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Off-grid weather station to measure build site conditions

user-5453257 | Posted in Green Products and Materials on

I’ve purchased vacant land in hilly terrain and will be building a residence and workshop next summer.
I’d like to setup a solar or battery powered weather station to learn more about the microclimate.

Knowing, e.g., typical temperature and humidity swings on the site will help me answer questions like: “how much insulation does the workshop need to prevent condensation / rust on tools?”

Does anyone know of an off-the-shelf battery or solar powered weather station that can measure temperature, humidity, and wind speed?
I can visit the site every few weeks to change the battery and collect data from device-local storage.

I’m hoping to spend around $500 at most.
I have electrical engineering experience and know that it’s definitely possible — I’d just prefer to buy something off the shelf than spend 40 hours fabricating something myself = )

Any suggestions?

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Replies

  1. STEPHEN SHEEHY | | #1

    Amazon sells a wide variety if weather stations. If you don't need to get the info in real time, you can get one for much less than $500.
    I'd build a simple roof on a pole to keep the temp sensor out of the sun and put the wind sensor in a clear spot.
    Available weather info for your area is probably good enough to help determine insulation. Unless you monitor for years, you won't get a good average for any factor, given seasonal and yearly variables.
    Of course if your site is atypical, like on top of a mountain or in a deep valley, you may get more useful data by using your own weather station.

  2. user-2310254 | | #2

    Here is a page on building a DIY weather station using a low-cost Raspberry Pi CPU. http://www.instructables.com/id/Raspberry-Pi-Solar-Weather-Station/

    If you are not handy or the site conditions are extreme, you may have to go with some type of commercial package.

  3. SwitchgrassFarmer | | #3

    I think what you are doing is very smart. We had owned our property for about five years before we started to build, so I had pretty good knowledge into weather patterns, winds, etc. We made a number of changes in home location and construction to address those conditions. However a weather station would have given me some better insight into certain phenomena that you really have to be living at a site full time to recognize. For instance I didn't have as much of an appreciation for the prevalence of early morning fog and humidity; it was usually burned off by the time I got to the site prior to living here.

    AcuRite has inexpensive weather monitoring systems and I recently got one on sale for about $120.00. Right now my system is using an old Windows computer to transmit data to WeatherUnderground; I suspect a winter time project will be to transition it to a dedicated Raspberry Pi instead as the PC is balky. You can see my data at: https://www.wunderground.com/cgi-bin/findweather/getForecast?query=pws:KPAJULIA2

    BTW, just using Weather Underground to look at more granular data from others might be a strategy too. We have excellent weather reporting here in the State College PA area as have a National Weather Service office, Penn State does forecasting through the meteorology dept, and Accuweather is headquartered here too. Guess what, just 15 miles away at our site on the edge of the Allegheny Front our temps can be 5 to 10 degrees different, clouds get stuck above that don't impact Happy Valley, etc.

  4. dankolbert | | #4

    You can get temp and rH with a HOBO meter and not bother with powering it.

  5. user-5453257 | | #5

    Stephen, I looked at the "temperature / humidity data loggers" on Amazon, which go for about $30--50 but reviews seem mixed (and some just seem fake).
    That said, getting a few and testing them myself may be my best option.
    Also: My site is near the top of a small mountain = )

    Andrew, Acurite's stuff all looks great, but from what I can tell they all need to communicate with a computer.
    The neighbors are too far away (500+ ft) to use their Internet connection for an Acurite station.
    If there's any way to throw a data logger on an Acurite, it'd be perfect.

    Dan, HOBO's stuff looks solid, though from what I can tell they're pretty expensive: $170 for a temp and RH logger, $124 to get a USB coupler, and $75 for software to read it: http://www.onsetcomp.com/products/data-loggers/u23-001

  6. user-3258290 | | #6

    I can't recommend anything plug-n-play for wind speed (or direction), but I can recommend these Omega widgets for temperature and relative humidity:

    http://www.omega.com/pptst/OM-EL-USB-1.html

  7. SwitchgrassFarmer | | #7

    Kevin, I see that AcuRite now has a repeater (extender) product, may be possible to use one or two of those in series to get to your neighbor. https://www.acurite.com/wireless-signal-extender-for-acurite-sensors.html

  8. user-5453257 | | #8

    Just as a follow up for everyone: I bought two $40 temperature/humidity monitors from Amazon (http://amzn.to/2aj5rUd). One arrived with a dead battery ($5 to order replacement on amazon), but the other seems to work fine.
    The attached photo shows two days of data at 5-minute recording interval from the inside of an open house window.

    For measuring the site conditions, I'm going to build a small box (imagine a birdhouse without a floor) to shelter the probe from direct sunlight and rain, and mount a few feet off the ground.

    I'll follow up here in a month or two with an update.

  9. user-5453257 | | #9

    Hi everyone,

    The $40 "Pyle PTHDL160" temperature / humidity monitor I purchased on Amazon has been working out well.

    I mounted it about 10ft off the ground in an area that gets plenty airflow.
    The attached graph clearly shows the daily fluctuations (greatly reduced at the end, where the sensor was in my car's trunk for a few days).

    The only two downsides of the monitor is that the software only works on Windows (so I can't get data from them in the field with my Mac laptop) and it can be tricky to tell if the sensor is monitoring properly --- I put two out on the site but somehow one of them didn't start recording.

    Aside from that, it's an easy thing to do if you want detailed weather data.
    The settings are adjustable and I set mine at 5 minute recording intervals (there's enough memory for 75 days or so at that rate, but you can record for longer at less frequent intervals).

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