Electronics
AcuRite’s Professional Weather Center: Wireless Weather Data at a Great Price
The AcuRite Professional Weather Center offers high-quality comprehensive weather data available wirelessly at a fraction of the cost of those "high end" weather stations. Photo: AcuRite.com

The AcuRite Professional Weather Center offers high-quality comprehensive weather data available wirelessly at a fraction of the cost of those “high end” weather stations. Photo: AcuRite.com

Howdy! It’s your friendly neighborhood weather GeekMom!  Even though my family is moving in the month of June, we took the time to install the AcuRite Professional Weather Center (Model 1050C) and have it collect data side-by-side with our other professional-grade weather station for about 45 days.

In this review I’ll go over what comes in the box, installation, data viewing options, and then I’ll present a side-by-side comparison with our incumbent professional weather station on our property: a Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2 that we first got in 2004.

What Comes in the Box

The entire weather station is lightweight and comes in  an easy-to-transport box. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The entire weather station is lightweight and comes in an easy-to-transport box. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

  • Digital display
  • AcuLink internet bridge
  • “5-in-1 Wireless Outdoor Sensor”: measures temperature, humidity, rainfall, wind speed, & wind direction
  • Mounting piece for sensor
  • Debris shield (to keep leaves out of the rain gauge bucket)
  • Mounting hardware
  • Ethernet cable (to connect internet bridge to WiFi router)
  • AC power adapter for internet bridge
  • Quick start guide
  • Full instruction manual

You need to supply seven (yes, as in “7″) AA batteries: three for the digital display and four for the 5-in-1 sensor set.

Installation

My DH took on the sensor set installation for me. He's much better at these things.  Leave the indoor networking to me! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

My DH took care of the sensor set installation for me. He’s much better at these things. Leave the indoor networking to me! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Installation wasn’t quite as straightforward as we had hoped. There’s a plastic mounting post included that can be mounted first to your vertical or horizontal surface. That was simple.

But mounting the sensor set onto the mounting post was more complicated. My husband had to bore holes into the mounting post to accommodate the screws that connect the sensor set to the mounting post. We aren’t sure if this was a mistake in design, or if the screws weren’t designed to go all the way through the posts, thus accommodating installations in a variety of locations. Nonetheless, we had a very solid installation when we were finished.

Two things on the sensor set will make your installation even easier. First of all, the words “North” and “South” with respective arrows are conveniently embossed on the plastic. That with our handy-dandy iPhone compass app made it easy to verify north and south.

Secondly, there’s a leveling bubble on the top of the sensor set. See the photo below for a close-up.

Can you see the bubble? Put the bubble in the center of the black circle and you have a level sensor set! Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

Can you see the bubble? Put the bubble in the center of the black circle and you have a level sensor set! You can also see the debris shield sitting in the rain collector. Photo: Patricia Vollmer.

The 5-in-1 sensor set is lightweight, but we had some concerns with the apparatus being too fragile. Perhaps some stronger plastic is in order? That being said, we had some pretty windy days while the sensor set was out in the backyard and it didn’t seem to have any problem.

Another observation about the sensor set was the set of anemometer cups. They aren’t your traditional round cups. I did a little sleuthing, wondering whether the size/shape of the cups impact accuracy, and I didn’t see any information suggesting a somewhat squared cup would be a problem. It’s just different than the round cups I’m used to seeing.

Make sure you add the batteries to your sensor set–there’s a solar panel to take care of daytime observations, but the batteries will help with a continuous transmission at night. Also, check the “A-B-C” switch. These are the three frequencies available to your sensor, it needs to match the setting on the digital display inside your house.

Inside the house, you simply pop the batteries into the digital display and let it power up. The time and date will automatically set to Greenwich Mean Time, and there’s a button on the back with which you can set your time zone.

Meanwhile, set up the internet bridge. Plug the AC adapter into the bridge and into your home power, and use the included Ethernet cable to connect the bridge to your home router.

Back at the digital display, it should automatically start receiving the 5-in-1 sensor data. If you don’t see the data flowing, double check the frequency slider switches on the sensor and digital display (they need to match), and also check the range of your system. If your sensor is more than 100m from the digital display, the signal strength will be compromised. When you do see data, use the right and left arrows to scroll through the indoor and outdoor parameters. If you’re happy with this setup, you can stop here. But if you want to share your data on internet and mobile platforms, it’s time to do a little more.

For the next installation step, log into the AcuLink “My Backyard Weather” website to register your weather station. Set up an account and input your internet bridge’s MAC address, which is on a sticker on the bottom of the internet bridge. Then follow the on-screen instructions. I had no problem doing this and in minutes, my data was flowing to the My Backyard Weather website.

Data Viewing Options

There’s a lot of flexibility with this AcuRite system. You could keep the data off the internet altogether and simply have an outstanding weather station for monitoring rainfall for your garden and morning temperatures to appropriately dress your kids for school. Use the digital display to view your information.

But you can also take this data to the next step. First, you can maintain the weather data on My Backyard Weather and easily access it with your login and password from your desktop, iOS, and Android devices. AcuRite has free apps for both Apple and Android devices. Using the same login, you can have easy access to your home weather station data.

This is a screenshot of the Android's AcuRite app. Screenshot: Patricia Vollmer.

This is a screenshot of the Android’s AcuRite app. Screenshot: Patricia Vollmer.

Secondly, you can share your weather data through Weather Underground’s network of personal weather stations. This is a fun way to share your weather station data and see it on a Google API map of neighbors’ data. This is a simple switch in your My Backyard Weather settings.

