The weather monitoring is one of the first requests of all Alexien to his new Echo. Then quite quickly comes the frustration of having a simple estimate of the outside temperature and no inside temperature. As you can see in our test of the Netatmo weather station, this brand currently offers the only fully compatible weather station Alexa. And as the findings show, it's a relatively good, albeit expensive, product. But it also has another advantage in that we can add additional modules to collect new data. We are therefore going to focus on one of them: the rain gauge.
Whether you are an amateur gardener or just curious, following the theoretical amounts of rain is quite limited because they can vary widely from one area to another. Everyone has experienced this miracle of seeing the rain fall 500 m from home and nothing at all for our grass ... However, on average, the precipitation announced was 5 mm ... Hey yes ... And the reverse is also true. In this case, there is the rain gauge in its most basic version, the graduated one. But if you are reading this test, it's because it's way too basic, you need something with curves, comparisons, trends! Well here is the Netatmo rain gauge !
But what is it worth? We will see it together. And how much is it worth? Its base price is around € 69, but it is quite often on sale for less than € 60. Do we get what we pay for for the price?
Netatmo rain gauge: catch the rain on the fly!
The rain gauge is delivered in a high-end and friendly packaging. It is quite sober in the end, well imagined, white and quite solid. It highlights the visual of the product, the in-house application and the characteristics of the rain gauge. No highlight Alexa or any other connected speaker. We will see this together later. However, be careful, the rain gauge cannot be used without the weather station. In the box we find our device and a purely visual, starving and poorly made notice. What will save you and them too is that you have already added the outdoor module to your station and the procedure is exactly the same. But at this price point, we expect more than furniture kit designs, none of which gives the actual pairing mode.
What is immediately striking, upon opening, is the size of the device. It takes almost the entire width x height of the box and ditto for the height. We are on a module of 13 cm in diameter (12,5 if we consider only the inside of the walls of the rain gauge) and 11 cm high.
Regarding the module itself, there are two distinct parts : the external receptacle and the internal measurement / transmission system. The receptacle is made of transparent plastic, treated against UV rays. It is attached to a glossy black support. All in rigid plastic, marking easily enough and, even if the test has not been done, having to withstand shocks badly, so be careful not to let it go. There is a small drain to prevent leaves or insects from falling into or clogging the system.
The measuring system is also made of white plastic. There is the battery receptacle and the measuring buckets. How does it work, you ask? It is very simple. Imagine a seesaw with small receptacles at each end. The water will come to fill the first bucket and, with the weight, will capsize and empty. It is the second which will fill and empty and so on. Each tilting will activate a magnet which will make it possible to count the number of oil changes and, thanks to the volume of the trough and the surface of the receptacle (? R² you remember?) Will calculate the height of rain (knowing 1 mm is equivalent at 1 liter per m²). Drain holes can be found on either side of the seesaw.
To set it up, there is several possibilities :
- Buy a stand, sold separately, and screw it there using the system on the bottom of the measuring base. From there, you can, depending on the support chosen, hang it high or plant it in the desired location,
- Screw the base onto a promontory already in place.
In all cases, it is necessary not to put it too close to walls or trees so as not to distort the rain catchments.
Netatmo rain gauge: installation
As announced earlier, in order to use the rain gauge, iIt is necessary that you have the Netatmo weather station. To do this, in the Netatmo application, slide the top of the screen to put you on the rain gauge part (symbol of the drop) and click "install".
Then let press your finger on the top of the main module until it flashes blue. It will then restart, allowing you to add a module. He will also take the opportunity to make an update if necessary.
Then, activate your phone's bluetooth, connect to the same network than the one to which your station is connected and remove the protective tab AAA batteries (supplied). Then follow the on-screen instructions. Put the rain gauge nearby of your station to make them interact. They communicate by radio wave, so your WI-FI will not be saturated. The maximum distance given is 100 m without obstacle. What it is possible to doubt if the quality of the connection is the same as that of the outside temperature module.
