Whether you are an avid weather enthusiast or novice, you can use the Acurite 5-in-1 sensor and panel to monitor your local surroundings.
Having lived in Evansville, Indiana, and Paducah, Kentucky, I have had the pleasure of experiencing the weather of the Midwest. It can go from hot to cold, to rainy, to snowing and back again in the blink of an eye. There does not seem to be much rhyme or reason to this either. It may be 70 and warm in December and then 11 and snow the next day. The local news often will detail the rain amounts for the day or maybe for the week/month. However, these reported sites are usually at the airport or another distant locus and the weather may be different across town. I have used my phone apps for weather information, weather alerts and the like. Acurite provides a technical option that provides much more information to you.
The 5-in-1 storm station from Acurite arrived in two pieces, a 5-in-1 Pro Weather Sensor and the Display for the 5-in-1 Weather Sensor. The product was well packaged and protected by form-cut cardboard and the sensor is in its own cardboard enclosure. Setting aside the display, I turned to the sensor and instructions. The device has two main components, the sensor, and the mounting bracket/hardware. The sensor has a variety of components to assist with documenting local weather. It is hard to avoid noticing the following: the circular swinging wind speed spoons (Anemometer), the rainfall gauge with debris filter (near the front), wind direction vane (along with the bottom) and the solar cells. The rain filter is preinstalled and serves to prevent debris from clogging up the internal water buckets. The solar panels convert solar energy into power, to run an aspirating fan. This fan brings in air to reduce solar heating and to provide a more accurate reading of temperature. Before you can use the device, you will need to install #4 AA batteries and to make sure that the A, B, C channel toggle switch is set to the same station as the panel. Turning to the manual, the instructions recommend Li-Po batteries if temperatures drop below -4 degrees Fahrenheit.
When it comes to the sensor, the position is the most important feature. It is recommended to mount the device at least 5 feet off the ground, with 33 feet recommended by the National Weather Service. You do not want the sensor around any metallic sources, heat sources, water sources, wind or rain obstructions. This should allow you to have optimal sensor range and more accurate, wind/rain/humidity information. The companion unit display must be within 330 feet of the sensor. After reviewing the literature/product, I turned to my yard to find an appropriate location to install the sensor. I have a back deck, which satisfies most of the recommendations. However, there are too many surrounding trees, the position of my home blocks the wind in a north-south direction and I have two children, who like to throw/kick balls and toys. Thus, I looked elsewhere. I turned to my gazebo/back deck and I have a small section of privacy fence that is just at 9 feet off the ground. Removing the top cap from one of the posts, I was able to mount the bracket to the top of the post. The position is perfect to be at a corner of my home and is not surrounding above/below/beside by anything. This position was perfect.
There is a bubble level on the top of the sensor, which you can use to level the device. It needs to be level to provide an accurate reading for the water/rain levels. My fence post was plumb and attaching the device to the top of the 4×4 post was easy. The included screws were not adequate, however, and I had to use a few of my own deck screws. The included bracket has holes drilled at the base and along the side, allowing for increased mounting options. The holes are easily utilized and hold the device quite securely. If you do not have a post or a suitable attachment point, you can mount the sensor to a 3/4″ pipe. As stated above, the most difficult aspect of the install is finding the appropriate location. After that, make sure that the solar panels face south and that the bubble is level.
Once installed, you will need to calibrate the rain gage. This process took a few attempts to complete. To do this, you will need the panel. Remove the panel from the packaging and turn it over. Along the back, you will notice a battery compartment for #6 AA batteries. These are designed to maintain data during a power outage. Within the battery compartment, you will notice an ABC toggle, make sure that this is set to the same station as the sensor. If not, the pair will not sync. Also within the battery compartment, you will find the AC adaptor port and the clear button (clear today and clear all). There is a cutout on the battery panel for the plug and this allows the device to be flush mounted to the wall. I really appreciate this attention to detail. The panel comes with small U-shaped plastic base, which accepts the base of the panel. I found that the device was more suitable for my desk than for wall mounting. The device will mount flush against the wall but you have to have a cord dangling down to a power outlet. Without moving an outlet higher up on my wall, this proved to be a child hazard and I was resigned to leaving it on my counter, by my Amazon Echo for now.
Once plugged into power, you need to scroll through the options and to adjust the settings of the panel. This is rather intuitive. There are 6 buttons across the mid-bottom of the panel: two alarm buttons, an up button, a settings button and a file button. Below these buttons, you will find the ticker and below this, you will find the accept/reject message buttons. The screen appears well made and is quite eye catching. There are colorful backgrounds with displays within them. You have information for wind direction/speed, previous 2 directions, current outdoor temp and trending arrow, outdoor temp alarm on indicator, outdoor humidity and alarm, current rainfall and alarm, 12-24 hour weather forecast, all-time rainfall, current month rainfall trend, date, clock, battery indicator, record high/low, weather ticker, barometric pressure, weather select (heat index, dew point, wind chill, indoor temp/humidity, rainfall rate), storm alert alarm, average wind speed and alarm and peak wind speed. As you can tell, there is a lot going on in a small space. The screen is touch activated and will provide illumination upon contact.
