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Thursday, August 23, 2012

What's It Like Outside? - Weather Forecasting For Non-Meteorologists

Dead Space Above Door
    I'm not a big fan of really hot or cold weather and my RV does a pretty decent job of keeping it nice inside. When I wake up, I like to know how hot or cold it is OUTSIDE. A long time ago I bought a nifty little indoor/outdoor thermometer that had a sensor, attached by a thin wire, that I ran outside through a window. It worked really well and showed indoor and outdoor temps as well as humidity. Sadly the years and elements took their toll on the outdoor sensor. It was only a little bitty thing, no bigger than a grain of rice wearing a wetsuit. I tried to find an equivalent sensor to graft onto the end of the wire. None of them worked. So this year all I've had was inside temps and humidity readings.

My Bargain Weather Center
The Aero Cruiser I currently own (and love!) has a large rectangular space above the door. It's carpeted like the rest of the walls and ceilings so is a really good Velcro attachment point. I figured I could buy one of those new-fangled digital weather stations that read out all sorts of weather info and set their clocks with a radio signal from the Atomic clock system (RCC). These can have some nice displays with lots of cool stuff to look at, and many of them are decor items to boot.

After some basic research, I found they can be VERY expensive. The cheaper ones seemed to have limited sensors and displays while the more pricey ones show more information. I got lucky and found a "close-out" on my last trip to Cabela's Flagship store in Hamburg, Pennsylvania (Stay Tuned for a Road Trip Report!). They had a normally >$100.00 one with wind speed and rain sensor AND a remote display temperature/humidity that also transmits its info to the base for only $15.99! How could I resist?

Back Of Weather Station Display with Stand Removed
Now to install it over the door and figure out places for the remote sensors to be mounted. This one should have been a breeze. I figured I'd use heavy duty velcro to mount the base unit to the space above the door since the wall (like ALMOST everything in the Aero Cruiser!) is carpeted. I removed the pull-out stand to lighten the unit and give me some working space to mount the sticky back velcro. Not going to work. The four half-round "feet" on the back of the unit would hit the wall before the velcro, so that was out. I thought about taking a Dremel and grinding the little evil things off, but  thought that was pretty extreme. Aha! How about using some heavy duty double sided foam mounting tape to mount the velcro to? That would increase the thickness enough (maybe) and give me a REALLY sticky place to mount the velcro strips I had cut.

Now With Foam Tape!
With Velcro!
My only worry was high interior temperatures may cause the foam mounting tape to degrade and let go, dropping this expensive gadget onto my wood flooring covered step. SMASH! Being somewhat impatient, I went ahead. You have to make sure you cut the foam tape AND the velcro to the same sizes so the foam tape won't stick where it's not supposed to. Also, make sure you leave access to the units buttons for setting various things. I had to use a very small screwdriver to punch a tiny hole in the bottom left square of mounting tape and velcro to make sure I could access the tiny reset hole the manufacturer provided.

Weather Station With Backlight On, Mounted
I carefully measured the width of the space above the door and pressed the prepped weather station to the carpet. Looked pretty decent. I hope it stays on while underway! I used as much velcro as I could fit on the back, and it "feels" stable enough. I'll let you know how it works out.

Next up was the remote temperature and humidity sensor. Originally I thought I would mount it under the back bumper and be done with it. Visions of it bouncing down the road behind me put a stop to that. Besides, it has a small display of it's own that I'd like to be able to look at. I thought about the storage bay. I thought about the sewer/dump door.

Base Of the Refrigerator Outside Compartment
Then it hit me, how about the bottom of the refrigerator compartment? Even if the temperature wasn't super accurate it would tell me the temp of the interior of the compartment! Since I had just installed a fan in the chimney to increase the fridge's efficiency, I figured it would be good information to know! I cleaned the corner farthest away from anything that get's hot on the fridge mechanism and realized that the fiberglass "wall" was a bit wobbly. Obviously, this was because the screw that was originally here...wasn't. Easy fix, put in a new screw.


