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"The storm starts, when the drops start dropping. When the drops stop dropping then the storm starts stopping." Somehow Dr. Seuss manages to make even the weather sound fun. It's not fun if your newly planted vegetables freeze due to an unexpected frost however, so it's important for farmers and gardeners to be able to predict (to a point) what the weather is likely to do in order to prevent (or minimalize) crop losses.
We rely on the NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) website for our local weather, but NOAA's reporting station must be a fair distance away because they only have about a 60% accuracy rate, and their temperature forecast is always off (too high) by at least five or six degrees. That's life or death for spring transplants, so it was time to buy a weather station. The local Lowe's carries several AcuRite weather stations, but they only had the non-USB model and since the USB model was only $10 more, the USB version on Amazon made more sense. It looks like Amazon has a newer updated model that has a smart phone app.
The assembly instructions were clear and thorough and putting it together was fairly easy with just basic tools. The outdoor unit needs a clear, unobstructed southern exposure and must be at least 5' above the ground. Ours is about 8' above ground and strapped securely to a chain link fence post. It can be very windy in our area, so instead of simply screwing the unit to a 1x4, there's a 2x4 behind the 1x4, and a piece of PVC pipe inserted into the unit, which was strapped to the 1x4, and finally, there's another block of 1x4 underneath the PVC pipe just to be sure. So far, so good.
The weather station's outdoor sensor is rated to -40° and although our area doesn't go much below -15°, the extra money spent for Energizer Ultimate lithium batteries was worth it. It's halfway through the second year of negative temperatures without a problem so the added cost for the better batteries was justified. The iamge below shows the AcuRite instructions and basic assembly of the weather station on the right.
The receiver is on my computer desk, about 50-60' away from the outdoor sensor unit. The indoor receiver has an option for batteries, but the AC power made more sense since there's an unused electrical outlet nearby. The wireless receiver has a unique MAC address, which is how it links up with the online weather service provided by Acu-Rite. You might want to write down the MAC address before inserting the cords because you won't be able to read the numbers once the cords and/or batteries are inserted.
Would we buy it again? Yes, but probably not this particular model because we simply don't have enough time to delve into the available online weather info, so we'd opt for a more basic, less expensive model next time. The newer versions offer a weather forecaster that's just a receiver and sensor without the in-depth info, so that'd probably the way to go next time instead of the full-blown weather station.
If you want to see the actual unit before buying, Lowe's and Walmart both sell the non-USB model in their brick and mortar stores for about $99. There are several websites that sell the weather stations so do a search to find the best price. There are quite a few Acu-Rite models on the market so make sure you're comparing artichokes to artichokes. You can get more info and purchase the weather stations directly from the Acu-Rite website, but there didn't seem to be many customer ratings or reviews. Amazon has a good selection of AcuRite weather stations along with lots of customer reviews, so even if you decide buy from AcuRite, check the Amazon reviews first.