Netatmo rain gauge: test # 1
Then put your rain gauge in place. And this is where things get a bit tricky. First of all, there is a lot of customer feedback concerning problems with the module no longer functioning after a few weeks, corrosion of the batteries or the like. To avoid this, fully tighten the two battery compartment screws, using a screwdriver for extra security. The second problem that emerges is that some people see the level of precipitation stubbornly staying at 0 mm despite the rain. And there, as you can see in the photo, it is the very manufacture of the product that is the problem. First of all, if you do not tighten the battery pack enough, the swing will get stuck under the removable part because of a significant lateral play… And it will no longer be able to play its role of swing. Another problem, still because of this play, even if the battery pack is well screwed, the buckets can have a tendency to stick to the side part and be hindered in their swing to a certain extent (especially if we add a bad trimming as was the case with the tested product).
The installation is also very important because it must be horizontal so as not to interfere with the operation of the troughs. Take a spirit level. Several data accuracy tests, in which the results were aberrant, found that other problems appeared as soon as the cover was fitted. Listening carefully when emptying the water in the troughs showed that they remained blocked. Finally, it is the cap serving as a drain which, put in place normally, rubbed on the troughs and blocked them. It was therefore necessary to remove it over half the height. These types of problems seem to be fairly recurrent (accuracy, operation, breakdowns, etc.) and we can only deplore what jumps out quickly enough: random finish, average quality plastic (read more in part), overall disappointing construction and great doubt for the durability over time ... at least for the current selling price.
Following these set-up setbacks, we began to suspect a defective product. Either way, let's go on and see if that's the case.
Level of use, this rain gauge is given for a measuring range 0,2 to 150 mm / h. That is to say from the smallest dose making it possible to tip the buckets and have a reliable measurement. The measurement fidelity (which Netatmo calls precision by default) is 1 mm / h, which is huge because 5 times the minimum hourly measurement… For information, the measurement accuracy of a commercial transaction scale is 1% of the smallest weight weighed, there we are at 500%. If you have an advertised rainfall of 0,5mm / h, it may have fallen 1,5mm or 0,2mm / h. This can be explained, in our opinion, by the fact that there are still many drops of water in the receptacle, which cling to the wall and therefore cannot be counted (see the photo below taken almost 4 hours) after the last rain). Indeed, the coating does not seem of the same quality as the unconnected rain gauges at the same price where it is more hydrophobic. However, an error of 1mm / h corresponds to 12.3ml of water, which is more than the remaining drops, even in large numbers. Perhaps we should be interested in the shape of the rain gauge. Indeed, the shape of a good quality rain gauge is much deeper to avoid splashing more or less important, over an hour, up to 12 ml. Even probable.
Once the first rain gauge was finally operational, we carried out several tests in order to validate repeatability of measurements. To do this, we poured in drop by drop 53 ml in 4 batches (12, 15, 13 and 13 ml). The cumulation is 2 mm / h but with a disparity: 0,3, 0,6, 0,6 and 0,5 mm / H. And there, it is not logical… the announced values are quite variable compared to each other. There is a strong variability. We contacted Netatmo after-sales service, who asked us to do another test with 53 ml poured in one test. The latter gave 2,1 mm / h, which remains consistent with previous measurements but still out of step with theory ...Netatmo confirmed to us that the product was defective and sent us back to the dealer for a replacement. However, in 7 days of exchange, there were only 4 emails from Netatmo in all, one asking to give access to the application, the other to do a test and the last one asking to change the product. Answer to our last question asking the manufacturer for the typical values to find to do the calibration ourselves, but the value received confirms our calculation. So it took a week (due to a holiday) to diagnose a hardware problem. Which is relatively long because Netatmo is limited, it seems to one message per day. No feedback on the perfectible finishes ... Could do better in general ...
Netatmo rain gauge: test # 2
Our replacement rain gauge received, we set about testing it again, after having observed it in detail. First of all, this new module does not present the same problem of buckets rubbing against the battery pack cover. However, it is not free from flaws: looking at the photos, you can see plastic barbs all over the place (under the buckets and on the dividing ridge). Very average finishes are therefore inherent in the product, but in this case, no effect on operation. Moreover, it was not necessary to remove the drain halfway to operate the buckets.
In order to do a test to know the accuracy of your new rain gauge, we have changed the way of doing things because the data arriving after several minutes and not in real time (for example, the data of a test done at 12:40 have been completely transferred around 13:15 p.m. and therefore taken into account on the next test, done around 13:10 p.m.) ... So we drip in about 95 ml of water and read the total at the end. It was 7,4mm. Is it consistent or not? Be careful, allergic to math, get out of the way!
