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Author Topic: Davis Vantage Pro weather station repair  (Read 12301 times)
WY3X
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Posts: 768




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« on: April 30, 2011, 07:30:35 AM »

Davis has been less than cooperative (they apparently have a "planned obsolescence policy of around 7 years), so I'm hoping someone here might be able to provide some information about the outdoor humidity sensor in Davis's ISS module. A schematic would be most helpful, but failing that, which discrete devices on the circuit board are responsible for determining humidity? It's a model 6150, and Davis cut off all parts and support for it, even though it was apparently manufactured around 2003. From what I can determine, they killed all support for this unit in December, 2010. They did, however, offer me a "generous" trade-in value of $100 for my old unit in an upgrade trade.

Thanks, WY3X
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W8JX
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« Reply #1 on: April 30, 2011, 07:42:07 AM »

Are you by chance going to be at Dayton Hamfest? They have a big booth there and might be more cooperative in a public setting.
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WY3X
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« Reply #2 on: April 30, 2011, 09:05:46 AM »

No chance of going to Dayton. Too many miles. I've been twice in my life, and it was fun, but it's too arduous of a journey.  Undecided
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W8JX
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« Reply #3 on: April 30, 2011, 09:49:10 AM »

No chance of going to Dayton. Too many miles. I've been twice in my life, and it was fun, but it's too arduous of a journey.  Undecided

Just a thought. They have a noticeable presence there and I thought it would give you a edge if you were coming but it is not feasible to come just for that.
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AA4HA
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Posts: 1493




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« Reply #4 on: May 01, 2011, 02:50:40 PM »

I have a Davis Vantage Pro with a console USB connection. One time I had to replace the board in the outdoor unit and spent more than $100 on those repairs. Then I found out that the Davis software would no longer upgrade unless I paid to send my desktop console back to the factory (or leased a programmer) to update the firmware.

I have also had problems with the tipping rain gauge, anemometer and barometric pressure gauge.

They do not like to support 3rd party weather applications and I had found one that worked much better than the Davis software. It allowed me to integrate many of the NOAA products into my weather setup but eventually even that too became obsolesent due to my refusal to be extorted for a firmware upgrade on the console.

In all, it left a bad taste in my mouth. I will not buy another Davis weather station, this is after spending nearly $600 at the time for a complete station with all of the doodads.

There are other companies out there that make (better) weather monitoring systems.

One of my work related projects was to select an instrumentation system for a regional weather and river gauge monitoring system. Davis did not make the cut. Eventually it was a run-off between LaCrosse and R.M. Young.
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
WY3X
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Posts: 768




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« Reply #5 on: May 01, 2011, 07:24:56 PM »

Thanks for sharing your opinion, Tisha. I've been reading your posts for awhile, and always appreciate your comments. If I had paid the new price for this unit, I would be beyond aggravated at having to expend major funds to repair it. I found an updated board on eBay this morning (rather expensive, I might add, at $175.00). The only reason I bought it is because I was given the weather station for free, so now I have $175 tied up in it. The new board will have an updated humidity/temperature sensor (whatever the update consists of), and the vendor has promised that if it doesn't work, he'll refund my full purchase price. You can't argue with a policy like that! I will, however, NOT update or repair it a second time. I have a LaCrosse wired system, but didn't want to go through the aggravation of running the wire. If this Davis Vantage Pro unit fails again, I'll be looking at another brand to replace it. Customer service will be one of my criteria in the selection of it's successor.

I plan to see about connecting this 6150 to my computer next, and if it won't connect (physically) I'll use it as a stand-alone station. It would be nice to be able to share my readings with others, but I'm not going to pay a premium price to do it.

Kindest regards, -WY3X
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AA4HA
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« Reply #6 on: May 01, 2011, 07:54:34 PM »

One of the things that disappointed me with the Davis was the lack of support for an external radio. I wanted to put the weather station up on the crest of the ridge, about 1200 feet away from the house, back in the woods. The Davis radio/ antenna combination would just not cut it. I have a spare set of 900 MHz spread-spectrum, frequency-hopping radios that I could hook up to something with a serial port (or an Ethernet port up to 1 mbps). If you look at the board in the remote equipment it is a small circuit board, a battery and a small solar panel mounted on the white plastic cover.

