Netatmo Weather Station review
Simple thermometers are so yesterday; smart weather stations are the future. The industry leader Netatmo is known for its weather-related products. I tested the Weather Station.
Almost every household has a thermometer somewhere – most likely to read the outside temperature. Some also use it to measure the temperature inside their home. Personally, I go one step further and have a temperature gauge in every room except the bathrooms. I mainly use them to monitor humidity; I live in a new building, where excess moisture can be a problem during the first two years. The other functions are secondary for me. After moving into my new place, I decided to dismantle my old smart home setup and completely redo it. I’m starting with a weather station. I plan to build on it with wall thermostats, automatic shutters and then everything else. After doing a lot of research, I went for the Netatmo. I wanted to measure both indoor and outdoor values – including wind and rain – as accurately as possible. I’ve been using the base station for about seven weeks now, along with an additional indoor and outdoor module and a rain and wind sensor. High time for a first review.
All the modules come in separate boxes. The exception: one outdoor module is already included with the base station. Each additional module comes with the product itself, any mounting accessories such as screws or adhesive strips, batteries or cables and a quick start guide. The guide could have been omitted, since it refers you to the app after just a few steps. The app explains everything in detail and with pictures. I like that – better safe than sorry. What’s missing in the box is a wall-mount kit for both the wind and rain module. I don’t get it; this should absolutely be included. I can place the modules on a table, but that doesn’t work if my balcony is covered from the top or side. Netatmo urgently needs to rethink this. The solution is simple: raise the price slightly and include the wall mount.
Setting it up
Setting up the Weather Station is very simple. It goes without a hitch. I take the supplied cable and plug one end into the main unit and the other into the socket. The base immediately starts flashing blue. The app then immediately starts trying to connect to the bridge (i.e. the main unit). It takes just a few seconds. At first, I don’t see any results in the app. It says the station needs a moment to start displaying data. A few seconds later, the values start coming in. Perfect, I think to myself and get to work on the outdoor module. I expect the difficulty to lie in attaching it to the balcony railing. Luckily, this one came with a mount. It’s very easy to attach and seems surprisingly stable. Batteries are also included. Well done, Netatmo!
I put the base station in the living room; that’s where I spend most of my time, and it connects to the kitchen and dining area. This allows me to cover three rooms with just one sensor. I put the other indoor module in the bedroom; I’m more interested in monitoring the temperature and humidity there than in the office. I temporarily place the wind and the rain modules on my balcony table, since they didn’t come with mounts. This means the data they measure is inaccurate, but at least I can check that they work. Once the required mounts arrive, I install the two sensors to the outer side of the railing. But because my railing is partially shielded by the walls of my building, I need some sort of extension. My first – failed – attempt involved a hammer. I then switched to a kitchen roll holder. I’m not completely satisfied with my solution, so I’m still on the lookout for a better one. If you have any ideas, do let me know in the comments!
Now that all the modules are where they should be, it’s time for the second part of the review: what do they measure, what can I conclude from it, and what can I do with the data? I can see everything I want to know on the main screen of the app: the current outside temperature (and the minimum and maximum values for the day), air pressure, dew point (if you click on it, the perceived outside temperature) and humidity. In addition, I see the weather forecast for the next five days. If I swipe to the left, I can see the current, as well as the cumulative and predicted precipitation. If I swipe to the left again, I see the strength and direction of the wind, including squalls and the daily maximum. At the bottom, I can see the internal temperature of the main module, the CO₂ value in ppm (link in German), the volume in dB and the humidity. If I swipe to the left, I see the same values, but this time measured by the additional indoor module. Swiping left again shows me the location of my outdoor module on the Netatmo community map. There, I can see other Netatmo users’ outdoor modules – including wind and rain gauge data, if available.
