The Best Cup Anemometers & How Wind Cups Work

Cup anemometers measure wind speed in a highly accurate way. We’ve gathered together all the information you need to know about cup anemometers, how they work, where to buy them and more. Skip down directly to our sections below: What is a cup anemometer How does a cup anemometer work? and factors to consider when purchasing an anemometer.

The best cup anemometer for sale

Magnetic Mount Anemometer Wind Meter by Inspeed

This is a popular wind cup anemometer which mounts to anything metal with its dual powerful magnet mounts on its base. It comes with a 25 foot long cable and a digital meter which allows you to measure the wind speed on its included display. Inspeed, the company that makes it, has designed this wind cup anemometer with the magnetic base so you can mount it on your vehicle for storm-chasing but of course you could also mount it at home on a sheet metal roof or anywhere else you have a metal surface to stick it to. For storm chasers or storm spotting in particular though, this is definitely one of the best cup anemometers out there because of its generous cable length allowing you to measure wind speed without getting out of your car (especially if its raining).

Pros: great car mounted anemometer for storm chasing

Cons: mounts magnetically only

Pole Mount Anemometer by Inspeed

If you’re looking for a wind cup anemometer but you want to mount it permanently or semi-permanently in a spot where a magnet like the car magnet anemometer above won’t work, this pole mount anemometer might be your best bet.

Inspeed’s anemometers are quite accurate, up to + or – 1 mile per hour and the included display captures both the maximum speed reached in a session as well as the current average. The battery in the remote display unit lasts for months of continuous use.

This wind cup anemometer comes with a digital display and a 25 foot cable, though you can attach your own 18 gauge speaker wire for a 100+ foot range which makes it easy to mount this anemometer on the roof of an RV or the roof of a house while the display is safely indoors. You can also bury the cable underground as well.

Pros: great mountable anemometer

Cons: not portable

Inspeed Vortex Handheld Anemometer

This Inspeed cup thermo-anemometer is a great portable wind cup speed meter that you can hold easily in your hand to measure wind speed anywhere you go. It’s a simple construction featuring three rotating wind cups and a pole that you hold. Measurements are taken with a Cateye Bicycle computer which can display current speed as well as the max and average speeds. This little guy is rugged though. It’s actually used by the CNN weather correspondent in the US Gulf Region for hurricane reporting as this anemometer can measure winds from 5 to 150 mph. When you’re done, it folds up compact for storage.

Pros: easily portable, handheld wind speed meter

Cons: price (perhaps)

AcuRite Pro 5-in-1 Weather Station

If you need a wind cup anemometer but you also want to measure other types of weather data as well at a fixed location, then an all in one unit like this AcuRite Weather Station might be just the ticket. It uses a range of instrumentation to provide you with your own personalized 12 to 24 hour weather condition forecast. This is especially useful for those of us that live in remote areas or places where weather forecasts are inaccurate due to a lack of weather instrumentation or those who live in microclimate zones that weather services don’t measure.

This sophisticated weather station with cup anemometer can measure the temperature, the wind speed and direction, rainfall in inches or millimeters, and other data. And it distills it all down to a forecast summary that can tell you if bad weather is on the way, as well as give you a “feels like” temperature.

The AcuRite Wireless Weather Station mounts on the side of a building such as a house and streams data to its included display up to 330 feet away (100 meters). It also gives you information about the day’s high and low as well as how much rainfall you’ve had and the time.

Pros: measures much more than just wind speed

Cons: complicated display

BTMETER Handheld Cup Anemometer

BTMETER makes an affordable handheld cup anemometer in a compact design. It takes the traditional 4-cup anemometer and shrinks it down to fit in a cage at the top of the reader. The main benefit of the cup anemometer design is it can measure wind from any direction. The compact size means it can easily be stored in a pocket or bag and used on the go. This model measures wind speeds from 1.5 to 93 mph in your choice of units (km/hr, Knots, m/s, mph). The built in 1.6″ LED display can give you current, maximum, and average wind speeds.

In addition to the wind meter, there is a compass built into the top of the reader to easily assess wind direction. The compact design makes the BTMeter great for sports like shooting, surfing, or sailing. Fishermen, hikers, and drone enthusiasts are also fans of this model.

Pros: Compact design

Cons: Powered by a coin battery which can be annoying to buy replacements of

Children’s Weather Station with Cup Anemometer

Looking to teach your kids or students about climate science or weather? This educational wind cup anemometer helps teach basic weather concepts.

This mini weather station measures wind speed using a cup anemometer with a built in weather vane to measure direction. If mounted outside, the built in rain gauge can help track precipitation. There’s also a simple thermometer for temperature measurements.

This weather station can be set up outside using a built in ground stake. It also includes an educational guide for teaching the basics of weather measurement.

Pros: Basic weather station for kids 8 years+

Cons: Needs to be set up outside to take advantage of rain gauge

Check out the best anemometers for kids and more weather gifts for kids.

