Welcome to today’s weatherflow weather station review.
For a long time, home weather instruments have been the go-to when it comes to to different levels of tracking and trending the usual data points.
To the typical smarty home enthusiasts, the availability of external environmental data offers a great deal of practical use. From air-conditioner optimization to irrigation control, good quality local data sources can greatly help to make smarter automation decisions.
The price and availability of suitable instruments has been not really been accessible to most home users because it is expensive and often requires custom integration to be able to use the data, and hasn’t really been a good match in the age of IFTT and Alexa. That’s where weather services provide Weatherflow decided to step in when they crowdfunded a smart home weather station on IndieGoGo in 2016.
Weatherflow Weather Station Review
The product WeatherFlow came up with is a stylish and easy to deploy solid state weather station consisting of 3 parts; Hub, Air, and Sky. The Sky unit is a sensor package that captures the exposed data points and is built to be mounted on a mast of some kind. This is equivalent to the typical anemometer and rain gauge in normal weather stations. In addition to this, it also captures light intensity, solar radiation and UV rating as well. The rain and wind sensors are solid rate, using ultrasonic haptics and transducers respectively, instead of the usual mechanical solutions.
Left to Right: Sky, Hub, and Air
The Air unit is the under cover package mean’t for the capture of ambient conditions such as air pressure, temperature and humidity. WeatherFlow also comes with a lightning sensor that can determine the presence of lightning within 40Km and give an approximate range.
The Hub, as you would guess, is the bit that connects the sensors to your home network and allows the smart portion of the name to occur. To conserve batter, the sensor packages (designed to run completely cord free) don’t communicate with the WiFi network directly as the sensor packages. As such they use an industrial sub-GHz radio for telemetry back to the hub to provide greater range than WiFi at lower power cost. The expected range for the sensor units is about 300m (1000ft), more than enough for most households no matter where you want to mount them.
The common set up is to have the Hub connected to WiFi and communicating back to WeatherFlow’s servers. This is pretty much the standard for smart devices as it allows for the smartphone app to access the data from any place, and also allows you to share your weather data with others via a simple web page. You can access the sensor data locally using only Bluetooth LE, but then you are limited to only being able to access the data when connected to the hub, which severely limits the usefulness of the device by cutting off common notifications and integrations.
Ever since the product been released, WeatherFlow has been working to improve the Auto-calibration and continuous learning the features built into the firmware. At first, there were many issues with sensor accuracy, with wind, rain and UV taking varying random results. These issues have been largely fixed with updates, improvements, and updates that are frequently released. Mileage appears to have varied between users, and problems have not been consistent from device to device.
Personally, my UV rating is still over reported, with nearby official weather stations reporting lower in most cases. Other than that, however the data seems to be on the money bar a few minor issues resulting from the nature of the sensors being used. 2 particular ones come to mind. The first being the lightning sensor. As it measures EMP to detect lightning activity, and needs to be fairly sensitive to function, it can be triggered by electrical switches nearby.
WeatherFlow do note this in their installation guidelines, and it does seem limited to closely positioned electrical switches, so it’s very possible to keep it clear enough to avoid this.
The second problem relates to the haptic rain sensor. This unit detects rain by measuring the impact drops on the top of the Sky unit, and then uses carefully calibrated calculations to measure the frequency and drops, indeed work very well. The only case where it might be considered deficient is in the case of light drizzle. As the drizzle doesn’t create and impact, it won’t count as rain and won’t be measured, but this si also fairly minor in most cases.
Mountin th Air and Sky units is a fairly straight forward process. The Sky Unit is created to be a pole mounted and features a circular socket with a screw clamp on the base. Mounting is simply a matter of inserting the unit onto the top of a 1” pole and tightening the clamp. The device needs to be rotated North, and a mark is embossed into the plastic shell to help with this. This is to make sure wind direction is reported correctly. Note the pole needs to be securely mounted and correctly sized itself to provide a stable platform. Excessive wobble can cause sensor issues, such as false rain starts due to vibrations it gets.
The Air unit needs to be mounted in a sheltered location to ensure humidity and temperature reporting is accurate. As noted above, it also needs to be away from electrical sources to avoid lightning false positives. It can be placed away from buildings by installing it in a radiation shield if required. While a keyhole mount is provided on the base of the unit, WeatherFlow advises mounting it vertically for optimum moisture drainage and lightning detection. To this end, a 1/4” thread mount is also provided. This was a perfect match for an old CCTV camera mount I had lying around, and made wall mounting easy.
Both the Sky and Air are armed with standard AA batteries accessed by twisting off the unit from it’s mounting base and opening the battery compartment door on the bottom. The sky takes 8, while the Air takes 4 batteries. While the devices are built for long battery life, the type of battery makes a big difference. WeatherFlow professionally advises Energizer Ultimate Lithium due to their long life and high performance under a wide range of temperatures.
The performance are great; even up to 6 months. However, te batteries don’t come cheap. In some areas a set of 1 can cost around 35% of the price of the weather station. Other batteries have been reported to provide far less life, even as low as 2 weeks for regular alkaline.
In my case, I have been using the original set for about 4 months now and they are still holding up. Once the Sky is beginning to display a mild voltage drop, it could mean there is an impending failure as Lithium batteries tend to have a voltage ‘cliff’ where the voltage will remain fairly flat and then fall very rapidly at the end of their life. Still, 6 months is pretty impressive for AA batteries in any case given the unit is sending a wealth of data samples every minute, 24/7.
