Golden rays of sun can be deceiving. If you’ve ever walked out the door expecting warmth when you get a chilly blast of air, you’ll know the benefits of an outdoor thermometer. Today’s models offer far more than just accurate temperatures. Thermometers often double as barometers, and multi-zone models track outdoor and indoor air temperatures, humidity, and sometimes even barometric pressure.
Outdoor thermometers have gotten more sophisticated since the days of mercury thermometers. Backlit, colored, and background-enhanced digital displays offer better visibility and easy ways to scroll through functions. Below, check out some of the best outdoor thermometer devices on the market, as well as a shopping guide to take you through the features to consider when purchasing an outdoor thermometer.
- BEST OVERALL: La Crosse Technology Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: ThermoPro TP62 Digital Indoor Outdoor Thermometer
- UPGRADE PICK: Netatmo Weather Station Indoor Outdoor
- EASIEST TO READ: Taylor Precision Products Indoor/Outdoor Thermometer
- BEST MULTI-ZONE MONITORING: AcuRite 02082M Home Temperature & Humidity Station
What to Consider When Choosing the Best Outdoor Thermometer
Traditional outdoor thermometers are vertical and analog, but nowadays outdoor thermometers come in a wide range of options. For instance, techies may want a model with a memory feature that records indoor and outdoor temperatures, offers a weather forecast, and displays the time and date. Or you may need only a simple vertical model, also called a garden thermometer, so you know when you need to cover the plants in your vegetable garden. The most valuable considerations are covered below to help you find the best outdoor thermometer.
Thermometers can fall into several categories, but there are different designs and displays that may work better for you than others.
- Analog thermometers are a traditional favorite. These thermometers have a thin tube that acts as a tank for a thermosensitive liquid, which used to be mercury. Other safer fluids are used these days, but thermometers with this vertical design continue to be popular because they are simple and inexpensive. However, they aren’t the only analog choice. Analog outdoor thermometers may also look like a clock with a single hand that moves along the face to indicate the temperature.
- Digital thermometers offer a higher-tech option and provide more precise temperature readings. Digital displays may be backlit or colored to make them more visible. Some models have different windows in which you can display different-colored backgrounds. Digital displays may be easier to read than analog models, but they can have transmission distance issues or other electrical issues that analog thermometers don’t.
- Direct reading outdoor thermometers are digital models that are designed for outdoor mounting. The sensor is on the display unit and as it responds to temperature, it adjusts the display. These models should be carefully mounted where rain and other inclement weather cannot damage them.
- Remote reading thermometers have an outdoor sensor that’s wirelessly connected to the indoor display unit. Models with multiple sensors, humidity readings, and barometric measures are called a weather station. Their large digital displays are often backlit or colored to make them easier to read. However, the wireless connections to the sensors have a limited range, and obstacles like walls can reduce the transmission distance.
A display’s value comes down to readability. The measurement marks on an analog thermometer can sometimes be difficult to read. Digital displays offer better lighting and take the guesswork out of determining the temperature. These displays can be LCD, backlit, or dark with white number displays to improve readability.
Size also makes a difference. Analog displays need to be bigger to be readable from a distance. Even small digital thermometers are often easier to see.
Transmission range matters for digital thermometers with sensors. The display itself stays indoors, but it needs to be within range of the sensor. Some have a range of only a few feet, while others offer a range of 350 feet. Models with a longer range let you track the temperature in a garden or greenhouse that’s farther from your home.
Some of these models include two or three sensors to track the outside temperature, basement, or anywhere else you want to keep an eye on. Again, the greater the transmission range, the greater freedom you’ll have in the sensors and display placement.
Most thermometers offer Celsius and Fahrenheit, although a few may have only one or the other. Analog models often have Celsius and Fahrenheit temperature units next to each other, while digital models let you switch between the two.
At its most basic, an outdoor thermometer should provide an accurate reading of outdoor temperatures. However, many of today’s models offer much more. Some include several sensors that measure the temperature and humidity, along with memory features so you can track patterns in the environment around your home. Many digital models also display the time and date, act as an alarm clock, or offer audible alarms if the temperature or humidity falls out of a preset range.
Programming and Calibration
The thermometers may need to be calibrated when they’re first set up and periodically thereafter to make sure their readings are accurate. However, some models don’t need to be calibrated at all. Follow the instructions in the owner’s manual as to how and when to calibrate your thermometer.
If there aren’t any calibration instructions, you can use one of two methods. The ice-point method is the quickest and most accurate. Fill a glass with ice and tap water, and let it sit for three to five minutes. Then insert the thermometer’s probe into the water. It should reach 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius.
The boil-point method is your other option. However, there’s a risk of scalding, and the boiling point is affected by elevation, which can throw off the calibration. This method works in a similar way to the ice-point method. Bring a pot of water to boil and insert the thermometer’s probe. It should match the known boiling point, which at sea level is 212 degrees Fahrenheit or 100 degrees Celsius.
Some thermometers let you calibrate the readings for accuracy, while others don’t. With those that don’t, you need to know how far off the readings are and mentally adjust the temperature based on the thermometer’s setting.
As far as programming, models with front-facing controls are easier to program because any adjustments can be made while the thermometer is mounted or on a desktop.
