Jul 152012
 

I am going to rant for a bit today. Mainly because I missed out on recording the minute by minute details of last night’s spectacular rainfall. Stick with me, I think some background is required. My original weather station was a WMR100 from Oregon Scientific. It had 3 pieces which measured rainfall, indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, and barometric pressure. I started monitoring the weather on the roof of my house back in 2007. When I purchased it, it was one of only 2 or 3 systems that worked above 5000 feet. The other systems cost roughly 5 times as much. Many weather stations connect by USB to a computer to report data to the internet and locations like Weather Underground and Southwest Weather Network. This was another reason for picking this system.

wmr100

I have gone back and forth from PC to Mac and back and forth again. The WMR100 only works with a couple Mac software programs. They are expensive or not very good. My favorite is to use Virtual Weather Station. With VWS I can adjust and calibrate via the software. For instance I can calibrate the rainfall to my modified 8 inch funnel from a 3.875 inch funnel. As a result I can measure 0.0094 inch increments instead of just the standard 0.04 inch increment. The Community Collaborative Rain, Hail and Snow Network(CoCoRaHS) requires 0.01 inch resolution. Rainlog does not. Currently, I used Virtual Weather Station on a very small (cell phones have bigger screens) PC.

Anyway, over the years this has been a decent setup for a low-cost system. But, it has done odd things. 300mph wind gusts and over 400 inches of rain in 5 minutes would probably have caused significant catastrophes. So, I had to assume they were data errors. The VWS software doesn’t allow simple editing to remove such bogus numbers. I am on my second rain gauge after the first one failed a few years back. So, not too bad.

But, for the last 6 months or so, I have fought multiple issues to try to keep the thing up and running. First, the barometric pressure sensor started to fail with pressure constantly dropping. So, I bought a new and upgraded WMR200 display panel (That’s where the pressure is monitored. It came with extra parts. So, I added a UV radiation sensor. It let’s me check the cloudiness. The WMR200 looks much nicer that the WMR100. Still, I should have known I was on a slippery slope.

Oregon Scientific WMR200 display console.

Oregon Scientific WMR200 display console.

It is supposed to automatically update the date and time. It doesn’t. Probably because I live in a canyon and can’t get the atomic clock signal. So, and this is important, you have to manually update the time if you reset the station. If you don’t the Virtual Weather Station won’t listen to it. More importantly, you can’t find any place on the internet that will remind you of this fact. At a minimum, VWS probably ought to not care about what time it is. If it does care, it could help out by telling the station what time it is. Unfortunately, Oregon Scientific went with a very simple system that only talks and doesn’t listen. By and large, it just sits there and blurts out results to the USB port. This is a pain in the neck.

So, last week, while I was out-of-town, of course, the outdoor temperature and humidity sensor failed. The temperature stuck at 73.8 degrees. Bummer. Granted it was old and exposed to our harsh high altitude conditions for 5 years. Since the WMR100 system has the temperature and the wind sensor in the same unit, I needed to replaced both to get up and running. I already had a new temperature sensor in the box of spare parts that came with there WMR200 console. It was brand spanking new. Still in the plastic wrapper new! Should work right out of the box new!

But, I needed the wind sensor to go along with it. I ordered one. Now, as of yesterday morning, I had all the parts, (display, barometer, indoor and outdoor temperature and humidity, rain gauge, wind unit) I needed to have effectively a completely new WMR200 system.Plug it in and turn it on right? I had the last ingredient show up in the early afternoon, a brief dry spell with sunshine.

My system is on my roof. My roof is very steep and very high. While it isn’t too difficult to get access to, nothing stays put on the slope. Screws, nuts, bolts, screwdrivers, weather stations etc have a very hard time staying where you put them. Then often end up 30 feet down, in the back yard. Nonetheless, I got up on the roof and removed the old unit and took out its batteries. Then I went in the house and made sure the new parts were talking to the console. What luck, they seemed communicating it right away. So, I went back up and mounted everything.

When I came back down to the console, the wind gauge had a low battery indicator and the temperature unit wasn’t logging data. There is a procedure for discovering reset or new sensors. I followed it for both. No good. I climbed backup and changed the batteries in both. No Good. Wash, rinse, repeat. NO GOOD. Finally, I decided to reset the panel, which meant the date, the altitude and all the data were lost. NO GOOD.

What the HECK!!!

Well, as it turns out, the temperature sensor, made in China, often doesn’t have one of the springs for the batteries fully extended so that it ends up with intermittent service. Tada! I have a temperature reading! After replacing my wind sensor batteries 3 times with good ones, I gave up. I hoisted the station up on the pole, called it good, and went to dinner. I was hungry after my 15 minute job extended to 3 hours.

Now, the China thing. Shouldn’t something called Oregon Scientific have something to do with Oregon besides the name. Maybe it did at one point. They claim to have a headquarters in Oregon, but they are owned and operated by a Chinese company, IDT Technologies. I am well-known for not being a big fan of the People’s Republic of China. They are ideally set-up by their incentive system to not produce high quality products. The “Do what I tell you to do or get killed” system results in people doing exactly what they are told and not what needs to be done. Hence, it shouldn’t be a big surprise that no one bothered to insert the spring in a way that would allow it to fulfill it’s function. So, for want of a bit of quality control, I reset my whole system.

In doing so, I didn’t realize that the main console would not recognize the UV sensor or the rain gauge anymore. This is the last straw. I was anxious to record a huge band of rain coming up from the south. The rain came and I recorded nothing by my weather station. I know I received 0.68 inches because I have a manual backup gauge. This was just so sad!

Other systems, nowadays only about 30% more expensive, have better plug and play designs. And, they aren’t noted for;

  1. Not knowing what time it is.
  2. Having to reconnect each sensor after a reset
  3. Not having battery connectors fail to connect
  4. Reporting false low battery warnings
  5. etc!

So, I would like to ask a favor to those of you who know me. Then next time I am complaining about a part of my weather station not working, tell me to go buy a Davis Vantage Vue System. I think they make their systems in California. It will just be better for all of us.

Oh yeah, today should be wet, too. Maybe I will record something.

 

Stu

 Posted by at 7:58 am

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