I have been more than pleased with the Davis Instruments Vantage Pro II wireless weather station I’ve been playing with for the past couple of months. It’s the beginning of the rainy season here in Northern California and having a weather station allows me to play amateur scientist and keep track of weather conditions at my home. These observations even become part of a National Weather Service database and are subject to daily quality control checks by government computers. Besides mine, there are two other stations in my community of 75,000 that also report their data over the Internet. (You can see my local weather by visiting www.tracyweather.com).The best way to describe the Vantage Pro II is “pro-sumer” as it is solidly built and provides accurate observations. There are weather stations that are less expensive, but seem rinky dink to me. There are others that are more expensive and out of my price range. In fact, the Davis itself seems pretty expensive, especially when you add the $150 data logger used to connect the Davis console to a PC or Mac, necessary for transmitting your observations over the Internet to an anxious world.Other Davis accessories make the temperature observations more accurate, heat the rain gauge for winter use in cold climates, and add features of interest to agriculture, including the ability to control irrigation systems. After having the unit in operation for more than two months, I think you get what you pay for.
Everything about the Davis unit has impressed me, including the display console (shown left). Because the console is wireless, it can be taken anywhere in the house and, thanks to the long wireless range of the Davis sensor unit, over to the neighbors’ homes as well. The console displays a tremendous amount of information and is easy to operate, thanks to a collection of dedicated buttons.The Vantage Pro II display (shown right, click on the image to see it full size) provides all the important observations at a glance. By scrolling through the readings you can see them on the appear graph on the lower left of the display. There is also what amounts to a “shift” key that replaces some of the data will less-frequently-used information. I’ve come to like the display tremendously.The top photo shows the sensor unit, which includes wind direction and speed, rainfall, temperature, and humidity, mounted above the peak of my roof. The wind sensors are on the arm. Rainfall is measured by the large black piece, essentially a big funnel.
The ribbed piece below the rain gauge is where temp and humidity are measured. The white upright piece supports the solar cells that power the unit as well as containing the electronics package and RF deck. You can’t see the antenna used for wireless data transmission.If you look around, you’re likely to see this sensor package in many places. All the firehouses in my town have them, though they aren’t connected to the Internet as far as I’ve been able to tell. There is also one that I’ve found atop the big dome at the Lick Observatory, atop Mt. Hamilton, east of San Jose. Next time I am there I must remember to bring a camera as the weather equipment is quite a sight–if you’re into stuff like that.Depending on where you purchase the Vantage Pro II, you’ll pay between $480 and $600 for the wireless system. Try www.scientificsales.com for good pricing. The wired version costs less, but running the wire is a pain and you are limited in where you can place to console. I think wireless is very much worth the investment. One shortcoming: Here in Northern California, the forecasts that the Vantage Pro develops on its own (shown at the bottom of the LCD) are pretty much useless.
Just ignore them.If you’re not interested in the weather, you wouldn’t have read this far. And I don’t have to tell you that the Vantage Pro II won’t appeal to everyone. But, if you care about observing and recording the weather, this is a wonderful product that will give you many years of service. It would make a great gift, even for someone who isn’t weather savvy, provided someone is willing to mount the sensor package. In a future post, I’ll talk about features I’d like to see added.