Check what kind and how many batteries the thermometer needs. Digital models with multi-zone sensors take the most batteries because both the display and sensors use batteries. Of course, you always want a long battery life. Many thermometers are small and efficient enough to only need replacement batteries every few months to a year. However, weather conditions and how the thermometer is used can shorten or lengthen battery life.
Some models don’t require any batteries, such as garden thermometers. These simple thermometers use the laws of physics to measure temperature, eliminating the need for batteries.
Smart Home Integration
Digital weather stations often have the ability for smart home integration. As long as it can run on the same system as your other devices, you can connect these thermometers to a digital assistant like Google Assistant or Alexa. From there, you can use voice control to monitor the environment in and around your home.
Our Top Picks
The thermometers on this list of top picks stood out for accuracy, ease of use, and functionality. There are a number of types of thermometers to provide a few options as you make your choice.
The La Crosse thermometer combines convenient technology with an easy-to-read display. Three sensors, two remote and one on the display unit, give you some flexibility in where you monitor temperatures. A 330-foot transmission range expands the places you can locate those sensors. The display shows the time and indoor temperature and toggles between the two outdoor temperatures. However, that range may be shortened if there are walls between the sensor and the display unit.
The display can be set to either Fahrenheit or Celsius and offers the option of a 12- or 24-hour time display. A relatively small display unit (5.86 inches by 3.3 inches) is unobtrusive and can stand on a desk or kitchen counter without gobbling up space, yet the digits are easy to see and read. This model’s consistency, multi-zone temperature readings, and easy-to-read display boost it to the top of this list.
The ThermoPro offers a wide range of readings and an easy-to-read backlit display. It works with up to three sensors, so you can track several places within your home or outside of the home from a single display unit. Each sensor also takes humidity readings. The sensors and display unit need to be within 200 feet of one another generally but closer if there are walls or other obstacles between them.
The backlit display is touch sensitive. The tap of a finger turns on the orange light, making the digital numbers highly visible even in the dark. It also displays the time and offers a memory feature that tracks the minimum and maximum temperatures. Any toggling through readings can be done with three front-facing buttons. For a reasonable price, you get temperature and humidity readings with a display unit meant for high functionality and convenient use.
The Netatmo uses your existing devices as a display with a downloadable app that connects a phone, tablet, or laptop to the indoor and outdoor sensors. However, the sensors do much more than just take the temperature; they monitor humidity, air quality, barometric pressure, and indoor noise levels. It’s really a system designed to constantly monitor your living environment.
That app is compatible with the Apple HomeKit for voice control, too. Through the app, you can store data to check patterns and changes over time. It also offers a seven-day weather forecast to help you make plans. If you’re willing to pay a little extra, this outdoor thermometer steps into the age of smart technology, where you can track and check on your home from anywhere.
The Taylor Precision thermometer’s display unit may be small, but the digital screen isn’t. This model offers large digits with the outdoor temperature reading prominently on top. However, the display unit is only 2.38 inches by 3.5 inches, small enough to put anywhere in the house.
A 200-foot transmission range provides some flexibility in how and where it’s displayed. The display unit also takes and shows the indoor temperature and features a small built-in clock for convenience.
This AcuRite thermometer offers incredible usability with a gorgeous color-coded screen. It comes with three sensors that track both temperature and humidity. However, the display unit itself also contains a sensor to monitor the room in which the display unit sits. Each sensor has a color-coded area on the screen, and you have 40 location names to choose from for each one. With multiple colors, it is easier to see the sensor reading you want with a glance.
For each sensor, you can program audible and visual alerts if the humidity or the temperature drops out of the set range. This model also offers barometric pressure readings, a weather forecast, time, and date. It’s a true environmental station for at-a-glance monitoring. Finally, if you find that the lit-up display is too bright, you can either dim it manually or let it adjust automatically to fit in with the level of light in the environment.
FAQs About Outdoor Thermometers
Tracking temperatures lets you plan your outdoor activities, take better care of a garden and yard, and dress for the weather. However, there are a few tricks to their use and setup.
Q. How do I know that my outdoor thermometer is accurate?
Perform an ice-point or boiling-point test. The ice-point test involves putting the sensor or probe in a cup of ice water. It should read 32 degrees Fahrenheit and 0 degrees Celsius. The boiling point test isn’t quite as accurate because altitude and air pressure can alter the boiling point. But it works the same way. Boil a pot of water and place the thermometer’s probe in the water. Then, compare the readings to the known boiling point of your altitude.
Q. Can you adjust an outdoor thermometer?
Outdoor thermometers can usually be calibrated to make sure you’re getting accurate readings. With some, you may simply adjust the dial to match the results of an ice-point or boil-point test. Digital models may offer a way to adjust the readings according to an ice-point test, or they may have a reset button that calibrates the thermometer back to digital settings.
Q. What is the best place to put my outdoor thermometer?
Try to place the thermometer somewhere where the readings won’t be altered by landscaping, the sun, or the weather. For example, it should be at least 20 feet from concrete. Concrete reflects heat, causing the temperature to rise.
Outdoor thermometers and sensors don’t belong in full sun. Direct sunlight can cause higher temperature readings that don’t match the actual air temperature. Finally, try to place the thermometer where it has a degree of protection from the rain.