Once the device has AC power, you will need to set up your parameters. This is easily completed using the up arrow, cog and down arrow options. You can change the categories using the up/down arrows, the cog will allow you to enter the value adjust, you then use the arrows to adjust the value and the cog again to select your option. Thus, alternating between the arrows and cog, you will be able to set date, time, and a variety of alarms: outdoor humidity and temp (low/high), indoor humidity and temp (low/high), storm alarm, wind chill, dew point (low/high), heat index, rain, wind speed. You can set a weather alarm/storm alarm to indicate when a large atmospheric pressure drop occurs. The setup process will take anywhere from 10-15 minutes and is dependent on how involved you want it to be. The panel needs to be placed away from dirt/debris, metallic/signal blocking materials and at least 3 feet from a TV, Microwave, and the computer. The funny part is, the device is meant to be hooked up to a computer for PC connect. Through this, you can access the data from the device via the Acurite IOS or Play Store apps and you can upload your data to the weather underground feature.
The only other detailed/difficult setup process is the rain gauge. This process was a little more involved than the panel setup. You will need to make sure that the bubble is level. Obtain a plastic cup, fill it with 8 oz (exactly 8 oz) water and place a small pin hole into the bottom of the cup. To calibrate appropriately, you will need to allow this to drop over a 20 minute period. The first time I tried this, I used a 20 oz soda bottle, washed and filled with 8 oz of water. I placed this into the rain gauge and went back inside. The wind blew the bottle out of the rain gauge area and the test failed. I pressed the clear all data on the back (this does not clear date/time). I then held the bottle and repeated the test. All of the water drained out in about 8 minutes. This was much too fast and the sensor noted 0.78 inches at a rate of 9 inches per hour. Again, my setup was flawed. I again cleared the sensor and using a Dixie cup with a small hole, and at a time without wind, placed the cup above the sensor allowed it to drip over the 20 minutes and noted that the value was at 0.85 inches. I adjusted each of the screws, on the bottom of the sensor, with a clockwise 1/2 turn. Repeating the test I was able to get 1.1 inches. I then turned the screws counterclockwise a minuscule amount each and was pleased with the setup. The instructions state that the goal is to have 1.06 inches over the 20-minute time frame. Also, there should be approximately 25 drips into the cup before you can audibly hear the bucket dump water. If this is not the case, adjust the screws until the criteria are met. This process will be difficult if you mount it at an elevated position. I would thus calibrate it before placing onto an elevated position.
When used alone, the sensor and panel really do add a great deal to your ability to evaluate your surroundings. Vivint, my smart home company helps to monitor the doors/windows, Carbon monoxide, fire, freeze, has a doorbell camera, Ping internal camera, and external cameras. I just recently added their Vivint Element thermostat, which is remotely programmable/adjustable as well. Combining the data available through my Vivint App, with the Acurite sensor data, will help to better adjust the temperatures in my home. With the 36 hour and 5-day prediction features, you have a better idea of what to expect and have much more control over your home.
Without a connection to a computer, the data is only locally available. Although I have not yet tested the PC Connect feature, I will be completing a second review of the PC software. My panel is still in learning mode and will take 14 days to complete this cycle. As of July 21, 2016, the PC Connect software is also available for Mac devices. When you connect your panel to your computer, via USB, you can export weather data for analysis, share this data online, and remotely view weather. Again, this requires that your computer remain on and the sensor panel plugged into the computer via USB.
The device was relatively easy to install and worked flawlessly out of the box. The bubble level was accurate and easy to utilize. The mounting bracket was perfect for the location I chose and would work equally well to attach to a wall/post. As stated above, the screws were a little short, but this was easily remedied with mildly longer screws. I think it took more time to select the location of placement than it did to set up the entire project. Immediately upon placement, the wind vane and speed sensor started to obtain data. I compared the data I was receiving to the local news data from the airport (15-minute drive) and the data I received was nearly identical to the news. The indoor temperature was exactly that of my indoor Vivint thermostat. Having this detailed data, and noticing the spinning wind speed sensor, I felt like I was collecting data for the movie Twister. Stay tuned for the Acurite Weather station review 2.0. I will detail my use of the device up until that point and will detail the weather PC Connect data. On the first impression, I rate this product at an impressive 5/5 stars.
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