they are:

  1. La Crosse Technology 308-1425B
  2. Ambient Weather WS-2801
  3. AcuRite 00589

Depending on your needs, one may be more suitable than the others. Don't expect all the bells & whistles from advanced systems that are more than double the price or more. But in all honesty, you don't need all these extras to start with. The features and functions of these 3 devices are more than you need to start out with, and will probably keep you busy and interested for quite some time.

Lets take a closer look at each one in more detail:

La Crosse Technology 308-1425B

La Crosse is a  company dedicated to producing weather products and has been doing this for more than 30 years. From producing basic thermometers to advanced home weather systems, you don't need to be a rocket scientist to see that they know a thing or two about weather instruments.

As with both other systems in this review, it comes with an indoor base station, as well as an outdoor sensor. All 3 crucial weather variables during my introduction (temperature, air pressure, humidity), are measured by the La Crosse.

Here is a quick summary of the most important features:

  • Inside Temperature (Inside & Outside)
  • Humidity (Inside & Outside)
  • Barometric Pressure
  • 12 Hour Forecast with forecast tendency indicator
  • Air pressure trend indicator
  • 12/24 Hour atomic time & date

​The base station has a large easy-to-read display. Some of the buttons are on the back of the display, which may make adjustments a bit tricky. If you don't need to access these buttons frequently though, this should not be an issue.

Performance is surprisingly good for a weather station within this price range. To test the accuracy of the outside sensor and base station, both were placed together. All readings were very closely matched. Temperature readings had a maximum difference of 2 degrees between the 2 units, which is more than acceptable for measurement and forecasting.

la crosse sensor

All major weather measurements are prominently displayed, which makes taking quick readings easy. It also has animated weather forecasting icons which include a forecasting tendency indicator which I find very useful. (Remember to try and make your own forecasts and compare it with the weather station's forecasts!)

A useful feature, is the ability to measure humidity below 19%. (If you are living in a dry region this ability is quite useful. I am mentioning this as some other weather stations and some of La Crosse's smaller weather stations don't measure humidity this low. )  

As this weather station is a basic unit aimed at the beginner, is doesn't have extra measuring capabilities like wind speed, wind direction and rainfall. From personal experience I can testify that you don't need these extras to start out with. For almost 10 years I used my "old" trusty unit that just measured the "Big Three" (temperature, humidity and air pressure) and it kept me busy for quite some time.

A highly recommended starter weather system with good accuracy and a great feature set at a very affordable price.

You can get more information and pricing on the La Crosse Technology 308-1425B here.

Ambient Weather WS-2801

Ambient Weather WS 2801

Ambient Weather is seen by many as the market leader for home weather stations by many users, especially for the more serious weather enthusiast. (Not so sure what Davis Instruments will have to say about that, but that is a topic for another discussion).

The WS-2801 is another solid product from the company. Not only does it measure the 3 key weather elements (temperature, air pressure, humidity). It also incorporates memory for min/max temperature & humidity display and support for up to 3 separate outdoor sensors.

Additionally, it claims a fairly accurate 24-48 hour weather forecast ability. (More on this a little later.)

This weather station does not have all the extra feaures of some other similarly priced competitors, but does what it promises very well. It offers the important basics, and focus on quality and accuracy.

It does offer all the important features you need though, plus a couple of extras which include:

  • Inside Temperature (Inside & Outside)
  • Humidity (Inside & Outside)
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Air pressure trend indicator
  • 24-48 Hour Forecast with forecast tendency indicator
  • Min/Max memory for temperature & humidity
  • -40°F - 140°F Outside temperature range (with lithium batteries)

The base station's display is clear and easy to read. It also had 3 adjustable levels of brightness when plugged in. (It uses the 2 lower brightness settings and the screen turns off after a few seconds when not plugged in and the backup batteries are used.)

As to be expected from a weather station aimed at the more serious user, the build quality is very good. I also found the ability to calibrate the device very useful for getting more accurate readings.

I didn't find the need, but the ability to support 3 outside sensors is very useful for users who live on a large property, or need to take measurements at different locations to get a more accurate picture of weather conditions.

(Just remember to have your outside sensors close to the base unit when installing to allow them to synchronize with each other. After syncing you can always move them outside or as far away as you are still able to receive their signals)

ambient sensor

Just a quick word on the 24/48 weather forecast claim. This is not a big issue, but please don't rely on the weather station to give you an accurate 48 hour forecast. I couldn't confirm or disprove these claims yet, but that's not the point. The capabilities of any personal weather station, even high-end professional home systems are limited by their sensors.

Their forecasts are made based on changes in temperature, humidity and barometric pressure. (High-end models also measure wind speed, wind direction and solar radiation, and include them in their calculation as well.)

However, weather is too complex and change too often to be accurately judged over 2 days. The sensors of any personal weather station don't have the ability to see the "Big Picture" and weather systems approaching hundreds of miles away.

This is my personal opinion and should be seen as just that, but based on years of experience and knowledge of how feature weather conditions are calculated, it's important that you should be aware of this "limitation". Professional national weather forecasting stations have the advantage of satellite images, radar imagery and weather balloons to see and detect changes in weather hundreds or more than a thousand miles away.  

