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Troubleshooting

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Davis Instruments FAQ

8 Most Common Weather Station Problems 

 

Davis Instruments FAQ

This section is tailored for using and troubleshooting the Vantage Vue and Vantage Pro2 weather stations. However, there are common issues which will apply to any personal weather station. Even if the specifics are not the same, the information may help while enjoying any of our weather stations.

The most accurate information should be in the owner’s manual for each station. If the manual is lost or mislaid, most manufacturers have PDF copies online for you to download.

01. How can I find the Product Number and Manufacturing Code for my station?

Our weather stations typically provide years of trouble free service, however, from time to time some things can still go wrong. One of the reasons WeatherStationary choose to work with Davis Instruments is their reputation for outstanding customer service.

Whether you contact the company via telephone, email or online chat, they will need two pieces of information in order to give the best service. These are the exact Product / Part  Number and Manufacturing Code of the station component. The Product / Part  Number is the main Davis catalogue number which the technician who is helping you will need to find the documentation and parts list to fix your problem. The Mfg Code is essentially the serial number and manufacture date for each unit, knowing this will help the technician ensure that the correct parts are installed for your individual component.

The Product Number and Mfg Code will be on the label of each component. The label for the Vantage Vue ISS is located on the underside of the unit, other sensor transmitters will have the label on the internal transmitter board cover, which will be obvious once the outer door is opened. Labels for consoles are on the back or underside of the unit. Data logger labels are on the side of the unit which faces into the console when installed (the logger must be removed to read the label).

*Tip* Before mounting the Integrated Sensor Suite, copy the label data onto a Post-It note and place the note on the back of the console. Then you will not have to get the ladder out if you need to contact the Service Center.

02. When do I need to reboot the console and how do I do it?

Sometimes the console will display a Fault Code or may simply behave in an unexpected or apparently faulty manner. Usually, these conditions can be corrected or cleared by simply resetting or rebooting the console. The Vue and VP2 consoles do not have a designated “reset” switch, so initiating a reboot requires completely powering down the unit by removing all power sources, i.e. the main power cord and the batteries. Leave the power disconnected for at least 10-20 seconds before restoring.

It is a good habit to listen for the beeps as the unit reboots. These are an indication that the reboot is successful. The Envoy console will beep once, the VP2 twice and 3 beeps for the Vue console. Add one beep to the sequence if there is a data logger installed.

Vue and VP2 consoles will not display data until the unit exits “Set Up” mode. Most units will exit Set Up automatically after 10 minutes, but older firmware may display “Receiving from” on the ticker line at the bottom of the display. Simply exit Set Up by giving the Done button a ‘long press’.

03. My Console appears to be Dead or Unresponsive.

If there is no text of icons displayed on the LCD screen, the most likely cause is a power failure. Check both the 5v AC adapter and the three ‘C’ cells in the battery compartment. If the console works on batteries but not the adapter, assume that the adapter is defective. If the unit powers up using the adapter but not on batteries, check the following:

  •         Ensure batteries are installed with correct polarity
  •         If possible, check each cell with a multimeter to verify charge – 1.2 to 1.3v. If a multimeter is not available, install fresh batteries.
  •         Inspect battery holder to ensure that springs are not loose or other parts are disconnected. Note: Storing the unit with old batteries may allow them to leak and damage the battery holder.

If all or most of the characters on the display are lit but will not clear or respond to button presses, the display may have locked up. This usually occurs when powering up the unit or if the AC adapter experiences a power spike. The usual remedy is to reboot the console as described above.

There may be other symptoms of a misbehaving display which are too detailed to discuss here. If problems do not go away after checking the power supply and rebooting, contact Davis Instruments Customer Support.

04. The Console appears to be working but there is missing data.

If the console has powered up correctly and is displaying time/date and inside temperature/humidity/pressure, there is likely a problem with the sensor transmitter or the sensor itself. Generally, each transmitter will carry data from multiple sensors, so if all the data from one transmitter is missing, the fault is likely the transmitter. If only one sensor reading is missing, the fault is probably the sensor itself.

05. The Console displays a ‘Low Battery” warning.

There are two Low Battery warnings on the Davis Instrument console; Transmitter low battery and Console low battery.