Important note, make sure the cover fits snugly. After a while the plastic latches seem to get loose and I found the station with the solar panel/ cover off one day and had to dry out the board. Now it is held on with a piece of silicone tape to prevent that from happening again.

As a consumer grade product I really do like the Davis. It just is a pain-in-the-butt for me to throw the ladder in the pickup truck, drive to the electric utility pole and get 25 feet off the ground to make adjustments or to screw around with the rain bucket. If you open up the rain bucket it is just a little seesaw arrangement of tiny plastic buckets with some type of sensor (magnetic or optical I think) to count the bucket tips. This gets dirty really easy, even when there is no vegetation that can fall into the funnel.

Getting it to integrate with a different software package was challenging, I was even a CWOP reporting station for a few years and was considering putting the data up on the APRS network.

You may want to consider changing out the battery in the outdoor unit. I do not think there is a clear schedule on when to do this but I was having problems where the unit would not carry through a night. Particularly when there were cloudy days and the solar panel did not get much charging done. If I recall (been a few years) it was easy to do.

Tisha
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Ms. Tisha Hayes, AA4HA
Lookout Mountain, Alabama
K3GM
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Posts: 1817




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« Reply #7 on: May 02, 2011, 07:42:01 AM »

Just a couple of comments:

Tipping bucket rain collectors are the defacto method for non-resettable rain water measurement even for the NWS. Collectors costing upwards to $700 US are of the tipping bucket variety.  There is another method available in another consumer quality brand which counts the drops that pass between a mesh grid.  But poop from birds sitting on the edge of the collector really scrambles them up.  I know becasue I use to own one.  Nothing beats manual style measurment, but they certainly aren't as convenient.  I added the heated option on mine and can even measure the water equivalent of snow.

Tisha. you could have easily covered that distance by using a Davis repeater, or perhaps by a home brewed  yagi to replace the standard little stick.

Web, Davis' first attempt at the Vantage Pro received mixed reviews, and I have to assume that is the model you acquired.  The replacement, the Vantage Pro II uses spread spectrum transmission, in the 902 to 928 MHz range and is way better than the original model.  It has most number of reviews of any station on eHam with 47, and averages a 4.9 out of 5.  Mine has been in operation for nearly 6 years and continues to perform flawlessly, operating within high RF fields, uploading data 24/7 to the Citizen Weather Observer Program, CWOP.  http://www.findu.com/cgi-bin/wxpage.cgi?call=K3gm It sat out in my small field this winter, with 40inches of snow on the ground at one point and continued the ping away, day and night.  Personally, I don't think you'll find a better consumer grade instrument or one with as many option possiblities as the Davis

Planned obsolescence is a fact of life with ever advancing technology, and personally, I think the $100 trade-in they offered you was extremely generous.  I can't think of any other consumer electronics company,  discounting the one I work for <ggg> that offers a trade-in.  Again personally, I think the $175 for the replacement board could have been better spent on the smaller, Davis Vantage Vue or a  Vantage Pro 2.
« Last Edit: May 02, 2011, 08:15:42 AM by K3GM » Logged
WY3X
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Posts: 768




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« Reply #8 on: May 02, 2011, 06:56:43 PM »

K3GM, I guess we'll have to agree to disagree. From what I've been able to gather, my Vantage Pro 6150 was manufactured in 2003, so it's 8 years old. The "standard" for planned obsolescence ought to be more than 8 years! With trade in value of $100, the new Vantage Pro II would have cost me $600.00, so the way I look at it, I saved myself $425.00. To me, that's a house payment! (Where I used to live, anyhow- our new home is paid for, TTL!!!

