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Nich...

Personal Weather Stations

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I recall bits and pieces that caught my interest over the years, involving RasPis and etc as the controller and comms link, but never paid it too much attention.

 

But now I'm super interested in personal weather stations (PWS), measuring temperatures, wind speeds and gust peaks, humidity, light levels, rainfall, etc.  It started out as trying to see where the wind predominantly comes from around the house, especially for violent storms and squalls -  like we've had a few times this past week - to see which threes are riskier than others and need to be managed.  And then I got to reading, and reading, and reading, and now I think I want something to measure all the things, and then have it be accessible online for easy monitoring and data collection and stats gathering.

I've heard the cheap (relatively) integrated kits from Jaycar can be good value, if you find what they're clones of and make use of the firmware from the more expensive devices.  I've heard that the good integrated kits that (like the Davis IC6250AU) cost a lot more but can also last over a decade, and can be modular enough to add sensors as you want/need them.  I've seen DIY kits ranging from very basic and utilitarian and cheap, to getting fairly detailed to make the most of specific sensors that weren't commonly used when other off-the-shelf models came out.  I've seen some people want to prioritise quality of readings, and thus go the DIY route just so their wind readings and temperature readings can be sited in the best locations for both, rather than needing to find a compromise.

On top of picking suitable hardware that has sensors for what you want to measure, there's working out what to do with the data.  It looks like a lot of systems will feed it back, usually wirelessly, to a small LCD or LED screen kept inside a house (on a table or shelf or wall), attached to a small processor that interprets the data and displays it in readable formats, maybe even going as far as to make predictions for upcoming local changes.  Some do this and nothing more, some can be attached to a PC (usually via USB, sometimes wifi) or connect straight to a router, IoT style, and let you store that data in a local database, or push it out to a cloud provider.  Some of the cloud systems are basic web servers, some allow more analytics, and some are commercial or community or government sites dedicated to weather.

 

Some kinds of hardware will only talk to one particular website to push data to, some will offer a handful, and some seem to be open source enough that you can do whatever you want if you put in the work to make it happen, or can piggyback off someone else's work for your preferred options.

I'm still not sure exactly what kind of spec I want to build one out to.  Wind/rain/temp would all be good.  I don't know if a solar sensor would be useful as far as helping to decide on if/what/where to do solar panels for the house.  UV sensors are expensive, given it offers no practical use to me other than 'that's cool, more data!'.  Air quality can be slightly more useful.  Combing air quality and visibility could give some interesting stats on bushfire season, whereas visibility on its own (or tied in with humidity sensors, perhaps) might be an interesting way to see how bad fog is, if deciding on whether to drive home.  Camera pointed up at the sky, or a nearby tree to help see at a glance what local weather is like?  There are lightning sensors available but apparently they're not great unless you spend a lot of money, and there are sites that show the same data tracked live anyway.  It's possible to get soil moisture sensors, which might be useful as far as doing stuff in the garden, both tracking how wet or dry the soil is in a given part of the yard at any given time vs historical data from previous years, to using it to help turn on and off any future automated sprinkler system.  I feel like paying for a tablet to show the data on is kind of pointless given the prevalence of mobile phones, but also I'm not sure how easy it is to avoid those and meaningfully save money.  I'm totally unprepared to even hazard a guess on whether I want to just push data to my local webserver, or to a cloud-hosted weather site, let alone which/how many weather sites. 

 

One thing I'm quite sure on is that I want a wireless system.  No need to risk lightning causing more drama than it may already, if it strikes.  Also means solar panel and a battery can pretty much power it.  Just some slightly complications about how much data it can store locally, if the power goes out and it's unable to upload to the house or web.

But anyway.

 

Have any of you turned a vague interest in the weather, into a hobby that collects stats, either for yourself or the world at large?  Tell us about your setup: what choices did you make and why?  What have you learned along the way?  What would you do differently, if you did it all over again?

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Ah, that's one thing I keep forgetting:  I've seen some IP cameras used in security systems, and the software seems able to have limits placed based on visual parameters, eg alarm trips if the fence is crossed.  It'd be cool to have something like that co-opted as part of a weather system as another data feed.

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In terms of an integrated (in two parts, wind and temperature) off the shelf system, weatherflow's air and sky look interesting.  They also have the Tempest, shipping out now to early backers on indiegogo and kickstarter.  I'm trawling now trying to find out the main differences, other than a single weatherproof unit rather than a split system.    Bunch of automated stuff, but also integration with the big smart assistants, IFTTT, mobile app rather than in-home LCD/LED display, but also looks like there's at least some level of API access, and weewx support.

 

 

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https://community.weatherflow.com/t/new-tempest-weather-system/4444/50

Looks like they're happy with doing some trickery with the tempest, at least.  But IMO if the best place for the anemometer is up high on a roof, that'd surely still do some odd things with the thermometer no longer being a given distance from the ground? 🤷‍♀️

Edited by Nich...

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I used to know a few people with them some time back. I know one guy now but we were happy when his software still worked with Windows 7 and now it doesn't work or at least not for the effort it will take with Windows 10. It seems to be a dying art. 

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I like that there's still hardware out there that provides basic stuff, but a bunch of OSS platforms are available to do more interesting things with it, too.  For some of it, at least.

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Note - none of this gear mentioned below is "weather station" in the sense of interface ability to computers or RasPi etc.

 

I bought a cheapo one from Bunnings that's just the base station with it's own temp + remote one.

Fairly quickly deduced that the outside temp is somewhat redundant in that if properly placed I'd be getting much the same as the airport.

 

So I put the remote one in my bedroom which is great for the time leading to bedtime so I know if I need to do something to make it comfortable, like winter it'll easily drop to near 10 degrees when I'm sitting around in the loungeroom at 18-22 so open door and optionally put heater on.  And summer it'll easily stay over 30 sometimes in summer which is a right shock when I've been enjoying 21-25 degrees the remainder of the night and can take measures to bring it closer to a bearable level.

 

The remote unit shit itself recently which is annoying and no clue provided by pulling it apart.  I've also aquired a few other cheap ones though they're just single station - as well as one of those old thermometer/barometer/hygrometer jobs that hangs on the wall.

With just about all these things I've found the humidity readings all disagree and are usually off the official amount too by a good whack.  So I'd recommend with anything you look at, give that aspect of it scrutiny as it's probably the hardest of the key readings to measure properly.

Edited by Rybags
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