Netatmo wide weather and rain.JPGNetatmo is known in Canada for their handy and easy to use weather station, but recently they’ve added to their product line with the addition of the Welcome camera. The company recently loaned me a full weather station, as well as one of the new cameras to test out and review. Watch for the camera review later this week, but for now, let’s get acquainted with the weather station.

Netatmo Weather Station: what’s in the box?

The Netatmo Weather Station consists of a the two-module weather monitoring station; one module, the larger of the two, is for indoor use. The smaller one gets mounted outdoors. It must be placed under the eaves or otherwise protected from direct rain and sun for accurate readings. You use an app on your smartphone to check in on the data. There are other add-ons, like the Rain Gauge, above, which we’ll take note of later.

What information does Netatmo Weather Station monitor?

The indoor module measures carbon dioxide concentration, noise levels, humidity and temperature. Information is displayed in an easy to read, user friendly split-screen app on your smartphone or tablet. While temperature and humidity readings are understandable, why measure carbon dioxide? Some research shows that high levels of carbon dioxide indoors can lead to tiredness, lethargy and even poor performance at work.
Netatmo CO2 reading.pngThe Netatmo Weather Station measures the level of CO2 indoors and sends you a warning when it gets too high.  What does that mean? While the app doesn’t explicitly tell you, it means you need to air out your home.

One article of the several I read explains best why you should watch carbon dioxide levels indoors: “Levels of carbon dioxide tend to build up in rooms over time while oxygen levels decline, leading to stale, stuffy, air, and slow-working brains. A study last year by Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found CO2 levels are worst in meeting rooms, and also in classrooms. Normally, outdoors the CO2 levels are around 350 ppm – in office meeting rooms levels can rise to thousands of parts per million, usually due to poor ventilation.”

Netatmo also measures indoor noise levels, but that was a feature I found I never needed; if it’s noisy at home, I know it, and there’s little that can be done about it. I guess if a tree fell on my house while I was out, this might be a way to get alerted, but otherwise this feature is interesting but impractical for me.

The outdoor Netatmo module measures temperature, but also supplies windchill and humidity levels, as well as pollution levels and a 7 day forecast lookahead.

Reliability of Readings

rsz_netatmo_readings_3.jpgI found the weather data to be accurate when it came to outdoor temperature in particular.  On any given day, it was within a degree or two of what the old fashioned thermometer I have outside told me, and within a degree or two of what other apps would tell me. I tended to believe the Netatmo’s readings over others however, because Apple’s weather app, for example, is pulling readings from a weather station goodness knows where in the city, while my Netatmo is giving me the exact temperature at my front door. I also found myself preferring to rely on the Netatmo for indoor readings, as my thermostat is not exactly new, or high technology.

Comparing Data

I compared the readings from my historical data chart within the Netatmo app, to the Weather Network’s “official” data for the same dates.  I found my readings matched others well. Differences could be simply due to the fact that my weather station gets different legitimate readings than where the “official” readings are taking place. Calgary has extreme variances from corner to corner of the city when it comes to weather, so these variances from Netatmo to other apps are no surprise to me. I’ve listed 3 days’ data chosen at random just so you can see the comparison (below).

Netatmo temperatures chart comparison.pngSetting up and Using the Netatmo Weather Station

Setting up the weather station was fast and easy. You simply install the batteries in the outdoor module, set up an account, and place the sensors in their new locations. The one-piece aluminum cylinders are not obtrusive and vanish into the background of the house, both inside and out.rsz_netatmo_app.jpg

The system is basically ‘set it and forget it’. The outdoor cylinder sits outside, and the indoor one stays unobtrusively out of the way inside, but it does need to be plugged into an AC outlet (and away from windows, and heaters or vents) for the whole system to function, so you’ll need an out of the way spot near a plug to stash it. The outdoor unit being battery powered you’ll need to keep an eye on it; if data stops flowing from your outdoor module, weak or dead batteries may be to blame.