The area of the receptacle is 0,0123m² in our case and 1 mm corresponds to 1000 ml over 1 m², so 12,3 ml poured equivalent to 1 mm. We had 7,4 mm or 12,8 ml for 1 mm. Netatmo confirmed to us by email that for 50 ml, we should have 4 mm, or 12,5 ml per millimeter. If we consider the fidelity of the announced measurement of 1 mm / h, We are very good even if in any event, this error, in the case of drip does not apply.
Another good surprise the surface of the rain gauge seems more water-repellent than that of the first. The drops did not spread and rolled more easily down the drain. It therefore seems clear that our first tested module was really defective, the second being much more reliable and to some extent better finished than the first.
Another negative point to highlight, Netatmo chose black for the body of the rain gauge, a color that attracts heat. One can only wonder what the measurements will give once the valve system is overheated… Moreover, it can only be used up to 50 ° C. In the south, with temperatures in the 40 ° C in the sun in summer, given its color, you can be there quite quickly. If you are also in an area where it often rains very hard in a short period of time, be aware that if the filling is too fast, a good part of the rain will not be taken into account because the buckets will overflow before emptying ( and that the shape of the cone means that there will be splash).
The data collected is transferred to your mobile application and allows you to have the cumulative precipitation over the day, over an hour, and comparison graphs. This is all pretty clear and useful but a value of the waterfalls in real time or in a span shorter than an hour would be welcome. Indeed, it is not possible to have an estimate at a time t precipitation, it will always be an accumulation. You will have to wait an hour to have the precise showers, the time they accumulate. Moreover, if you try to pour water into the rain gauge, you will not immediately have the value poured. You will have to wait 5, 10 or 20 minutes for the data to be transferred (sometimes more). If you are looking for a device to have an afterthought rainfall value, whether or not to water or not, or for info, this is for you. If you are a professional, if you need to know the volume at a time t to avoid gullying or the like, go for something else.
Now let's discuss the interaction with Alexa… And there it is, it's done. Eh ? serious ? No, we add a little, but ask Alexa to open Netatmo and then ask for "rain": Alexa will give you the hourly total (when she doesn't give you a totally incomprehensible sentence if you have 0 mm / h). And that's all. Don't expect a multimodal skill either, with visual data there isn't. More than limited interest therefore, even non-existent.
On the other hand, with the application and more specifically the website, here we are on serious matters: graphs updated in real time, comparisons, various and varied data. You will find on the application the volume fallen over the hour and the total over the day, as well as a comparison with the theoretical precipitation volume. The latter is given by the application according to third-party providers. It is given on the day and can therefore be different from what your rain gauge gives you for several reasons:
- The estimate is for the day and more showers may be expected,
- An estimate is a theoretical rainfall for a place and there is a strong disparity within a few hundred meters, not to mention the fact that this remains an estimate,
- The force of the rain can also affect the displayed volume,
But in the end, it is faithful in terms of data, quite design and the fact of being connected is a real plus even if it does not add much if you simply reason with it. Alexa… Only, we keep in mind its price. And frankly, we still have the impression of paying for the brand and the fact that it is the only "compatible" Alexa on the market. Because let's be honest, the finishes are fairly average, we can ask ourselves the question of its resistance over time and it does not include the basics of high-performance rain gauges (deep cone, white color, etc.).
We were not lucky to come across a faulty first device but Netatmo played its role of after-sales service by appraising it, but nothing more. The second device has reconciled us with its performance. However, apart from the visual problems of the first one and the hooks preventing its proper functioning, things that can be managed alone, would an average buyer have realized the incorrect value? It would be good for Netatmo to provide a calibration protocol for its rain gauge.
Buying this rain gauge can be interesting if you are just looking for informative data and building up a history. If you are fond of meteorology, want to have precise and continuous data, it is not for you. For almost 70 €, we are entitled to expect a top-of-the-range product, which does not seem entirely the case.
Rain gauge for Netatmo weather station68.00€
- Very simple and quick installation (5 minutes) on the application
- Repeatable measurements
- Very average finishes
- Its constitution is not in accordance with what is expected for a quality rain gauge
- Skill Alexa poor
- Price too high for final quality
- No support provided