The console will run fine with no or low batteries. Because of the danger of old batteries leaking, it may be a good idea to remove them when the Low battery warning is displayed. (The warning will continue to display if the batteries are removed.) Although the console will continue to operate without battery back-up, if there is a power loss the unit will go off-line and require a reboot when power is restored. Since there is minimal power drain of the batteries, it is recommended that batteries are installed even if the AC adapter is the primary power source. Rechargeable batteries are not recommended because their voltage profile is significantly lower than alkaline cells.

The sensors have three power sources. The “main power” is a non-rechargeable lithium CR123 cell, a type commonly used in digital cameras. This cell normally contains enough power to last 6-9 months by itself, but the sensor suite also has a small solar panel which will power the transmitter during a sunny day. Any excess power produced by the solar panel is collected by a super-capacitor (supercap) which is capable of storing an incredible amount of electrical energy for its size. The supercap could store enough energy to power the transmitter for a full day, but the solar panel cannot provide enough power to fully charge it on winter days with short daylight hours.

The power sequence is Solar, supercap and then lithium cell. When the solar panel and supercap cannot provide power through the night, the lithium cell is drained and therefore eventually will require replacement when indicated on the console display.           

06. My WeatherLink Logger is not displaying readings on my computer. How do I troubleshoot it?

The data logger itself is a relatively simple, rugged and reliable unit which rarely fails. In 98% of WeatherLink faults, the trouble lies with the computer, external problems such as wireless interference or noisy AC mains, or the logger connection is loose. This troubleshooting guide assumes that the logger is being used with a Vantage Vue or Vantage Pro2 console. Troubles may also occur when the logger is connected to an Envoy console, but since the Envoy does not have a screen of its own, all data is displayed on the PC, and troubleshooting must be modified accordingly.

That being said, the first step to troubleshooting logger problems is a simple reboot, of both the console and the computer to which the logger is connected. This assumes, of course, that the logger is properly connected to the console and the USB port of the computer.

Troubleshooting protocols assume that the logger is properly connected at both ends and has performed properly in the past. There are some important considerations if you are having problems with a new installation. Although WeatherLink is designed to be compatible with third party software, it is highly recommended that the software on the CD shipped with the logger be installed on the PC and used for the initial installation. Once the logger is communicating with the PC using the provided software, you can proceed to install third party software with the assurance that the system is working properly.

Whenever there are issues related to viewing weather data on the PC, there are some basic steps which should be observed:

  • Ensure that the console is displaying all the data. If not, the fault may lie with the console or the ISS. Troubleshoot these faults before     proceeding with troubleshooting the logger or the PC.
  • If the console display is functioning, unplug the USB from the PC for 10-20 seconds to force a reset, then replug and wait an additional 10-20 seconds before retrying the program.
  • Close and restart the software program.
  • Restart and reboot the PC.
  • Reboot the console and check that the logger is firmly installed.

07. I have an older Davis Instruments Weather Station. Can I still get support for the unit?

For owners of the prior generation of Davis Weather Monitor II, Weather Wizard III and the original Vantage Pro (which Davis refers to as the VP1), please understand that these units are now a decade old or in many cases, even older, which is well beyond their anticipated service life. Many of these units are still in service, which is testimony of how well Davis builds their weather instruments, but the technology has moved beyond these units.

For example, the VP1 and the Vantage Pro 2 use significantly different data protocols, and therefore are not compatible with each other. This means that you cannot replace your VP1 console with a newer unit, and a serviceable VP1 console, whether cabled or wireless, will not receive and display data from the newer ISS.

One of the biggest issues faced by owners of older weather stations is parts support. Spare parts for these units have not been manufactured for years, although it may be possible to find “new old stock” on the shelves of some larger service centers.

Some of the sensors used in older units are still standardized parts and can be directly replaced with current parts. One exception is the temperature /humidity sensors for the VP1 and the WMII. These parts distinct to each model, but share the problem of unavailability. It is technically possible to replace the temperature/humidity sensor with a simple temperature sensor. Since there is no humidity reading, dew point and heat index functionality will be lost as well, but in some cases this is an acceptable means to extend the life of an older system.

The anemometer of the 6410 VP2 is fully compatible with the VP1. A faulty rain gauge may be repaired by replacing the reed switch, or replaced with a 7852 standalone rain gauge. The 6450 solar gauge and the 6490 UV meters from the VP2 are fully compatible with the VP1. However, the pressure sensor, which is built into the console main board, is not replaceable.

