Monitoring the weather is beneficial and great fun but can be very costly. When thinking about the best choice for your first personal home weather station it is worth considering a low cost model.
They provide an opportunity to dip your toe in the water to see if weather watching is something that you enjoy without spending hundreds of dollars to find out. The downside is that when it breaks you may wish you had spent more in the first place to get something more robust.
As with most things in life you get what you pay for. The weather stations in this price range are all made from cheap brittle plastic that you wouldn’t expect to last more than a year or two, especially in areas of harsher weather.
Accuracy is compromised by the low quality sensors used and the inability to separate them in order to site each one in its optimal position.
However, with careful planning it is possible to purchase something in this price range that provides “close enough” data to be meaningful.
While there are many low cost personal weather stations around, Ambient Weather are the leaders in this price range providing the highest spec devices.
Low Cost Weather Station Reviews
The main choice is whether you require the ability to send data to the internet and use weather apps or are happy to monitor the information through the supplied display.
Offline Weather Stations
For those happy to stay offline, there are currently two options.
They both use the same sensors and broadly provide the same information, however there are some differences.
Let’s look at what they both provide.
- Wind speed.
- Outdoor & Indoor Temperature & Humidity
- Dew Point
- Min/max levels of all the above
They both feature a LED back lit black and white display that can be free standing or hung on a wall. Each display differs slightly in how the information is laid out.
The Ambient Weather WS-5305
Ambient Weather WS-1075 Display
For each display you will need to be fairly close as they don’t stand out like some of the more expensive color displays on higher cost versions.
But they display the information clearly.
They both broadcast wirelessly over 433 MHz and have a maximum suggested range of 100 feet.
We are not big fans of devices that broadcast at this frequency as they can be quite unreliable unlike the more expensive devices that use the 915 MHZ band. So make sure you have the ability to site the outdoor array as close as possible to avoid dropouts.
They also both come with a mounting kit that will attach to a 1-2” diameter pole (not supplied) or to a tripod that can be purchased separately.
So how do they differ?
The big difference is that the slightly cheaper WS-1075 doesn’t have a wind vein so is unable to provide wind direction.
Instead it measures Barometric pressure. It uses this pressure measurement to display forecast icons to show whether it is going to rain, be cloudy or sunny.
The WS-5305 does include a wind vein and so provides a wind direction display with compass, but doesn’t include any kind of forecasting or pressure measurement.
So are they any good?
You have to bear in mind that these devices are very cheap and they do look it. However they do include an outdoor array that at least provides meaningful local data.
The radiation shields are too small on both devices, so heat can build up around the temperature sensor. This results in a tendency for outdoor temperatures to be reported higher than they really are.
However for the price they both broadly do what you need them to do.
While the wind direction is a nice feature of the 5305, the 1075’s forecasting feature is more useful day to day.
The 1075 also provides a better display making it the better choice if you do prefer a dedicated display.
Internet Weather Stations
If you prefer weather stations that send data to the internet, Ambient Weather has two stations in this price range that fit the bill.
The lower cost option is the WS-0800-IP while the WS-0900-IP is the more expensive solution.
Both stations come with an ObserverIP module that plugs into a free Ethernet port on your router.
Weather information is sent from the indoor and outdoor sensors directly to the ObserverIP module.
It is then sent to the Weather Underground server.
No display module is included with either weather station. The weather information can only be accessed through a computer or through the weather underground app on either a tablet or phone.
WS-0800-IP Vs WS-0900-IP
The WS-0800-IP comes with 2 sensors, 1 for inside and 1 for outside.
The indoor sensor measures:
- Indoor Temperature
The outdoor sensor measures:
- Outdoor Temperature
A big advantage over the WS-1075 & WS-5305 stations is that they transmit wirelessly over the 915 MHZ radio frequency instead of the less reliable 433 MHZ.
This increases stability of the connection considerably. 100 feet is still the limit for a good connection though.
The included sensors are really small! And have a LCD screen that shows the transmitted information.
They are very easy to set up compared to an array that you have to mount on a pole or tripod.
Simply place the outdoor sensor in the shade somewhere outside within range, and place the indoor sensor anywhere indoors. That’s it!
OK, not quite it, you will need to buy 4 AA batteries.
How well does it work?
It works well enough for the price.
The sensors have the same limitations as the non-internet versions though. The temperature sensor’s range is ±2 so a 15F actual reading could show up as anything from 13F to 17F.
This is all you can expect for any station in this range though.
The downside is that you won’t receive any wind or rain data.
This is where the WS-0900-IP comes in.
In addition to the sensors included in the 0800-IP an additional mountable sensor is supplied.
This measures wind speed & direction as well as rainfall.
The rainfall measurement works well and is accurate.
The wind speed is calculated using average speed over a 48 second duration. A better station will take these measurements over a much shorter period to offer more accurate readings.
The internet weather stations are superior to stations that use their own display.
The weather underground app is color and has a very nice layout compared to the generic displays that come with non-internet stations. It also allows you to view the information anywhere that has an internet signal.
If you prefer internet weather stations, the best low cost personal weather station for the home is the Ambient Weather WS-0900-IP. However, for those willing to spend a bit more, we highly recommend looking at the Ambient Weather 1400-IP
Check out our ultimate guide to choosing the best weather station here.