Yes, I could have bought the VP2. Then I would have had to explain to my YL why I needed to spend $425 to learn the outdoor humidity from my shack chair as opposed to typing in the URL "weather.com" (and myriad other websites). I'll get a whole lot less argument over $175!!! And it'll last (I anticipate) about two years.

Tisha, there are two batteries on board these things, and one of them only "looks" like a battery.

#1 is the Lithium cell type 123.
#2 is a "super capacitor" that solders onto the board.

The solar cell is to charge up the super-capacitor. When the super capacitor doesn't have a
good enough charge, the system flips over to the non-rechargeable Lithium battery. The lithium
battery is expected to last 2 years in normal use, from what I read on the Davis website. If the
solar panel isn't charging the super-capacitor, or the super capacitor goes bad, then it'll eat up
the lithium batteries sooner than 2 years.

FYI, I paid almost $12.00 for one of the lithium cells at a local grocery store! I found out they're
about $10 at Wal-Mart, but a friend of mine in the home alarm business tells me he buys the
same battery for 83 cents (!)!!! I'm getting in on his next order, because I have an old camera
that also uses that same battery!

73, and thanks all, -WY3X
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WY3X
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Posts: 768




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« Reply #9 on: May 04, 2011, 10:12:14 AM »

To close out this thread, a vendor on eBay happened to be selling a "retrofit kit" for the Davis Vantage Pro that is much improved over the original board. The radiation stack (plastic pancakes) under the rain collector have to be removed and replaced, installing the new board with integral plastic pancake on the bottom. The existing rain gauge, anemometer, and solar panel connect to the new board. The new unit has a gasketed weather sealed cover that tightens with screws covering the board and all connections, and the temp/humidity sensor is external with a nice copper cage over it. The temp/humidity sensor mounts on top of the pancake stack so it's protected by the rain collector. You have to physically rebuild the entire ISS module to install it, but I did it in about 30 minutes, no big deal. In case anyone needs the Davis part number, it's Product #6920, "SIM replacement kit for 916MHz Vantage Pro". All is well now. (No thanks to Davis, but thanks to one of their vendors who really knows what he's talking about! It's amazing to me that a reseller knows more about a product than the manufacturer's tech support team!) To contact the eBay seller directly, the e-mail address is: archertrading@bellsouth.net

73 all, thanks for your offers of advice, -WY3X
« Last Edit: May 04, 2011, 10:20:10 AM by WY3X » Logged
K5KJ
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Posts: 1


WWW

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« Reply #10 on: March 17, 2013, 06:54:53 AM »

The three primary failure modes appear to be, 1) CR123 battery needs replacement 2) Magnetic reed switch failure 3) Super Capacitor failure

The CR123 is a lithium battery that cannot be recharged and must be replaced when discharged.  These can be found at Wal-Mart or just about any camera store.

The magnetic reed switch is used for the tipping rain gauge and the anemometer, to count tips or revolutions of the cups.  The reed switch can be purchase from Davis and is relatively easy to replace.  You can Google instructions on the Internet.  It's inexpensive at $2.00 each.http://www.davisnet.com/weather/products/weather_product.asp?pnum=07120.031

A replacement for the SuperCapacitor can be purchased through Mouser. I purchased a 45 Farad capacitor that *should* retain the charge through even the longest, darkest overcast night.  http://www.mouser.com/Search/ProductDetail.aspx?qs=xF5SkmKSM74Uo7G9DWjFgg%3d%3d.

If you replace either the reed switch or the SuperCapacitor, it is recommended that you apply RTV (silicone sealant) to immobilize the component.  Be sure that you use non-corrosive RTV that does not produce acidic acid during the curing process, which most standard silicone sealants do produce.  You have to use non-corrosive RTV to avoid damage to the part and surrounding components.  Here's a source if you can't find it locally (some auto parts stores have it, but many don't):  http://www.totalindustrialsupply.com/ProductDetails.asp?ProductCode=442-51387&Click=80157
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W9GB
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Posts: 2626




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« Reply #11 on: March 17, 2013, 07:49:33 AM »

CR123A : 3 V, 1400 mA Lithium battery primarily used in Photo Industry.