Repairs to transmitter boards and consoles are theoretically possible, but the uncertainty of parts replacement tend to make repair prohibitively expensive and unpractical.  

 

8 Most Common Weather Station Problems

You do not need to be a science or weather geek to appreciate the advantages of adding an electronic weather instrument to your home. Weather affects just about everything we do, and even the local weather information from TV or radio is aimed at an incredibly wide area. When you are planning activities, you need to know what the weather is doing right in your own backyard. Watching and accurately tracking the local weather can be great fun and may even help your kids to develop an interest in science and nature.

The electronic weather stations on the market today are informative, simple to install and easy to operate systems, but the fact is that things do not always go the way we want them too. The system is designed to give years of trouble-free service, but it is important to keep in mind that they are sensitive electronic instruments which live outside in the weather. If you left your laptop computer turned on and sitting outside on the picnic table overnight during a rainstorm, you would be shocked and amazed if it was working the next morning but we expect the sensor suite of our weather stations to live outside through the stormiest conditions.

To be fair, weather sensors and their housings are designed to be exposed to the weather and your laptop probably is not, but over time, exposure may have a detrimental effect on your system. Weather station problems can be divided into two distinct categories: Problems which show up during or soon after installation, and problems which appear after the system has been in use for a period of time.

1. The Weather Station is giving false, inaccurate, or no data the first time I turn it on

Although the installation process for most home weather stations is designed to be simple and straightforward, things can and do go wrong. Some homeowners opt for a less expensive system, especially if it is their first weather station. Many less expensive units are of higher quality than expected, but they fall short on information in their user's manuals and installation guides. Make every effort to read and understand the instructions before you begin the installation.

Sensor suites with separately housed components tend to be more versatile because the individual sensors can be mounted for greatest accuracy, however, self-contained units are much easier to install. With a self-contained unit, all of the connections between the individual sensors and the transmitting unit are made at the factory, whereas the connections between separately housed components need to be made by the installer. (TIP: Whenever a wire may be in wet conditions, ensure that at least part of the run loops below the end connections so that water clinging to the wire will run to the low point and drip off rather than running into the connections, electricians refer to this as a "drip loop".)

Perhaps the most important connection is the one between the sensor suite and the base unit. If the system has a wired connection and both the sensor suite and the base unit are powering up properly, recheck the connections at either end. If they are made properly, the connecting wire itself may be faulty.

There are potentially more things to go wrong with a wireless system, but this is more than offset by the increased range and ease of installation. Some units will have a manual channel selection switch, ensure it is set the same on both the sending unit and the base station. If both the sensor suite and base unit appear to be powering up properly but not communicating, bring the sending unit inside and place it near the base station. Power down both units by removing the batteries and disconnecting the charging units, leave them powered down for twenty minutes to allow residual power to drain and the memories to reset. Replace the batteries in the order prescribed in the installation manual (improper battery installation order may cause the units to fail to synchronize). Leave the units in proximity to each other for at least three hours to allow for full synchronization. If this does not work, try the entire procedure again with new batteries. Although the batteries may be fresh from the factory, a bad cell may have slipped by.

2. The base unit is displaying obviously inaccurate data when I first install the system

The system may be displaying accurate data, but in a unit that you are not familiar with. Some weather stations are set to display metric units by default. Your owner's manual will give instructions to change the display units, or there may be a simple menu function on the display.

If the wind gauge is giving faulty data, the anemometer may be fouled or unable to rotate freely. Check it by hand, there may be a particle of packing material blocking the rotation. If the wind direction is wrong, the sensor may need to be turned to align with true North.

3. After giving trouble-free service for an extended period, suddenly there is no display on my base unit

If the display is completely dead, it is most likely the result of a power interruption. If the base unit is battery powered, the display will usually begin to fade as the cells begin to lose power, but in some cases, it will simply turn off suddenly if the battery voltage is insufficient.

If the unit is powered by AC or an AC adapter, check the connection. While we cannot recommend using any power supply adapter other than the one provided by the manufacturer, they are relatively universal units, and you may be able to find a comparable unit in an electronics store. Many weather station base units are equipped to operate with an AC adapter but have a battery backup. The batteries may be rechargeable or simply dry cells.

