Last updated: August 18, 2021

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Welcome. Do you need to know your wind speed for your outdoor activities? Well, in this article we bring you a complete buying guide so you can learn everything you need to know to buy the best anemometers.

There are times when the wind can make the difference between a nice field and a painful disaster, so we must be prepared because it will not always be enough to have applications on our Smartphone, nor wet the index finger as on TV to know the strength of the wind; what we need is an anemometer.

This article aims to help those who are looking for a tool to have accurate wind data, so we studied anemometers, their types and characteristics, as well as their prices and the best places to buy them to create an easy-to-follow buying guide.




Summary

  • An anemometer is a tool used to measure wind speeds. The most common way to measure wind with them is by measuring the wind over different periods of time and then taking an overall average. They are commonly used by meteorologists to predict and understand wind conditions.
  • There are multiple types of anemometers that measure wind in different ways, the most commercially available are propeller anemometers due to their ease of installation and operation, and these are further divided into cup anemometers or vane anemometers. You can also find hot-wire, compression and sonic anemometers.
  • Think first about the conditions in which you will be taking your readings and how big you need it to be. Bear in mind that although they are simple tools to use, the data they produce requires a bit of knowledge to understand, so it might be a good idea to join meteorological groups.

The Best Anemometer: Our Picks

Buying Guide

It is not enough to know the best products on the market, as there are factors such as price and ease of purchase that make some anemometers more attractive than others, so in this section we will tell you how much you can expect to pay for an anemometer, as well as its uses, types, advantages and disadvantages.

Large propellers will not need a lot of wind to yield measurements (Photo: Transformatory.com)

What is an anemometer and what are its advantages?

An anemometer is a device used to measure wind speeds, making it one of the key tools for weather forecasting. Leon Battista Alberti is considered to be the creator of the first anemometer when he created a mechanical anemometer around 1450.

The accuracy with which it measures the wind is the reason for its widespread use among professionals such as meteorologists and pilots of ships and planes. It is also used by the most competitive practitioners of wind-related sports and activities such as kite surfing, windsurfing, kite flying and even by campers.

Advantages
  • Easy to handle
  • Small and portable
  • Large variety of types
  • Easy to see data
  • Useful even in industrial applications
  • Support for outdoor activities
Disadvantages
  • Requires prior knowledge to understand the data
  • Each type of anemometer works very differently
  • Can work erratically during extreme weather conditions

Cup, propeller, hot-wire, compression and sonic anemometers - what should you look out for?

One of the nice things about anemometers is the wide variety of different types and designs they have, so you can choose between different anemometers if you feel it will give better results during a specific situation, or if one of them is just more comfortable for you.

But so much variety can be problematic, because although their purpose is the same, they all operate in different ways, and there are distinct advantages and disadvantages between them, so we will tell you about the different types of anemometers, how they work and their most important features.

Cup anemometer. It is characterised by having a propeller at the top with 3 to 4 cups or plates at the ends. When the wind hits the cups, a force is generated that rotates the propeller, which allows the anemometer to detect the speed of the propeller and translate it into wind speed.

Propeller anemometer. This works on the same principle as the cup anemometer. This anemometer has a turbine-like propeller, which it uses to detect the wind speed depending on the force with which they rotate. The propeller may be built into the anemometer or come on a separate control.

Hot-wire anemometer. This anemometer works thanks to a wire incorporated in the equipment, which is electrically heated. As the wire is hit by the wind, this wire will cool down, and the wind speed will be measured depending on the temperature variations that the hot wire passes through.

Compression anemometer. This anemometer measures wind pressure using tubes. One of the tubes has two holes, one measuring dynamic pressure and the other static pressure, while the additional tube only measures static pressure. The anemometer uses the different pressures to measure wind speeds.

Sonic anemometer. These are the most accurate, but also the most expensive and difficult to obtain. It uses ultrasonic probes to determine wind speed, so they are not prone to give erroneous results during extreme temperatures or during very adverse weather conditions.

