Weather Station updates – Argent Data Systems wind-rain sensors.

 

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February 2017, I ordered and  received an Argent Data Systems Weather wind/rain sensor package  (Weather Sensor Assembly p/n 80422) with anemometer, wind vane, and rain gage.  These come with a short mast, and reasonably sturdy mounting brackets, and cables for a remote outdoor weather station.   The assembly consists of the bare bones sensors without any of the electronics needed to read wind speed, direction, or amount of rainfall. That is what I’m looking for.   You can’t make these things out of wood or dremel them out of blocks of plastic.  Could this be the ideal open-source weather hardware platform?

Description: From the Argent Website: This package includes an anemometer and wind vane for measuring wind speed and direction, a tipping bucket type rain gauge with 0.011 inch resolution, a metal mast, cables, and mounting hardware.  No electronics are included. The sensor assembly can be connected to the Argent ADS-WS1 base unit, or you can use it as a starting point for your own weather station design. The datasheet provides information on hook-up.
Price single unit: $68  plus
Shipping: USPS priority shipping.

The sensors use reed-switches actuated by proximity  a moving magnet.  Cabling is an RJ11 variant similar to phone lines and require 2 conductors per sensor.  The wind vane and anemometer use sealed ball bearings.

Documentation:  A data sheet is available which provides enough information to get started.   There is also a small active  Yahoo group with some interesting stuff, product history, implementation and use cases, stuff like a mod / hack to keep the anemometer bearing dry.

Construction.  All parts are a  made from a tough molded plastic, are reasonably well designed  for durability, low cost, and I guess we’ll see what the long haul is.   The equipment is not designed for user-replaceable parts but some maintenance and repairs may be possible. Durability will be important. Anything on a mast outdoors is just asking for trouble.

QA Issues: Unfortunately, the equipment I received had electrical issues. Weather vane :  The weather vane contains eight reed switches which are activated by a magnet on the vane.  Several magnets/switches  in the vane failed to activate.  Anemometer:  It took a while to find it but close inspection turned up a nearly invisible open in the RJ11 data cable right inside the RJ11 plug housing. This is a bad connector crimp and a poor shock mount. Making connectors is a skill – I’m not great at it either, and I’ve made many bad ones in my time (mainly ethernet) and it’s too bad the tech who made this one messed up. Typical cheap part, expensive error.  The anemometer worked initially but soon failed completely.to produce a signal.
Great customer support. Fortunately  Argent customer support  is excellent.  I just used email, and heard back from Scott the next day. Argent has a straightforward 90 day fault replacement statement on the website.  Scott has already swapped out the wind vane and a replacement  anemometer is being shipped.  In any case I’m satisfied with the customer support and with the swapout.

My take on this QA problem.   It’s unfortunate to have problems but I do a lot of sensor and open source work these days, it’s kind of a given that failures happen.  Occasionally stuff ships with a bad cable, cold solder joints and wiring errors.  That’s how manufacturing goes, and it’s best we just work the problem and try to keep costs down.  For me, and working on custom one-off builds, this kind of thing is happens all the time.

From the data sheet, we learn that Argent is the importer for this equipment and not the OEM.   Not a big surprise. It’s much cheaper to make stuff like this elsewhere, Xina for example.   There has been more than one generation of the weather station components. Supply chains are always of interest – it’s the nature of industry and all we know is that Argent imports this hardware.

While waiting for the replacement vane, I stuck a couple of magnets to the anemometer rotor housing and a 3144 hall effect sensor affixed to the hub, and it’s been spinning all weekend, making data.

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The arduino controller is USB attached to a raspberry Pi and this data gets sent to another weather server which uploads to Weather Underground.  This is a temporary situation while we’re prototyping and developing, but it’s cool to have a proof of concept reporting to the Wx Underground.

Link to KHIAIEA5 – Kalauao Ridge – Weather Underground PWS 

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This is not going to help  much but if I lose the scribbles in my notebook and scraps of paper on the bench, it will help me.  The  rain gage and and wind speed are on D2/D3 which are interrupt pins zero and one.  The anemometer requires a pullup since we’re using the 3144 hall effect switch.  Raingage is on a pull-down.  Pullups /downs and data limiters are 10K.  Data lines have a series  100Ω R to sink current if I mess up something.  The wind vane signal/ voltage divider circuit output is on A0.  The build will use a nano from Xina and we’ll probably stack on to the rPi shield we made in the earlier stage of  this project, cut out the USB serial link  and hardware a data connection using either  UART, SPI or even I2C.

Resources

 

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