Having said that, what you are getting with the Ambient Weather WS-2801, is a solid professional beginner weather station. It is a very good start into the world of weather and forecasting.  

You can get more information and pricing on the Ambient Weather WS-2801 here.

AcuRite 00589

AcuRite 00589

AcuRite is well-know consumer brand. Not so much seen as a dedicated producer of weather related products, it is sometimes not taken very seriously by weather enthusiasts.

There have been some claims of unreliable readings and poor build quality from users over the years. Some of these claims may be founded and some unfounded, but before making any judgment based on rumours and opinions, read on.

The AcuRite 00589 was designed to provide you with an easy-to-use, feature packed and intuitive personal weather station at a very affordable price. And it really does deliver plenty of bang for the buck. So does it make up for its sometimes "bad" reputation as an unreliable device with a a sub-par build quality?

Well to be honest. I was actually very pleasantly surprised. Does it look rock solid and sturdy? No, not all. To be honest, the plastic housings have a fairly cheap look and feel to them. But looks can be deceiving...

As far far as features go the AcuRite delivers more features than any of the other system tested here. Temperature, humidity and air pressure are obviously covered. Additionally, the sensor unit can measure wind speed, with the included anemometer.

A quick look at the important features of the AcuRite 00589:

  • Inside Temperature (Inside & Outside)
  • Humidity (Inside & Outside)
  • Barometric Pressure
  • Air pressure trend indicator
  • 12/24 Hour Forecast
  • Wind Speed (current, peak and average)
  • History Chart for temperature, wind speed and barometric pressure
  • High/low data (daily, monthly and all time)

Everything works right out of the box, is extremely easy to setup and use. The colour display of the base unit is bright and easy to read. It's is also very easy and quick to setup and use. My only two main criticism is that the display can be difficult to read at an angle. It is also not a real colour display, but coloured glass illuminated by the LCD display.

So, let's address the main concerns first. Quality wise I couldn't find any real fault. Although it doesn't look or feel like it is built like a tank, everything fits well together, and nothing in particular looks like it can break or fail easily.   

Problems occurring over the course of time seems to be the biggest potential problem. I couldn't judge as I didn't have the unit long enough to make a judgement, so I turned to fellow users and other long-term tests.

AcuRite sensor

It became clear very quickly that durability over time seems to be a real problem. Some users reported failure of the outside sensor unit after only 2 months. Others reported failure after a year of usage. Then there are users who were very happy and didn't report any problems.

I can also not testify as to the weather conditions the stations that failed, were subjected to. (Please note: No weather station will survive extreme temperatures with sustained gusts of hurricane level winds over time.)

After some further research, I can make the following recommendation. The weather sensor unit seems to have a limited lifespan, especially in regions experiencing extreme weather conditions. In other words, see this weather station as a feature rich unit that is easy to use, but may be need to be replaced as some point.

As far as accuracy is concerned, I got mixed results. During cold weather, very accurate measurements can be taken. When it got very hot however, the temperature readings started to become a lot less accurate. In general though, it remains in the acceptable range.  

Wind speed readings also seems to be a bit erratic. As placement is crucial for accurate wind speed measurement, make sure the anemometer is placed at least six feet above ground level, with no housing structures and trees nearby.

So is the AcuRite 00589 worth it at all? It all depends on your goals.

If you are looking for a basic reliable personal weather station you plan on keeping for some time, then you may want to give it some thought. It may last you for quite some time, but just be aware of this potential reliability issue.

If you are looking for a beginner weather station with a good feature set and ease of use, which you plan to use as a stepping stone or starting point to get you feet wet before moving up to the next level, the Focusrite will be ideal for you. (It may even last you for many years to come.)

One last remark. The 00589 is a best seller on many major online stores, so maybe many of those criticisms are mostly the exception to the rule...

You can get more information and pricing on the AcuRite 00589 here.

Conclusion

If you were looking for a good option to consider for a starter personal weather station, you now have 3 good options to choose from. Each one has its own strengths and weaknesses and depending on your needs, one may be a better fit than the others for you.

With all 3 personal stations being-budget friendly, they will not break the bank. Apart from the fact that all these systems are well researched and comes highly recommended, when/if the time comes to replace them for a higher-end or different weather station, you won't be left feeling that you wasted your money on something not worth your while. 

Feel free to leave me any comments, questions or suggestions, and I will get back to you as soon as possible.

Remember to join my  Mailing List  to be informed whenever a new article is released, and share new developments and helpful hints & tips.

Until next time, keep your eye on the weather!

Wessel

Wessel Wessels
 

Lifelong weather enthusiast. Interest in all things weather-related, and how global climate and local weather interact. Home weather station owner for almost 2 decades, but still learning and expanding my knowledge every day. Keen on sharing my knowledge and get more people involved and interest in both their local weather and how it interacts with climate on a global scale. Love sharing my knowledge on home weather stations, how they work and the many ways you can use them to your advantage. All in all, just a bit of weather nerd.

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