Battery Junction -- Choose your desired mfg.
http://www.batteryjunction.com/crba.html

Consumers pay more $$$ for convinence (retail packaging, store sales) and
NO technical knowledge (appliance, plug-n-play).
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KD0REQ
Member

Posts: 972




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« Reply #12 on: March 17, 2013, 02:42:14 PM »

123As are used in some remote controls, like Christmas light controllers and old garage door transmitters, you can find them in 1 and 2 packs at any home center.  if you build some of the signal tracer kits out there, they also use 123A batteries.

everything I have to replace, I keep spares on hand.  if I get one or two, they get used before they expire.
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K8AXW
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Posts: 3905




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« Reply #13 on: March 17, 2013, 05:55:42 PM »

Just my 2 cents worth on this weather station thingy:  I've been running a Heathkit weather station for about 20 years.  Everything is hardwired to the station.  Nothing wireless.

I have an "atomic" clock that uses a remote wireless transmitter to provide the outdoor temp.

The Heathkit trucks along year after year without any problem except crap plugging the screen on the raingauge.

The "atomic" clock wireless transmitter has worked only about 10% of the time I've had it.

Sometimes technology simply sucks for air!

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AA3JH
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Posts: 2




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« Reply #14 on: June 09, 2013, 09:11:48 PM »

Here's my two cent on the failures with the Vantage Pro2.

As an electronics apps engineer for a semiconductor company, I am well trained on analyzing circuitry and preventing bad designs to occur in the first place.

With that said, my Vantage Pro2 has failed to xmit periodically and also the wind speed has been showing zero even during storms. It was about time to dissect the transmitting unit to find the cause of the two issues. But, I first called Davis to see if I could get a schematic. Fat chance. All they were interested in is for me to exchange the PCB for $80. I said, no. I would probably get the same issues in a few years if their unit was not designed correctly.

My first goal was to find why the wind speed was not showing properly.  The wiring from the anemometer to the ISS transmitter was fine but as I turned the wind cups, I did not get closure between the black and red wires on the RJ-11 connector. Since I knew it was coming from the anemometer, I called Davis back just to see what could be done. Again, it was a costly replacement of, this time, $150. So, I took apart the anemometer and found that the reed switch that detects the magnetic that spins around it, was cracked and the interconnects were corroded. I simply purchased a micro reed switch from Digikey (Part #: 374-1083) for .79 cents, installed it but this time did not make it taut as the original - I predict that heat/freezing temperature could have contracted the component which lead to the fracture. It's now fixed for a saving of about $149.

Next, on to the xmit issue. The xmitter stopped working at night, which lead me to believe it was in the power supply.  The 3 volt lithium battery was fine. They have a super cap at 10 F charged by the solar panel and the 3V battery. I personally do not like super caps, so I bought from Radio Shack a triple aaa battery holder and 2 aaa rechargeable NiMH batteries and shunt this across the cap. But, I still had the same issue.  Then , I remember there was green residue on some of the processor pins. Particularly around the the xtal pins. That give me a clue.   I put the scope probe on the hi-Z side of the xtal. While monitoring the clock signal, I touched the pad where the signal is connected and it when to zero stopping it from transmitting.  Keep in mind it should have a protective coating and this should not have done this. Next, I simply breathed on it. Gave it some of my hot air and, bingo, the clock was gone for awhile until the moisture wore off. That was it. The time delay of night failures was due to the moisture build up and during the day, it elaborated.  With the worn conformal coating on the clock pins, the unit was subjected to high outside moisture and it took just a few hours for it to creep in and stop the show.  I put some of that liquid tape, bought at Home Depot, on those pin and did the breath test. Nothing! A simple cheap fix and I saved 80 bucks. I kept the recharge batteries on the unit anyway.

Hope this helps you all.

PS, and no," technology doesn't simply suck for air" if it's designed correctly.

DE AA3JH


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