Sunday, February 14, 2010

Weather station setup

The starting point of the whole system is a Maplin Weather Station. There's a few different ones on the market, but unless you're really serious, I think the critical thing your going to need is a wireless transmission from the outdoor weather station to your indoor base-station, and a USB connection from the base-station to your PC. The actual weather stations themselves to vary wildly in quality and performance, typical features to look out for are:

* temperature
* humidity
* rainfall
* wind-speed

Ideally, the thermometer should be inside a stevenson screen, to ensure readings don't get distorted by sunlight, and you want to make sure that you position your wind-gauge as high as possible to avoid wind-turbulance:

To fix mine, I got a 1.8m aerial from Screwfix, along with a mounting kit (that I can't find now), and attached it to my shed wall with the biggest coach-bolts I could find:

Early experiments siting the external thermometer/transmitter suggested that the plastic stevenson screen was absolutely useless, as I could identify the points at which the sun went behind, then re-appeared from the abandoned office block at the end of my street, by the sharp falls and rises in temperature.

Luckily, there's a massive rat-infested ivy swarming over my shed, and I managed to tuck the transmitter into there, keeping it sheltered from the heat:

This transmits a signal to the supplied base station, connected to an old laptop with a USB cable:

The supplied Easyweather software seems to be universally regarded as useless, not least because a memory leak guarantees it will crash if left running for any length of time, not ideal for this kind of software.

Instead, the entire world seems to love Cumulus from Sandaysoft:

With very little customisation, this can export your weather data to any number of formats, eg:
* a standard website
* twitter
* WeatherUnderground
* PWS Weather

Weather data, just like energy consumption data, always makes more sense when brought together and compared, and the last 2 sites particularly make an excellent job of this.

But come on, just uploading to somebody else's site just isn't exciting enough, no matter how well designed and useful it is - how do we get the raw data out so we can deal with it ourselves?

(to be continued ...)

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