As expected with connected home devices, this software consist of a combination of a free smartphone app (for Android and iOS) and a back end service hosted by WeatherFlow. The service renders remote access to the weather data, notifications via the app, a personal webpage showing you weather data, and a web API that allows for custom integrations if you so desire.
The app provides for simple setup of the weather station, guiding you through the process of connecting the hub to your WiFi and then detecting the sensor units. The Air and sky can be personally named, and you also need to provide a name for the location. This is useful of you have many weather stations on various locations, of course, and is also used to share your weather data usage. This data can also be shared via Weather Underground if you have an account with them.
The web page basically replicated the mobile app in terms of functionality and layout, (or perhaps it’s vice versa). The primary page is a well presented list of weather data categories showing the current primary value, say temperature, and smaller supplementary values (humidity in this case). There are more optional panels for battery level for each sensor unit. Each of these panels is clickable which opens a graph view of the data value. You can zoom the graph at a 1 minute resolution, or all the way out to 1 day resolution which shows about a month worth of data on screen. This can be scrolled back, though, for a full years’ worth of data. Each data point can be selected to view the specific details for that point.
Example graph view (Wind)
The units of measure are, of course, configurable for each data value in the settings, where you can also select which notifications you want to receive. Notifications can be enabled for lightning, Rain start, and system status changes (such as offline alerts and battery warnings). The app does an excellent job of limiting repeat notifications to avoid spamming you, but I’ve found it fine to leave them all on.
Along with these primary settings are a couple of other optional controls. These include:
- Set Height above ground
- Toggle Lightning sensor (Air)
- Toggle power save mode (Sky)
- Toggle the forecast view
- Toggle the battery panes
Lastly, you can access the raw data values for a number of API variables, such as Station ID, Firmware Revision, Last State Change, Uptime and many others.
Main App Screen
WeatherFlow has been providing any and every platform integrations that make sense. Currently, they have Google assistant and Alex for voice queries, Smart Things and Nest for device integrations, and IFTTT for typical automation. Homekit was meant to be released but fell afoul of Apple’s change to their certification requirements for IOS11. WeatherFlow support informs me that they thought a new Hub variant would be needed to comply with the security authentication requirements, but they are now looking at leveraging Apple’s software authentication on the existing hub via a firmware update.
So far, so good. I’ve only had a little issue with Alexa, as the WeatherFlow skill is a common skill rather than a smart home one. Each time I ask Alexa for a weather value from Weatherflow she asks she asks if I’d like to try another weather skill as well, since she only sees it as a generic weather service.
Is this weatherflow weather station review enough to justify their claims? You tell us
The IFTT supports are kinda interesting, as it allows a wide array of automation options given the bountifulness of triggers that have been featured in the WeatherFlow Service. A lot of the data triggers include a ‘rises above’ and ‘falls below’ variant, which is much more helpful than the typical ‘if value equals’ triggers. These options allow for smarter triggering of actions based on what is happening. For instance, I have use the temperature fall and rises triggers in conjunction with an air conditioner controller to determine when it should be turned on and off.
By knowing whether it’s getting cooler or hotter. I can firmly determine the correct action where a simple value would be ambiguous. Knowing when to turn off the AC is also something that can only be done with external weather data, as that provides the necessary environmental insight to determine if the AC is actually helping, or if it’s just running for no reason.
The fall/rise options cover humidity, light intensity, pressure, temperature, UV, solar radiation, wind speed (average or gust). Plus, there are triggers for lightning strike, rain start, and when a new observation is logged.
While weather data is not generally considered sensitive, the security risks around connected devices remain the same; use of the device to gain access to the home network and other devices in the home. WeatherFlow makes the common claims that they take security seriously, but security is hard, and it’s impossible to be assured of that without seeing the internals of the software. The devices run a ‘purpose-built OS’ which is supposed to mitigate the common exploits of a more general purpose option. This may be true, but it also means no one else has been able to vet the code, so it can go either way.
They seem to have no protocols or open ports, and no remote login facility on the devices. They also encrypt firmware updates with a per-device key to prevent fraudulent injection of malware. This would be dependent on their source server being secure, but it’s certainly another barrier and a good move.
WeatherFlow offers their back end service free to customers of the device, so the only price tag for this device will be paid upfront alongside the ongoing battery replacements. A solar option for the Sky would be a realoly great upgrade, but Weatherflow is still testing design options at this time. The WeatherFlow Smart Weather Station is currently only available directly through WeatherFlow’s web store. They’ve been sold out, but at the time of writing limited supply had resumed in the North America region. You can take a look at availability through Amazon, so you may find some there.
As of now, Weatherflow has now released a solar panel upgrade module for the Sky sensor. You guessed right, this replaces the existing battery solution. The solar panel attaches to the bottom of the Sky between the senor and the pole mount, and contains an integral 1000mAh battery pack which will run the unit for 30 days without sun. Weatherflow claim that even on cloudy days, there will be sufficient charge to keep the battery pack going. You can pick up the solar upgrade from the Weatherflow store.
What Should I Look For In A Weather Station?
While buying one, you should check the weather station for the following sensors:
- Thermometer for temperature readings.
- Anemometer for the wind direction and speed.
- Humidity sensor to measure relative humidity.
- Barometer for measuring the pressure in the atmosphere.
- Rain gauge to measure precipitation.
We hope our weatherflow weather station review has been helpful to you so far. This device offers a very cost effective, low maintenance solution using high quality sensors and countless integration options that should meet your needs and weather buffs alike. If you like this review of weatherflow weather station, kindly share with family and friends.