Data Comparisons

I really enjoyed the data comparisons I got to do between the AcuRite and the Davis Instruments Vantage Pro2, which is a professional level weather station used throughout the world and oftentimes ingested into computer weather model initialization data. I’m going to present a sample single day for you (April 23rd) and let the numbers speak for themselves.

The Weather Underground network was a godsend for this, the sites archive the data for as far back as I’ve been reporting to their service (since 2008).  It’s easy to export the data into comma delimited files, which made it easy to import into an Excel worksheet.

One of the challenges in this comparison was attempting to pull the observations that happened at the same time. The AcuRite reports approximately every 15 minutes, while my Vantage Pro2 reported to Weather Underground every 5-10 minutes. About six times per hour I could pull “matching” data points.

I live for this stuff! Screen capture: Patricia Vollmer.

I live for this stuff! Screen capture: Patricia Vollmer.

The image is hard to read, so I can summarize for you. On April 23rd, the two weather stations compared as follows:

  • Temperature: mean difference = Davis was 0.26 degrees F warmer than AcuRite
  • Dew point: mean difference = AcuRite was 0.1 degrees F warmer than Davis
  • Barometric pressure* = Davis was 0.0025 inches of mercury higher than the AcuRite

*I had to do some manual calibration with the AcuRite, it was consistently 0.18″ off from the Davis, which told me it was purely a calibration issue. As you can see from the data, the rises and falls in the mercury were consistent with each other.

Other Observations

I’m not completely convinced on the scrolling data screen that this particular model has. You either set the data to scroll approximately every five seconds, or else you can set it to display only one parameter and can manually advance the data. There is a companion model (that doesn’t include the internet bridge) that has a more-crowded-looking screen, but at least it has all the data in one place.

As much as I like the bubble on the top of the sensor set that lets you ensure the sensor is level, I do wish there was an easier way to see the bubble when you’re attempting to mount the sensor as high up as you’re supposed to (the AcuRite website suggests five feet high). You will need to get your head looking down on the sensor top during mounting, which meant we had to break out our six-foot ladder. In my review notebook I wrote “Can you put the bubble on the bottom?” but then I laughed at myself when I just now saw that line. Of course you can’t.

Conclusions

For the cost, this is an excellent home weather station. The system is lightweight and easy to install. The tools on the top of the sensor set make it easy to level and properly orient the wind vane, and the digital display is very easy to read. Bringing the data to mobile device apps and Weather Underground brings a whole new level to the data collection.

If you are looking for a basic system to introduce your kids to weather observation and data collection, this is the one.

The AcuRite Professional Weather Center reviewed here retails for $199.99. AcuRite weather stations can be purchased from their own website, or in person at your local Lowe’s home improvement center. Several models (but not the one I reviewed) are also available at online retailers such as Amazon.

A complimentary sample of this product was provided for review purposes.

Patricia Vollmer

Patricia Vollmer is a geeky meteorologist mother of two emerging geek sons, ages 9 & 11. She is a proud U.S. Air Force wife and part time Air Force Reservist who blogs about her family's military life at Ground Control to Major Mom. Home is always where the Air Force sends her family, which for now is in Colorado Springs, Colorado (her 8th home in 18 years). Hobbies include running, playing her violin, needlecrafts and exploring the world with her boys.

8 Comments
Anton

June 4, 2013 10:42 am Reply

I’ve seen a bubble level built in the side of a device and a mirror to read it from the side. That isn’t perfect because the level is reversed in the mirror, and it does add to the cost of manufacturing.

Kevin

June 4, 2013 2:23 pm Reply

I have an older model, the rain gauge quit working one year later, not clogged, also, if you get too many cloudy days in a row, it eats the batteries alive.

    Patricia Vollmer
    Patricia Vollmer

    June 4, 2013 2:32 pm Reply

    Thanks for the advice. We’ve only had 3-4 days of rain in the 45 days it was hanging on our fence. Overwhelming sun here…

AcuRite (@AcuRite)

June 5, 2013 12:10 pm Reply

Thank you for taking the time to setup and review the AcuRite weather station Patricia!

We wanted to clarify that the 5-in-1 sensor does run on battery power throughout the day for weather reporting, with the solar panel being used to power the internal aspirating fan to draw in ambient air for an accurate temperature measurement.

We’re here to help answer any further questions you or your readers may have.

Maryann Goldman

December 28, 2013 10:04 pm Reply

I got my boyfriend, Don, this weather station for Christmas after reading your review. We have it hooked up to the internet and Weather Underground now. We’re excited to have it ready to go for the start of 2014, and I’m looking forward to introducing my boys, 9 and 11, to the weather data. Thanks!

Don

December 30, 2013 9:12 pm Reply

Patricia,
I read your blog post last summer and mention the 5-in-1 to Maryann and guess what? I got one for Christmas. It’s up and running (once I located a site for it) it was a snap to set up. I’ve got it reporting on weather underground station ID KNCFUQUA18.

Robert Prinslow

February 15, 2014 11:24 pm Reply

Patricia,
Thank you for taking the time to compile and report the data for the AcuRite weather station and programs. I just purchased the AcuRite model 1050c. Before I chose this model I did a little research and felt the price ($129.99 on sale) was a good value for the features! Your insight will certainly help me with the set up process when I receive the system. If you have any additional suggestions I would enjoy hearing them! Thanks, Robert

    Patricia Vollmer
    Patricia Vollmer

    February 20, 2014 2:50 pm Reply

    Thanks for reading Robert! Feel free to contact me if you have any setup questions. My husband has done this for me not once but twice (we moved this past summer so he re-installed it) and we feel “experienced” now :-)

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