If the base station is operational using fresh batteries but not the adapter, your AC adapter may be faulty. Should the unit be operational with the adapter but not the batteries, the batteries need to be replaced. Under normal usage, the batteries should have a long service life, but it is a best practice to renew them when they begin to weaken since older dry cells can leak corrosive chemicals which will cause further damage to the unit. Failure to display using either the batteries or the adapter may still indicate faulty batteries. Replace them before contacting your manufacturer for warranty service.

4. Low Battery warning on console

There are two very distinct types of Low Battery warnings which the operator may see displayed on the base station console, a warning for low power levels in the base station and low batteries in the sensor suite transmitter. These alarms can again be split into two types: genuine or real low battery  conditions and spurious or false alarms.

At first evaluation, a low battery warning for the base station may not be that big of a deal. In many cases, the batteries are simply a backup and the base station will run just fine on AC power, even if the batteries are not installed. The unit will reboot itself if AC power is lost and the batteries are not installed. However, it is not a best practice to leave low powered batteries installed. As batteries age, they may be subject to leaking their corrosive contents and causing damage to the base unit electronics. Replacing the batteries annually or even semi-annually (perhaps coordinated with the changes in daylight savings time, like smoke alarm batteries) is the choice made by some weather buffs. At the very least, remove the old batteries when the console indicates a low battery condition to prevent damage.

Dealing with a low battery condition in the sensor suite is a more difficult and involved situation, simply because it will require actually gaining access to the sensor suite. Observe common sense ladder safety if the installation is on a rooftop or pole. It is a good practice to familiarize yourself with the power supply configuration on your sensor suite as each manufacturer will employ a different system. Some will employ simple alkaline batteries as primary power for the sensor transmitters while others may have a three-layer system of backups - primary power being solar backed up by solar rechargeable batteries or supercapacitors which are further backed up by long-life disposable batteries.

Some of the three-layer backup systems have a reputation for giving spurious low-battery warnings. This often occurs as the system switches from one power source to another, and should reset within 24 hours. There have been reports of genuine premature battery failure due to moisture “tracking” between battery poles, causing a short circuit condition which discharges the batteries. Since this usually occurs in older units, the recommended repair is the application of an insulating grease between the contacts to prevent the tracking.

5. The unit displays a fault code or simply displays in an erratic or unexpected manner

If you do see a fault code, make a note of the code, and if you can, the conditions which caused it. If the screen displays nonsensical numbers of figures, usually the condition can be corrected with a simple reboot.

The base unit may have a reset button, its location will be indicated in the user's manual, but a more effective reboot may occur after removing the batteries, disconnecting the AC adapter, and waiting 20-30 seconds before repowering. Rebooting will clear 90% of all base unit faults.

6. Loss of communication between system and data logger

Some systems are intended to be used with a home computer or laptop taking the place of the base station console, while other manufacturers offer the option of connecting the base station to a computer for data logging. Personal weather station networks like Weather Underground or NOAA’s Citizens Weather Observation Program (CWOP) will require a data logging system along with an Internet connection. Data loggers are relatively robust, trouble-free pieces of equipment, but problems can and do occur.

If the data logger is being used in conjunction with a base station console, ensure that the base station is displaying correct data before beginning to troubleshoot the logger. The following troubleshooting protocol is based on the supposition that the logger software has been communicating with the computer previously. Communication failure in a new installation is more likely to require warranty or technical support from the manufacturer (although attempting the troubleshooting steps cannot hurt).

Logger communication failure can be caused by reasons ranging from very simple to the relatively obscure, but most often they can be corrected using simple troubleshooting tricks which apply to most electronic and PC-related devices.

  • Start by unplugging the USB for 10-20 seconds and replugging. Allow a further 10-20 seconds for the device to reboot.
  • Close then reopen the program.
  • Reboot the computer.
  • Reboot the console, ensuring that the logger is firmly connected to the console.

In most cases, these four “first steps” will resolve the issue, at least temporarily. However, a temporary solution is usually not a satisfactory solution because the purpose of the data logger is to continuously record data without the need to be attended. If the “first steps” do not resolve the issue, the baud rate or the logger mode may need to be reset on the console. These steps will be covered in your owner’s manual or you may seek assistance from customer support.