Cup Helix Hot Wire Compression Sonic
Needs to be pointed downwind No Yes No Yes No
Resistant to adverse conditions Erratic readings during turbulent winds High resistance to adverse conditions Erratic readings in places of varying temperature Not recommended for use in places of turbulent winds High resistance to adverse conditions
Strengths Easy to use, no need to know where the wind is coming from Can measure very strong winds Requires little wind to start measuring Can measure very strong winds, durable Rugged, high measurement accuracy
Weaknesses Propeller gets damaged over time Propeller gets damaged over time Can be damaged by airborne particles Not effective in locations with weak winds Very expensive

Buying criteria: Factors that allow you to compare and rate different models of anemometers.

It is time you knew what features to look for in your anemometers to get the most for your money, because although all anemometers read the wind, some do it better than others. This is because some have the ability to measure other factors that may interest you and help you in your measurements.

  • Reading accuracy
  • Design
  • Protection against adverse elements
  • Additional features

Accuracy of reading

Anemometers work under certain speed ranges, for example, an anemometer with a range of 0 to 30 M/S will have problems calculating winds greater than 30 M/S, but will be able to effectively calculate winds with speeds of 15 or 29 M/S. It is therefore good to know the speed range of the anemometer you are interested in.

If you want an anemometer that you can consider reliable, look for anemometers with a margin of error of 5% or less, with 1% being the best option. Most are within an accuracy of 3% which is also an acceptable margin of error.

(Photo: Daniel Kloeg / 123rf.com)

Design

As propeller anemometers are the most commercially available you will find that their propeller designs are similar, with the only differences being their size and location. Pay attention to these factors as they will help you to use your anemometer more easily during certain special conditions.

Independent control. Let's say you don't know the wind direction and don't want to take your eyes off the anemometer's display, you'll want to have one whose propellers are on a separate knob from the display. These are controlled using both hands and help you assess the wind in one hand while steering the propeller with the other.

These separate propeller anemometers are attached by a cable so make sure the cable is long, this way you can place the propeller higher up to take more accurate readings, as the propeller will be free of obstacles and elements that can affect the actual wind speed during your measurements.

Propeller size. The size of the propeller or turbine can affect the initial wind speed at which the anemometer will be able to start reading wind speed. For example, if your anemometer has a very small propeller, it will need strong winds to move and give accurate results.

The opposite is true for larger propellers, which have a larger surface area to make contact with the air and will require much less wind power to show you the wind speed. This is not to say that small propeller anemometers are bad, just that they are not as effective as those with larger propellers.

Protection against adverse elements

In normal, controlled use, an anemometer may last a lifetime, but if you plan to use it constantly under extreme conditions, you will need to buy a more rugged piece of equipment. For those very demanding situations you may want to look for a little extra protection in your anemometer, here are the things that can cause problems.

Low temperatures. In case you plan to measure winds in cold places, you should know that propeller anemometers can be affected by ice, so you will have to buy one that has an internal heating mechanism to counteract the effects of low temperatures, otherwise the propellers will freeze.

Strong winds. If you will be measuring high winds, make sure your anemometer is a turbine anemometer rather than a cup anemometer, as cup anemometers can give erratic readings during turbulent winds whereas propeller anemometers will give better readings, although beware of large particles in the wind as they can damage your propellers.

Water. If you will be using an anemometer during boat trips, or in close proximity to bodies of water on a regular basis, try to buy an anemometer that is resistant to water or high levels of humidity. Some anemometers are built not only to withstand water, but also to float in water

Additional features

Some anemometers have the ability to measure ambient temperature, which will help if you are doing meteorological studies, and may also have memory or data retention functions, as well as the ability to connect to computers to store the data obtained during a reading.

If you want to take extra care, some anemometers come with protective cases for safe transportation, increased resistance to temperature extremes, as well as backlit LCD displays for use in low-light locations, if you want to use it in ventilation ducts, for example.

(Featured image photo: Ben M /youtube.com)

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