There is nothing more frustrating than getting a big downpour of rain and not capturing the rainfall totals due to equipment failure.
This got me thinking, “how do I know if my home rain gauge is accurate.“
The reliability of a home weather station rain gauge is one of the reasons why you bought it in the first place, Right?
That’s what happened to me here recently in Texas. A rare August downpour and my wife asked, how much rain did we get?
Checking my phone app, then the LCD after the rain event stopped and finding nothing, nada, and zeros on totals, ouch!
Luckily in my case, I had a manual funnel rain gauge as a backup. Something I highly encourage if accuracy is essential to you.
In addition, it’s also handy to compare rain totals to make sure the weather station’s rain gauge is close.
Rain gauge accuracy is going to depend on several factors.
Let’s dive in a little deeper.
How Do I Know If My Home Rain Gauge Is Accurate?
There are resources available for mathematical formulas to calculate accurate rainfall totals. For most home weather observers, I recommend a secondary manual funnel rain gauge to compare totals and as a backup. A wireless home rain gauge is highly accurate when appropriately installed. Wireless models rely on RF and solid internet connections, which are sometimes affected by factors out of the control of the end-user. For example, the obstacle between display and rain gauge sensor, uptime of ISP for app features, the correct location of rain sensor. I will highlight my real-world experience with my personal wireless home weather station in this article.
When considering a home weather station, pay closer attention to these factors before purchasing.
It could affect your accuracy and not meet your expectations.
- Obstruction-free location of the rain sensor.
- Distance from Display to Sensor
- Internet Connection
- Securely Mounted
- Fresh Batteries
Obstruction-free location of the rain sensor
This point can’t be stressed; the location of your rain gauge is critical. In fact, I wrote a whole blog post on the topic.
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The gist is you need a location you can get off the ground free of buildings, trees, roof edges, sheds, etc.
The location needs to not be excessively windy. This will affect the accuracy by blowing water away from the funnel collector.
Distance from Display to Sensor
Another critical factor when evaluating your setup location is the distance from the rain gauge sensor to display in your home.
Most home weather stations use RF to transmit output totals to display.
The Rf generally in the 900 MHz frequency must pass through wood, brick, or stone walls.
Most manufacturers recommend a distance be no more than 100 ft, possibly longer in ideal lone of sight conditions, meaning no walls, buildings, trees, etc.
In my office setup location, my unit must pass through two walls and a distance of about 80 ft.
During a recent downpour, the connection was dropped, and rain totals showed 0.00 and stayed there.
I noticed on the display unit the signal strength dropped to no bars. I had the display too far from the sensor.
Once I relocated the display closer to the outside window, it would reconnect. This also limited the walls the RF needed to pass through.
If you are a weather geek like me and keep track of monthly and yearly measurements, then a weather unit that sends data to an app is necessary.
Both WeatherUnderground and Ambient Weather have interactive apps to store and display all types of the weather-related total.
From maximum high temperatures to how much rain, in particular, you receive in a month.
Think about how many times your internet drops connection during a thunderstorm.
If it’s flakey during stormy times, data could be lost over the internet, accurate totals will be limited, and no fault of the weather station.
I was hoping the unit would store then forward the data, but it did not happen in several instances.
Consequently, my totals are off due to circumstances out of my control.
Think about your internet connection uptime when considering a wireless unit. If having the convince of data dumped to an app for referring to totals anywhere. Internet reliability is essential.
One of the critical factors when installing the outside rain gauge sensor is the mount.
Most manufactures sell mounting hardware that can keep your rain gauge bucket level.
My Ambient Weather unit has a sight bubble on top to help with leveling.
If it is not secure, wind or ice can easily tilt and cause the self-emptying buckets to not work correctly.
Mine is mounted on a top section of a tower section cemented in the ground. Sometimes a roof mount makes an excellent location.
This is one of the obvious but often overlooked items when trying to answer the question of “how do I know if my rain gauge is accurate.”
Since the unit transmits RF (900MHZ) at set intervals back to display over time, this will drain the batteries.
Ambient Weather WS-2090C recommends fresh batteries every 2-3 years as a guide.
Your mileage may vary depending on heat, type of batteries, and size.
Unfortunately, my unit does not have an indicator for measuring the remaining capacity.
However, suppose you are experiencing dropped data to display frequently. In that case, it may be time to replace with fresh batteries in the weather station sensor.
Obviously, many factors affect your accuracy with your outdoor rain gauge.
Location, RF signal strength, proximity to display unit, and fresh batteries all play a vital role.
“How accurate is my weather station?” is an important question to consider when deciding on a home weather station for your needs.
You have hopefully learned about some of the critical factors to consider when buying a home weather station.