If the condition is corrected but reoccurs hours or even days later, you may be experiencing USB dropout. Changes in the computer’s power-save settings may lead to USB dropout causing the unit power off the USB during power-save modes. A more common cause of USB dropout is USB interference. The conditions which lead to USB interference are not well understood but have been documented in many cases. USB connections are more sensitive to outside interference than traditional connections like serial ports. A change to the physical desktop environment may lead to a mysterious USB interference situation.

7. There is an erratic, faulty, or no display from just one of two of the sensors

Even an all-in-one sensor suite is made up of individual instruments, and some of them are mechanical and exposed to the weather, and electronic faults can occur in the sensor software as well as in the base station. Since many sensors are solar powered, rebooting may not be as straightforward.

A solar powered sensor will have a battery backup. In some cases, the battery will depend upon the solar panel for recharge, in other designs, the power plan will be for the solar panel to provide primary power, excess solar power will go to charging the batteries, and there will be a non-rechargeable cell to back up the rechargeable batteries. These cells will have a long service life, but in certain regions where there are limited daylight hours the backup cell will require more frequent replacement. Refer to your user's manual.

Debris and normal wear and tear can prevent the anemometer vanes and the wind vane from spinning freely, leading to faulty readings. In most cases, a faulty condition can be observed from ground level before the need to climb to the sensor suite.

Another sensor which is particularly susceptible to mechanical interference is the rain gauge. One of the most common problems stems from the fact that the funnel of the rain gauge is very attractive to nesting birds. Some manufacturers provide screens or bird deterrent devices, but they are still subject to insect or debris infestation. Your owner's manual will describe the proper procedures to disassemble the rain gauge to remove any foreign objects. Ensure that the bucket assembly rocks freely.

8. The data on the screen does not match the weather I am observing

A common question crops up on cold days and the weather station is indicating high humidity. Many people associate high humidity with the uncomfortable sticky feeling they experience in hot, tropical climates, but high humidity can and does occur during cool conditions.

Humidity is a measurement of how much moisture is in the air, and it is expressed in two ways, absolute humidity, and relative humidity. Absolute measured by a device called a hygrometer and is the total amount of moisture in the air often expressed as grams per cubic meter. In general, the warmer the air is, the more moisture it can hold, so relative humidity is an expression of how much moisture is in the air versus how much moisture the air can hold at that temperature.

Evaporation occurs most readily during conditions of low relative humidity. High temperatures with high relative humidity are less comfortable because the human body depends on evaporative cooling. High relative humidity is actually more common at lower temperatures. Since cool air cannot hold as much moisture, it takes a lower amount of absolute humidity for the air to reach 100% relative humidity or saturated. When the air is saturated, precipitation generally occurs.

Part of the fun of having a home weather station is not just monitoring what the weather is doing at your location, but learning why it is doing what it is doing. The Knowledge Center at WeatherStationary is filled with information about the weather as well as how the various components of your sensor suite operate. There is also a terrific podcast series of Teaching Kids About Weather which is very informative.

  • Enjoy the weather!

All of the personal weather stations we carry were selected for their usefulness, reliability and simplicity of installation, but the reputation of the manufacturers we represent was also an important consideration. The manufacturers we deal with all have highly regarded and responsive customer service departments.

Usually, the customer service representative will be able to quickly help you to troubleshoot your system, and will be helpful if he determines that your issue is warranty related. Before you contact customer service, keep the following in mind:

  • If the Weather Station is giving false, inaccurate, or no data the first time you turn it on, there is likely a problem with the wired or wireless connection or the power-source.
  • Data which is obviously inaccurate displayed on the base unit when you first install the system may occur because the display is set to unfamiliar units (possibly metric) or there may be leftover packing material fouling the mechanisms.
  • Faded, erratic, or no display after the system has been in service for a while may indicate power supply issues.
  • A low-battery warning for the base station console may be a minor issue if the unit runs properly on AC power, but old batteries should be removed to prevent damage from leaking batteries. Servicing sensor transmitter batteries will depend on the power configuration of the particular system.
  • Fault codes, erratic displays, or just nonsensical data can often be cleared by doing a full reboot of the base unit.
  • Loss of communication between the data logger and the home computer can usually be resolved with simple troubleshooting techniques
  • If there is faulty or no data from just one or two sensors, there may be a power or mechanical issue in the sensor suite rather than the base station.
  • Use your weather station to not only observe your local weather but also as a tool to understanding weather and climate in general.

 

Davis Instruments FAQ

8 Most Common Weather Station Problems 

 

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