What I like in particular are the coloured dots right next to the temperature information. They tell me when I should aerate which room. They function like traffic lights: green means everything is okay, while red means the windows urgently need to be opened to let in fresh air. The sensor in the bedroom especially tends to be dark orange to bright red each morning. If you tap the top of the module, the integrated LED lights up in the corresponding colour. Netatmo offers various other smart products, such as radiator controls, meaning I could integrate the Weather Station into my smart home setup. I could then, for example, have the heating switch on automatically as soon as the outside temperature drops below ten degrees Celsius. And if I had a smart control for my blinds installed, I could programme it to lower them as soon as the outside temperature rises above 25 degrees Celsius.
What immediately catches my eye is the design. The modules look very simple – like little columns. They could pass as extraterrestrial decorative items. Some users complain about the battery life on the additional indoor and outdoor modules. I’ve been using my setup for over two months now, and the battery indicator is still full. I’ve also only had three dropouts related to range: the connection to the outdoor sensor dropped once, the connection to the rain gauge dropped twice. But they were back online after just a few minutes. The additional indoor module, for instance, is about 25 metres away from the base station. There’s also a door, a wall and the kitchen in between. Still, I have two out of five bars in signal strength. If I compare the measured outdoor temperatures with data from MeteoSwiss, my Netatmo Weather Station has maximum deviations of 0.1 degrees Celsius. The same goes for the indoor module, which I compare with the Bosch UniversalTemp thermometer. The app is clean and runs smoothly; I had no issues with it. The same goes for setting up the individual modules. A cool feature for statistics freaks is also the fact that all measured values can be downloaded, for example as an Excel file.
One point of contention with smart devices is the batteries. Either the products run on batteries, which need to be replaced from time to time. The more battery-saving the individual modules are, the less often the batteries need to be replaced. Or the additional sensors are wired. In this case, you don’t need to worry about battery life, but you’re less flexible in terms of placement. If Netatmo’s batteries last the promised two years, I can live with that. Replacing them is relatively simple: unscrew module, remove old batteries, put in new batteries, done. With the exception of the rain and wind sensors, you can do this without any tools. The range could indeed be a bit better, though I only had three connection dropouts to complain about. But it really should be possible to achieve more than two to three out of five bars over such short distances. In my case, the wind and rain sensors are only about five metres away from the main module and are separated only by a windowpane. I expect more with a setup like that. One of the main points of criticism is the price. The Netatmo Weather Station costs nearly 400 francs (as of 29.07.2021). That’s a lot of money for one bridge, one indoor and outdoor module and one wind and rain sensor. And that’s not counting the two additional mounts. Which beings me to my second point. For that kind of money, the mount frankly must be included in the box with the rain and wind sensor.
The Netatmo Weather Station – including the accessories – is very easy to set up and ready for use in no time. The individual modules feel solidly built and come in a simple design. The interior modules blend into almost any home decor with their unremarkable silver look. The black and white outdoor modules can withstand quite a bit of rain and wind; even after the storms in recent weeks, they’re in place and working. I have nothing to criticise about the app or the data collected. I do really enjoy the features that go beyond those of a simple thermometer. Working from home, I’m especially happy that Netatmo warns me of poor indoor air quality with a notification and prompts me to aerate the room. The wind and rain sensors also warn me of heavy precipitation or strong gusts of air. If you’re just looking to replace your broken ordinary thermometer, the Netatmo is frankly too expensive. On the other hand, if you want a weather station that displays more than just temperature and humidity, the Netatmo is certainly a top contender (though an expensive one nonetheless). Keep in mind that you need a smartphone, tablet or PC to read the values, as none of the modules has a display. But there really is no way around the Netatmo if you value accurate weather data, want to be able to access it from anywhere in the world, want to record the data in histograms or download it and want to integrate it into your smart home setup.
When I'm not stuffing my face with sweets, you'll catch me running around in the gym hall. I’m a passionate floorball player and coach. On rainy days, I tinker with my homebuilt PCs, robots or other gadgets. Music is always my trusted companion. I also enjoy tackling hilly terrain on my road bike and criss-crossing the country on my cross-country skis.
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