I have a new thermometer.

Now there is nothing new about having a thermometer. As an atmospheric scientist, I have several. The big one out in the old dog pen seems fine in the winter, though it is useless when the summer sun is shining on its back. (I know it doesn’t get to 120° F up here, even in summer!) The one next to the front door reads suspiciously high in the winter, and I suspect it is influenced by heat leakage from the house wall.

I had an indoor outdoor pair, with one outdoor sensor, well located on an outside corner on the north side of the house, and two indoor stations, one in the kitchen and one in the bedroom, but the two receivers did not agree on temperature. (I don’t mean a degree or two; I mean they could be off by 20°, reading the temperature from the same sensor.) They needed replacing, I thought. What’s more, the outdoor sensor was battery-operated, and batteries don’t work very well at sub-zero temperatures. Even when they worked, the indoor stations quit even trying to show outdoor temperature at -20°F, which could mean for weeks at a time.

Then about a week ago I was idly checking the thermometers at Fred Meyers. They’re generally good for a laugh — who in their right mind would buy an outdoor thermometer that only reads to 40 below (let alone to only 20 below) in Fairbanks? They had the battery-operated indoor-outdoor sets as well, and for the first time I noticed that while they had an alleged range from -40°F to 158°F, the alkaline batteries I’d been using were only good to -4F. Lithiums were supposedly good to -40°F. (There’s a lot of difference between -20°F and -40°F, or for that matter between -40°F and -60°F, but below -40°F I just stay indoors.)

Old and new outdoor temperature sensors. Outside NE corner, N side, under roof overhang.

The sets, indoor display unit and outdoor sensor, were on sale for under $10, and I decided to get two — at that price, I could just keep one sensor in reserve. Of course to use them, I had to get them out of their plastic bubble packaging.

When possible, I try to recycle. It’s not easy up here, and until recently about the only things you could recycle were aluminum cans, but it is now possible to recycle #1 and #2 plastics (soft drink bottles and milk bottles.)

Not the stuff they use to package electronics. At least it does not have a recycle symbol – I looked. After I had just about cut my fingers off trying to open the blasted thing. Why is it that you have to carry the equivalent of a box cutter and pliers to get anything open nowadays? Even airline snacks (if you can find an airline that still has them.) And then you have all that plastic cluttering up the landfill.

Well, I did finally get the new stations and sensor out of their hermetically sealed plastic coffins and talking to each other. I used lithium batteries in the sensor, and let the sensor and both stations sit side by side overnight, verifying that all four of the temperatures displayed were within a couple of degrees of each other. Then I hung the new sensor (which had a hanging loop) from the old sensor with a piece of string. Now I have base stations in the kitchen and bedroom again, and – surprise, the old stations are showing outdoor temperatures within a degree of the new ones. Guess they just needed the competition.

And lithium batteries come in AAA size, which is what the old sensor needs.  I could have base stations all over the house!