What is a cup anemometer?

Cup anemometer definition: Anemometers measure wind speed, and a cup anemometer is specific type of wind speed gauge that measures the speed of wind or air flow based on how quickly a set of cups turns around in a circle.

Cup anemometers are one of the older types of anemometers or wind meters and they’re they’re still popular today among weather hobbyists and professionals measuring wind and weather. Cup anemometers are generally pretty accurate and they come in a few different varieties with the major difference being how many different cups they have (two, three or four) and whether or not they electronically count the revolutions per minute or whether you need to count them manually to measure wind speed. The cup anemometers that are manual and do not automatically count revolutions are generally meant for student use and not professional use. Often the manual count anemometers will have one cup that is a different color to help make it easier to count the number of revolutions the wind cups make per minute.

Cup anemometers will also sometimes come as part of a larger weather station with additional instruments. They also come in different form factors: some are designed to be mounted on the outside of buildings, others work well on top of a car, and still others are meant for handheld portable use.

Common wind cup anemometer users: home weather hobbyists, storm chasers/storm spotters, HVAC contractors, wind power professionals, windsurfers, sailboat owners.

Learn more about the different types of wind meters in our other article, what is an anemometer and what is it used for?

How does a cup anemometer work?

As the wind is caught in each cup on a wind cup anemometer, it pushes the cup to rotate and catches the next cup in its path, making the cup spin. The number of revolutions per minute will determine how fast or strong the wind is blowing. Some wind cup meters require you to manually count the revolutions per minute to discover the wind speed; other wind cup speed meters will measure the wind speed digitally and calculate it for you by counting the rotations on an internal computer.

A wind cup anemometer is a relatively basic but still fairly accurate wind instrument from a scientific point of view. They are in common use at weather stations around the world and points of interest where wind velocity is extremely important to understand such as airports. They are also used by wind power professionals who are evaluating sites for potential turbine installation.

Factors to consider when buying a rotating cup anemometer

Does this cup anemometer have a digital readout or will I need to manually count revolutions? This is a pretty obvious question and in most cases most people will require an anemometer with a wind calculator built in. One exception may be science teachers or those looking for a weather related gift for a child.

Is this cup anemometer handheld or mount-able? Some cup wind meters are meant to be mounted on cars or buildings or poles, and others can be brought with you wherever you go.

Does this mountable anemometer have a wired or wireless display? If you’re looking to use an anemometer mounted on your vehicle or outside of your home you may be especially interested in getting a wireless anemometer with a decent range to it so you can measure the wind speed without having to have a cable hooked to your device outdoors. Some rotating cup anemometers have wireless displays that can be placed hundreds of feet away and others require a cable to go from the wind cups to the display indoors. Regardless of whether or not your anemometer is wired or wireless, you’ll want to check the maximum range or cable length of the display you’re considering.

How many cups does this anemometer have? Cup anemometers come with a variety of different cup counts: some are 2 cup anemometers, others are 3 cup anemometers and still others have 4 cups.

Do I want a cup type anemometer that has logging built in? If you’re interested in logging wind velocity, you may be particularly interested in a cup anemometer which works with your smartphone so the wind speeds you measure can be logged with time and location.

Do I only care about measuring wind speed or do I want other features and functions too? If you’re interested in more than just wind velocity, you may want to consider fully fledged personal weather stations that include wind cups but also measure factors like temperature, barometric pressure, rainfall, humidity and other factors. These personal weather stations can accurately predict rain and weather conditions using a variety of instruments and often come with wireless digital displays that you can keep in your home.

Learn how to make a DIY cup anemometer.

Check out the best portable wind meters.

What is an Anemometer and What is it Used For?

anemometerAn anemometer is a weather monitor instrument used to measure wind speed. The first crude anemometers were used to roughly measure wind speed hundreds of years ago, but today anemometers are highly accurate wind speed monitors that can provide data in a variety of ways.

How do anemometers work to monitor wind speed?

There are several different types of anemometers and each one functions slightly differently. How an individual anemometer works to measure wind speed and sometimes direction is based on what type it is.

For instance, here is an example of a popular handheld anemometer:

Ambient Weather WM-5 Handheld Weather Station

Ambient Weather makes some of the best portable anemometers for the money. If you need more features than just wind speed and temperature, consider this portable weather station. It takes the same readings as basic anemometers but it adds in the ability to detect exact wind direction with its directional compass as well as humidity, and heat index, dew point measurements, and more. It can calculate cross winds, head winds, tail winds, and gusts too. This is also a rugged unit; it’s water resistant and it floats. Accurate from -20 to 158F (-28-70C) and 0.8-90 miles per hour. Uses one coin style Lithium battery (included).

Measures: 5.9 inches long x 2.1 inches wide x 0.85 inches thick
Weighs: 181g / 0.4 lbs

Below we’ll list the major types of modern anemometers that you will commonly find today.