When you want to know what’s up with the weather or temperature, you push the top of the indoor cylinder for a quick reading, and it buzzes your phone when the data is ready.  Otherwise, if you just open the app, all the current data is there. The iPhone app and the iPad version look a wee bit different, just in terms of layout but they both work the same.

Add-ons: Testing the Rain Gauge

There are a couple add-ons to the Netatmo kit, and I was able to test the Rain Gauge, however adding the device was a bit perplexing.

Within the app, there appears to be no way to set up the rain gauge. Instead you’ll need to follow the instructions on the included paper which direct you to add.netatmo.com to set up the gauge. Once there you’ll need to download “module manager software” for your computer. (This is a separate program from what you would ordinarily be using to monitor your Netatmo) You’ll need to physically connect the weather station to your computer using the included USB cable.

Once the weather station has been “seen” by the computer, it will give you an option to select which accessory you have. After you select “rain gauge”, it asks you to open up the base of the rain gauge and remove the tab protecting the batteries. With the tab pulled free, the rain gauge comes online in seconds and is now ready for use.

Netatmo warns you’ll need to keep the rain gauge 3 metres or 10 feet from any buildings, houses, or structures, 2 to 5 feet off the ground, and 3 metres or 10 feet from any foliage or trees so it can collect rain easily and accurately. Unfortunately we were almost into snow by the time I got the rain gauge assembled. So what tended to happen was the snow would accumulate inside the rain gauge, then on warmer days it would melt, and measure that as rain.  That’s no fault of the rain gauge’s. But it seems that in a Canadian climate, the rain gauge is probably only useful outside winter.

There’s also a wind gauge coming to round out the kit.

Data Rich Website

rsz_1netatmo_calgary_map.jpgNetatmo also has a website that’s loaded with data. You can look at their worldwide weather map, track your own stats and get easy access to all the weather data you could want, both from your own station, and others worldwide. Do you have a condo in Palm Springs? You can get a Netatmo for that house and monitor indoor and outdoor temperature there from your smartphone. Have a trailer in Golden? It’s easy to see what’s happening anywhere you choose, whether from your own added modules, or by looking at Netatmo’s map.

Netatmo weather station home 2.JPGOne of my favourite features is that you can see what the temperature readings are around your city or around the world with Netatmo’s user-populated Weathermap view.
While I love the idea of this, I do find it a bit concerning, in that anyone with access to the map can zoom in to near-streetview level to see where the the readings are coming from. The app even displays the street name where the readings are being taken, but in a change from my last review of the app, a person’s name no longer displays with it, which is a relief, because that was way too much information out there online for me.

Still, in theory one could, if they were the nefarious type, hunt for and potentially steal your outdoor module, and rain or wind gauge if they wanted to go looking. Granted, since you need the indoor station to make the kit work, I don’t know if that would be worth it for a thief. Nonetheless these are things I think about.  But I digress.

Overall
I really enjoyed my experience with the Netatmo Weather Station.  I find the data accurate, and the gear itself to be insanely practical.  After all, weather affects all of us every day, why not get a jumpstart on what to wear, or how to prepare by having up-to-the-minute data at your fingertips?
While I found readings like the noise level to be unnecessary, once I did some research I thought the CO2 level was practical. I got “high CO2 level” notifications a few times, and knew that meant I need to open a window, however before I did that research I had no idea what the levels meant, and even confused it for (deadly) carbon monoxide the first time the alert came in. It would be a good idea for Netatmo to add an explanation alongside this reading so customers can be aware of what the data is and why they should pay attention to it.

The Netatmo app is easy to read and understand and has recently undergone a facelift giving it an even cleaner and more streamlined and simplified look.

In short, I’d recommend this device for “weather nerds” in particular who will enjoy the wealth of data that comes with the Netatmo Weather Station.  It’s also a fun and very useful and practical gadget for the rest of us. I think it would make a great “family gift” for the coming holiday season too, given how reliable and easy to use and understand it is.

Get a Netatmo Weather Station from Best Buy

Netatmo provided a review unit for this blog. It did not ask for, nor receive permission to pre-approve this article.