Ultimate Buying Guides for Choosing Best Weather Radio

Weather radios are particular devices designed to receive emergency warnings for various life-threatening weather events such as cyclones, hurricanes, tsunamis, and other weather disasters. The U.S. and Canadian governments are responsible for broadcasting these alerts by using high-frequency unique radio networks. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration or NOAA operate this system in the U.S.

weather radio
                       Source: www.cpsc.gov

Different types of weather radios are available now. They are found with varieties of features and functionalities, and available in numerous shapes and sizes. Selecting the best among so many choices is tough. Many buyers get confused and end up buying the wrong unit. To avoid this, you must consider some factors so that you can understand your requirement. To help you in selecting the ultimate weather radio, I have listed some of the primary elements. Please read on below.

Device Type

All-weather radios are capable of receiving NWR or NOAA Weather Radio Signal that is broadcasted during the emergency by the NOAA. Weather radios come in two designs; weather band radio and weather alert radio. Before going for the purchase, first, you must decide which type of weather radio you need.

1. Weather Band Radio

A Weather band radio must be tuned to a particular weather station to get the information and alerts regarding weather. These communications have many limitations in emergencies. If the power goes off while tuning to your favorite channel or even when the device is not at all turned on, this type of radio is unable to provide weather alerts. Most of the buyers don’t use communications regularly, and they end up missing the emergency warnings. In case you are living in a safer zone and you need a weather radio to plan your day then this is a smart choice.

2. Weather Alert Radio

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Design for emergency need, weather alert radios are useful at all times. They will automatically alert you if any emergency warning is issued. The only limitation about this type of weather radio is that if you are listening to F.M. or AM. Because the alert the receiver receive will override these functions as the device will be temporarily tuned in to the NWR. Though, at times of power outages, the standalone or multi-featured weather alert radios with backup battery feature can alert you during emergencies.


Before going for the purchase of a weather radio, you must decide if you want the device for the home/office or outdoor use. If you need a weather radio for your home or office only to monitor silently and let the alarm go off when any hazard alert is detected, then a desktop weather alert radio is an ideal choice. This type of weather radio is designed to remain stationary and primarily run on AC power. Most of them come with the SAME feature.

SAME or Specific Area Message Encoding is a cutting-edge technology that allows you to set your weather radio to receive alerts only of your county rather than the entire location served by the weather radio station. To trigger this function in your weather radio, all you need to do is set the device to a particular county.

For the outdoor application like hiking or moving out to safety during threats like an earthquake, portable weather radios or emergency radios that function on rechargeable or replaceable batteries is perfect. Emergency radios are not explicitly designed for weather alerts, but they also work well during emergencies. However, this type of radio is not featured with the SAME technology and isn’t certified for the public alert. It would be better to have a weather radio with emergency radio feature for alerts about other events apart from the weather.


Portability could be a concern if you need the device for outdoor use. Generally, portable radios are designed small and light. Carrying around a large unit is quite difficult when you have to move around during emergencies. Desktop weather radios are considerably huge and they also require AC power source and hence they aren’t at all portable. Some desktop radios can alternately operate on rechargeable batteries, but their size might constrict outdoor application. There are many pocket-sized portable weather radios that are surprisingly small. For hiking or trekking purpose this type of radio is a smart choice. Choose according to your need.

Event Alert Choice

Weather alert radios are designed to go off whenever a weather alert is broadcasted by the NOAA. It’s not always necessary that the warning has been issued for a life-threatening disaster. It can be quite annoying when the alarm is triggered in the middle of the night for an unnecessary reason. For example, if you are living in a coastal country but not near the beach, you wouldn’t want to set the alarm for coastal cyclones as these will hardly affect your residential area.

To avoid this type of problem, some high-end weather radios are available that can be set to trigger only when any life-threatening hazard approaches. For example, you can block the alarm of your weather radio from going off during thunderstorms, while still providing a signal on dangerous hurricanes or tornados.

Radio Reception

Almost all the weather and emergency radios come with a built-in whip antenna that receives the signals, but there are areas where receiving the NWR could be challenging. For this, you might require an additional external antenna. Some weather radios come with external antenna jack that allows the user to attach a larger antenna to the radio to make it possible to receive advanced signals. Consider buying this type of device if you live in a similar area. All public-alert certified radios have this feature but some consumer radios may not.

Power Source

If you reside in a location with frequent power outages or disaster-prone area, you would need a weather radio with battery backup to keep on running, which also operates on AC power source to preserve batteries when AC power is available.

Many weather radios come with hand-crank generators and solar panels. If you are a hardcore camper or hunter, then these units are the ideal choice. Also, some radios run on replaceable batteries like AA or AAA, but this type of unit is useful only during emergencies. AC power adapters are vital if you need the weather alert radios to function for prolonged periods. Weather radios with multiple power backup options are the best.

Alert Audibility

Most of the weather radios can provide alerts even if the audio is turned off. You would want to consider the audibility of the alarm tone. Some units come with a single sound, and some models have different tones for different alerts. The pitch of the alarm tone also varies according to devices. Remember to check the audibility before selecting a particular weather radio.


You might need to carry your unit around. A weather radio can be a lifesaver during dangerous disasters like tornadoes and hurricanes. It makes sense in this situation, to choose a unit that is durable and easy to use. Always go for the device that has been manufactured by a reputed brand.

Other Features

Apart from the factors discussed above, there are a few additional and useful features that you might want your device to have;

  • Mobile Charger: This handy technology allows the user to charge their cell phone directly from the weather radio during the emergency.
  • Tuning: Now you can find some expensive and advanced weather radios featured with easy access to digital or LCD tuning. The inexpensive models have standard analog tuning.
  • Lights: Weather radios with integrated flashlights are handy during emergency power cuts to see any signal in the dark.
  • Special Alert: Some weather radios are designed for people with hearing disability. They come with the special external jack that allows the user to connect other devices like bed shakers or strobe lights that can enhance the built-in alarm of the unit.

Price and Warranty

Fix a budget before going for the purchase. Weather radios for residential use or the standalone models that have been designed only with radio and alert function are available with prices ranging from $15 to $100 depending on the number of features included. There are some multi-band units that have weather radio feature, such as digital scanners. These units range from $100 to $500. Choose the best one available in your budget that suits your lifestyle and requirement.

All weather radio manufacturing brands offer a warranty of at least one year to their products. These are technical tools, and guarantee always makes sense. Best weather radios come with a warranty of 2 years or more. It will ensure protection to your investment on a particular product. Select a weather radio with considerable warranty time.


Once you know the differences between the various types of weather radios, it becomes easier for you to choose. Your lifestyle and need will help you decide. Some may need a multifunction device that can work for both outdoors and indoors, while others will require only for one purpose. If you consider all the factors that I mentioned above, it won’t take you much time to select the best weather radio. If you are still in a dilemma, going through the reviews provided by other users can be very helpful.

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