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Setting up a Personal Weather Station

posted Mar 28, 2014, 10:18 PM by Daryl du Plessis
Cumulus
I have become a lot more interested in the weather since moving to the country. I think this is due to the closer connection country communities have with the outdoors, be it is as a farmer, fire fighter or outdoors worker. I often found it interesting to see what direction the wind was coming from and to this end had a painted wooden parrot on the fence post which acted as a weather vane. The parrot finally met its end after years of faithful service and this prompted me to look at getting a proper weather station.

Being the kind of the person that enjoys gadgets, I started researching the options available to me and found a number of devices available, from the costlier high end Davis products (ranging from $800 upwards) to the more generic products in the $150 range. What I found was that these personal weather stations (PWS) can do a lot more than tell you the wind direction. They have the ability to measure wind speed, UV intensity, rainfall, humidity, barometric pressure and more. The best part for me was the ability for these PWS to log their data via a usb connection to a PC. This made it possible to track historical records and also see trends. I bought the cheaper model off of eBay, a Tycon Professional Weather Station. I particularly liked the fact that the remote sensor uses solar power to recharge the batteries that power it. It came with software for the PC but I found a better program called Cumulus which could read the data from the PWS and provide more features, such as graphs and weather records (e.g. the highest temperature, fastest wind speed etc.). Cumulus is freely downloadable from their website. There is a certain amount of configuration required to set your units of measure and other preferences, but the help documentation provided by Cumulus made this a lot easier. I would recommend that you assemble your remote sensors and position them in place before turning on the base station (which connects to the PC). This way you can avoid getting spurious readings from the remote sensors. I found it difficult to clean up the data once it was logged to the base station.

With the Cumulus software configured and the base station hooked up and logging data to the PC, I then went about publishing the data to the internet so I could access the information online. I thought I would have to develop a custom website to achieve this, but I found that there are a number of websites that provide this service already. The website I chose, wunderground.com, requires you to create a free account and enter your PWS details. They then generate a unique PWS ID for your account. Enter this information into Cumulus on your PC and it will automatically update your weather station details online. The end result being you can find out the weather details from anywhere at any time. This does require you to have your PC constantly connected to the base station and the Internet so that updates can be published regularly.

I have found that my base station will freeze up occasionally and lose its connection to the PC. I guess you get what you pay for. Resetting the base unit seems to fix this though. Overall I am very happy with the solution. Now I can annoy my family by telling them the wind speed and direction at any given moment.

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