Generally, all personal weather stations fall into one of the three categories – Basic, Mid-Range and Professional.
Basic weather station
The Basic range consists of stations that offer temperature readings and, occasionally, humidity and pressure measurements. These stations can offer forecasting functionality, but since it’s only based on the atmospheric pressure trend, it’s not usually very accurate. You’re unlikely to find stations that connect to your PC or the internet in that range. However, if all you need to know is the temperature outside and inside (plus maybe the relative humidity and atmospheric pressure), and you don’t mind that the readings might be a bit off, then Basic stations might be all you need. On the plus side, it won’t break the bank – most devices in the Basic lineup fall somewhere in the $20 and $50 range. There are lots of brands in this segment, with LaCrosse and AcuRite being the most prominent.
Mid-range weather station
The Mid-Range weather stations usually come with more sensors installed. You can expect to get more accurate temperature, humidity and pressure results, as well as wind speed & direction and the rainfall gauge. Some stations in that range will also measure UV and solar radiation. Many will offer some way of connecting your station either to your PC or to the internet. Overall, the Mid-Range weather stations seem to tick all the boxes for most users, who want to get into weather tracking and need a bit more data than the Basic range stations can provide. Mid-Range stations usually cost between $50 and $300, with most being around $150-200. AcuRite and Ambient Weather offer lots of products in this price segment.
Professional weather station
The Professional range is for those serious about tracking the weather who need the most accurate and reliable data. Devices in this range usually come with a variety of sensors (some are expandable via adding additional sensors, like soil moisture, etc.), have a rugged housing designed to withstand even the harshest of conditions and offer the highest refresh rates (data is sent from the outside unit as often as once every 2 seconds). Setting up a station like this might require more time and effort, but the results will be worth it. These stations will set you back $250 or more. Some of the well-known brands specializing in this segment are Davis Instruments and RainWise.
One of the best features of Pro level weather stations is the fact that often the sensors are separate and can be installed in different locations. This is very important for the data accuracy, because while a rain sensor should be positioned in the open space, where it can accurately measure the amount of precipitation, a temperature sensor is ideally positioned in the shade protected from direct weather elements, otherwise the temperature readings are likely to be higher than actual. The anemometer (the wind sensor) is also frequently placed higher than the other sensors.
Mid-Range stations usually combine rain gauge and temperature sensor (as well as all other sensors) in one outdoor unit. To avoid false temperature readings they usually use a special housing around the temperature sensor designed to minimize the influence of direct sunlight and/or using a small fan inside the outdoor unit that circulates the air around the temperature sensor. While this does help to minimize false readings, the separate sensor placement is still the best way to consistently get the most accurate readings.