Have you ever started a conversation with a comment about the weather?
Has an unexpected weather change created havoc in your garden, pond or aviary, or even damaged your home?
Have you ever noticed that the weather you experienced during your day was different to that reported by your nearest official weather station?
Have you ever left home wearing clothing that was too warm or cool for the day's weather?
Or would you just like to know a little more about your local weather than you can find out from TV or the internet?
A “yes" answer to any of those questions suggests that you could benefit from owning your own home weather station.
Now is a great time to get a weather station of your own. Recent improvements mean they have never before been so powerful, so easy to use and install, or so well priced.
I'm sure you'd like to know more, so here are some answers to the seven most commonly asked questions about home weather stations:
1. What is a Home Weather Station?
A modern home weather station consists of one or more sensors which collect data on temperature, humidity, air pressure, rainfall, and wind direction and speed from around your home. This information is transferred to a receiver/display console located in the comfort of your home, and updated frequently. The cost and usefulness rises with the number of sensors used.
2. A friend had a weather station and there were cables everywhere. Why would I want that?
No problems there. Older home weather stations sent data along thin cables, but you will have no difficulty in finding suitable units which use radio to transmit the weather information, over effective ranges of 330 feet or more. No wires, no holes in the roof or wall.
3. How difficult are they to set up?
With a little preplanning, it takes little time or effort to get a home weather station up and running. Once you have chosen the positions for the sensors and receiver, and checked that they are in contact with each other, all you need is some very basic ability with a drill and screwdriver.
4. How reliable are home weather stations, and what do they cost?
Home weather stations vary from a simple temperature recorder to multi sensor arrays. Costs start from less than US$30 for the simplest models with a single sensor, up to around $5-600 for a quality home weather center. More specialized units, designed more for commercial and agricultural uses, run up to $3,000. As in most things, you get what you pay for, and you can expect a $500 model to be stronger and more reliable than something from the lower end of the price range.
Nevertheless, with a little bit of preparation and maintenance, you can expect the cheaper models to give good consistent service.
Much more information can be found at www.home-weather-stations-guide.com
5. Will I just see raw weather data, or can I expect more?
You can expect a lot more. Most weather stations offer a range of calculated functions such as relative humidity, dewpoint, heat index and wind chill factor, depending on which sensors are used. Many have a basic forecasting ability, correct about three times out of four. Many include alarm functions which can be preset at critical high or low temperatures, high wind speeds etc. Almost all show the time, and many of the simpler ones can double as an alarm clock - imagine being woken in the morning with the console showing both the time and the outside temperature.
6. Can I connect my weather station to my computer?
In most cases, yes. In fact many of the better weather stations include software allowing easy connection. A wide range of commercial weather software is compatible with most weather station models.
Take it a step further and you can even link your weather station with automatic heating and watering systems (and much more). Imagine the savings in water use if your irrigation system was controlled by something a little smarter than a timer.
7. What other uses could a home weather station have?
I've mentioned a number of uses in the answers above, but a home weather station can help out anywhere that wind, rainfall or temperature data is useful. Most stations will handle several temperature sensors - you could check soil temperature to help guide you with spring or fall plantings, pool temperatures, or even temperatures in a baby's nursery inside your home.
Or you could run a very simple system monitoring temperatures in an outdoor aviary or greenhouse.
On a different track, you can upload your data to a web page - many people do - or contribute to the overall USA weather picture by sending your information to CWOP (Citizen Weather Observer Program)
There are so many ways to benefit from a home weather station. But to my mind, I've left the best to last.
By observing the weather around your home, you are opening up a much wider field - the enjoyment of the natural world.
As you see patterns develop in the information you have collected, you'll start to appreciate the weather maps, weather warnings, satellite images, radar and forecasts more. You'll find yourself watching the clouds, and how they change with variations in air pressure or wind direction, and you may even improve on the official forecasts.
And overall you'll find yourself paying more attention to the world outside - not just the sky, wind and clouds but all other aspects of the natural world.
So if you can see a need for a home weather station, go ahead and get one that suits you - you'll find a link to a helpful website just below the end of this article. But don't be surprised if your horizons expand well beyond your own backyard.
Copyright ©2005, Graham McClung. A retired geologist, Graham McClung has had a lifelong interest in the outdoors. And where there's outdoors there's weather. He is the editor of http://www.home-weather-stations-guide.com where you can find more information, reviews and independent advice to help you choose and use your own home weather station. You can contact him by email at email@example.com