Velcro On Remote Sensor
Remote Sensor Mounted
Of course, AFTER putting on the velcro did I realize the screw I just put in to stop the wall piece from wobbling would be perfect for the "key-hole" mount on the remote sensor. Yup...it's still me, had to have some small glitch someplace!  Ah well...


Last was the Rain and Wind Sensor. This is designed to be mounted on a piece of pipe and set up permanently. Kind of hard to do for an RV. I'd get some REALLY interesting wind speed readings while underway! The sensor itself plugs into the remote temperature and humidity sensor with a 50 ft cord and there isn't a real downside to NOT having it connected, but I like to get everything I can out of a system. Why bypass features that you've already paid for? I rigged up a quick mount to attach it to a small tripod style emergency light I had lying around. A simple sandbag or other weight can be used to hold it down in high winds. You could turn on the light as well....not sure why exactly...but you COULD.

There you have it. A complete miniature weather station and clock. Now a simple glance up before walking outside will tell you what to expect. I sort of had that before. It's called a window! But this is cooler.

Be Seeing You...Down The Road,

Rich "The Wanderman"
www.thewanderman.com














6 comments:

  1. So, does that also get NOAA weather info somehow? I'm trying to figure out how it would know how cloudy it is :p.

    I have one of the older weather stations, a gift from a customer that used to come through my checkstand years ago when I still worked in a grocery store.

    It's an old Oregon Scientific that does moon phase, date, the indoor humidity, outside temp, DST, atomic clock update, etc.. etc...

    Sadly, the temperature is usually off by 3-5 degrees, mainly because it picks up the ambient temperature of the surface the sensors are mounted.

    I ended up mounting my outdoor sensor up under the wing on the tub section of the camper so that if it did vibrate loose, it would simply fall into the bed of the truck.

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    1. Matt,
      Nope...no NOAA receiver built in to this one. It determines cloud cover based on dewpoint/temp spread and humidity. SO far, been pretty accurate.

      I'm also worried about the remote sensor dropping off and ending up someplace bad. Hopefully the fridge compartment door will prevent losing it down the road!

      Come to think of it...I'm going to put a safety wire on it today. Just to be sure.

      Thanks,

      Rich "The Wanderman"

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  2. Talk about going around the world to get across the street. Admittedly, I have made the same mistake. You bought something years ago and when you go back, you have this mindset that prevents you from being open to new ideas. So you buy something that keeps you "in the 80's" so to speak. REMEMBER, when it comes to electronics, there is always improvements on a very regular basis. The thermometer I have tells me the inside and outside temp. Outside, a small sensor is affixed to the trailer on the hatch door using velcro. Could have used screws. The inside unit is very attractive, tells me the temp in and out and gives me the time. Can let it sit on a table or hang from the wall. The thermometer is wireless so there are no cords! Cost less than $60. and I have already gotten three years use out of it! And I have tested it and it is very accurate! Mine is made by Honeywell but plenty of others out there! JM

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    Replies
    1. John,
      Didn't I just say all that? It's a current model, is wireless, is quite accurate and was under $60.

      :)

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete
  3. I mounted the sensor module for our atomic clock/indoor outdoor thermometer humidity thingy on the outer backside of a storage compartment near the wheel well. Its about 4 inches long (holds 2 AA batteries) , so I screwed 2 straps of sticks-to-itself Velcro (the kind you wrap around power cords) in a cross to the fiberglass to wrap around the length and width of the module.

    That puppy ain't goin nowhere, and the temperature is pretty accurate there out of the sun.

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    Replies
    1. Allison,
      I really like the idea of the straps vs. the stick kind. It'll be MUCH easier to replace the batteries, and you can remove and replace the entire unit at will. Very slick. Back to the hardware store!

      Rich "The Wanderman"

      Delete

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