How cup anemometers work

Cup anemometers are perhaps the most simple type of anemometer, and among the most accurate. They are mounted on a pole with and consist of a set of two, three or four spinning cups which blow in the wind. Generally speaking three cup anemometers are the most common type these days. As the wind gets stronger, the cup formation spins faster and the anemometer captures the speed of the air flow and displays it as a digital readout. Cup anemometers are commonly used today by professional weather stations to measure wind speed.

Most cup anemometers are meant to be mounted on either a building or a sailboat but there are some handheld cup anemometers that do exist.

For more, see our article about the best cup anemometers and how cup anemometers work.

Related: What is the Best Wireless Anemometer & Wireless Wind Speed Meter?

How vane anemometers work

Another one of the types of anemometer are vane anemometers. They’re also known as propeller or windmill anemometers, are similar to the cup anemometer however instead of spinning cups they instead use an array of wind blades that turn. They are not mounted vertically like the cup anemometers and instead the blades are horizontally mounted and face into the wind. Vane anemometers must rotate to face in whatever direction the wind is blowing so they often use a wind vane opposite the propeller to shift in the direction of the wind. Like cup anemometers, vane anemometers or propeller anemometers automatically count the number of revolutions per second to calculate wind speed and display that digitally for you. Some handheld propeller anemometers are also called impeller wind monitors because their propeller blades are protected by a caging unit to make sure they don’t get caught on your hand.

Some vane anemometers are meant to be mounted on buildings but handheld vane anemometers are also quite common.

How hot-wire anemometers work

Hot-wire anemometers or constant current anemometers work by heating a thin wire to a specific temperature and then measuring how much the wire is cooled by the air flow. The hot wire anemometer is able to calculate how fast the wind is blowing by measuring how quickly the wire cools down and how cool it gets.

Hot wire anemometers are most commonly made for handheld usage.

What is the best type of anemometer?

There really isn’t a best type of anemometer. Each type of wind speed monitor works slightly differently and may be better for some uses than others. For instance, if you’re looking for a portable handheld wind speed monitor, you might want to consider a vane anemometer (propeller wind speed meter) or a hot wire anemometer because a cup anemometer might be a bit too bulky to carry around since the cups stick out.

Alternatively if you want to mount an anemometer at your house to measure the wind speed outdoors you’re probably better off with either a cup anemometer or a vane anemometer since hot-wire anemometers are generally meant for handheld usage. In very light wind, vane anemometers might not work quite as well as cup anemometers simply because they need the wind to be strong enough to point their vane in the direction they’re blowing. However cup anemometers won’t give you data on the direction the wind is blowing, as vane anemometers typically will.

Additionally, if you’re planning to affix a wind speed sensor or anemometer on the outside of your home as part of a home weather station, you may want to choose which type of anemometer to use based on size or aesthetic concerns as well.

Specialty Anemometers for indoor and outdoor usage

Anemometers come with different uses in mind but most handheld wind speed monitors are fairly rugged and most mountable anemometers tend to be weatherproof.

Some anemometers are easy to take with you wherever you go, and others come as part of wireless weather stations that you can place in your backyard and read off an indoor monitor. Additionally some handheld anemometers are compact for portable use and others have long cables for mounting purposes. Still others are designed to be mounted on boats. Some anemometers are better for HVAC installation or repair uses and others still like hot wire air velocity meters are great for measuring the air flow that may be coming in from a drafty door or window. Many anemometers today connect to an app on your smartphone or tablet as well.

Who made the first anemometer?

Anemometers, or wind speed meters, have been around for hundreds of years. Italian inventor Leon Battista Alberti is said to have invented the first anemometer in 1450. Read more about the history of the anemometer at Wikipedia.

Who uses anemometers and why?

Plenty of people use anemometers for both professional and hobby uses. Here are some examples of why a person might need an anemometer.

Common uses of an anemometer include:

  • Someone with a sailboat who wants to measure wind speed before they go sailing or windspeed and direction during sailing
  • A windsurfer who wants to monitor wind conditions
  • Weather enthusiasts and hobbyists
  • HVAC installation and repair personnel wanting a scientific way to measure airflow in an air conditioning, heating or ventilation unit or home inspectors and facility managers
  • People who live in rural areas that don’t have reliable or accurate weather data that want to set up their own personal weather station
  • People who fly drones or RC planes that want to check weather conditions to see if it’s safe to fly
  • Scientists who measure environmental conditions
  • Hunters, sports shooters/target shooters and archers (as well as those in the military) wanting a quick way to check ground conditions or wind direction and speed (See our related article: The best wind meters for long range shooting)
  • Kite flyers or paragliders who want to check conditions before launching
  • Safari guides who want to keep an eye on wind conditions and staying downwind of various exotic animals


Anemometers on Wikipedia

Related: More frequently asked questions about anemometers