Some of the best weather radios on the market can save lives. They are capable of giving warnings and other up-to-date information on severe weather conditions. And, this is especially important for people who live in areas that are prone to severe weather.
So, which one is the best one? The best weather radio strongly depends on individual needs. However, one of the essential features is NOAA weather channel capabilities.
There are so many different types of weather radios on the market. But, some are basic while others offer a variety of emergency features. This review covers both types of weather radios.
What Is a Weather Radio?
Weather radios are specialized devices designed to pick up public broadcasts about weather conditions. These continuous reports usually come from government-owned radio stations that are in operation specifically for this purpose.
While most of the time the weather reports are routine, on occasion, the broadcast will be interrupted by emergency weather news like tornado or hurricane alerts. Sometimes listeners will also receive a non-weather related emergency alert and news. The information may be related to events like natural disasters, terrorist attacks, or child abductions.
Lastly, some people keep a weather radio on all the time, especially those who live in areas that are prone to major weather emergencies, such as tornadoes and flooding.
Weather radios can function like smoke detectors in the home. They alert residents of possible weather-related dangers and give them time to react and take safety measures.
Main Considerations When Buying a Weather Radio
Buying a weather radio is a serious purchase. And, having one can save lives. But, there are a few points to take into consideration before making that final purchase.
Weather Band Radios and Weather Alert Radios: What’s the Difference?
There is a big difference between weather band radios and weather alert radios. Weather band radios have to be turned on to receive emergency alerts, just like any radio in the house. If the radio doesn’t have power, people don’t hear the warning.
In addition, weather band radios have to actually be tuned into a weather station. If someone is listening to something else on the AM/FM band, they still won’t hear the alert.
On the other hand, weather alert radios automatically receive alerts. It doesn't matter if they are turned on at the time. And, they override radio functions to broadcast the alert. So, even if they aren't listening to a weather broadcast at the time if there is an emergency the radio will automatically tune into an NOAA channel.
What Is the NOAA Radio Network?
NOAA stands for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Among other things, NOAA tracks weather and climate changes in the United States and surrounding territories. They have a transmitter network across the U.S.
Qualified NOAA radios receive emergency broadcast signals from NOAA Weather Radio (NWR). NWR also gives warnings and information for all types of hazards and, not just severe weather. They also give news about national, technological, and natural emergencies.
All weather radios in the U.S. receive the NWR broadcasts. But, the ones that are NOAA-qualified are officially tested by the agency.
Why You Need One
Weather radios are for more than just figuring out if a person needs an umbrella for the day. They can help save lives. Especially for people who live in an area that is prone to natural weather emergencies.
In addition, many weather radios are equipped with special features that alert people with special needs of emergency situations.
Some radios are equipped to receive tone alarms from NWS (National Weather Service). The 1050 Hz alarm will sound before a watch message or warning is broadcasted. And, in most cases, it will activate even if the radio's audio is switched off.
SAME (Specific Alert Message Encoding) lets users pick the specific area(s) that they want to hear the alerts for. If a person doesn’t want to hear warnings for every county in the U.S., this is a useful feature to have.
Alerting Of Events Selection
In addition, some radios may also offer selective alerts for specific events. For example, people living in a coastal county may receive flood warning. But, if they don’t live at the beach it may not apply to them.
Next, a battery backup feature is important for people who live in high power outage areas. Sometimes an AC outlet may not be an option.
External Antenna Jack
For people who may have difficulties getting decent radio reception, having an external antenna may help. If someone finds they need an external antenna, however, they will need a jack to connect it to the radio.
Special Needs External Device Jack
Lastly, this is an important feature for anyone with special needs. This external device jack makes it possible to connect a device that shakes the bed or flashes strobe lights to indicate an emergency.
Epica Emergency Radio
The Epica Emergency Radio offers an all-in-one solution for emergency situations. When the weather gets rough, keep this radio close by you. Its features may be lifesavers.
First, the Epica has standard AM/FM broadcast frequency capabilities. But, it is also NOAA certified so emergency broadcasts will come through even while listening to music.
This radio also has a 3-LED flashlight for those times when the lights go out. And, the digital radio tuner is backlit for those low- or no-light emergency situations.
In addition, the unit is chargeable via hand crank and solar panel, as well as a plug-in. The charge time for cranking gives the user approximately 20 minutes of radio or light for 2 minutes of turning.
Need to contact family on the smartphone? This weather radio can also charge mobile phones.
Lastly, the Epica weather radio is lightweight, water-resistant, and compact. So, it easily fits into a large pocket. And, it is durable enough to withstand many emergency situations.
- AM/FM/NOAA radio capabilities
- 5-way charging option (crank, solar, AC, DC, USB,)
- 3-LED flashlight
- Retractable antennae
- Compact, lightweight
- NOAA certified
- Water-resistant solar panels and body
- Backlit digital display
RunningSnail NOAA Weather Radio
The best weather radio is capable of receiving broadcasts for emergency weather alerts. The RunningSnail weather radio is a compact option that delivers these special NOAA broadcasts.
Plus, it has some additional features that may come in handy in an emergency situation.
First, this weather radio has 2 types of light capabilities. One is a table lamp, and the other is a 1W LED flashlight so users can brighten up a dark space during power outages or take it as a light source on the go. And, in case of emergency, there is also a red flashing SOS alarm light that activates on the radio.
Also in case of power outages, there is no need to worry about powering up this radio. It can charge via hand crank or solar charging. It also has micro USB cable charging capabilities.
In addition, the radio can also power up using 3 AAA batteries. And, may power small portable devices such as smartphones via the USB cable. But, using the USB charging capabilities may drain the radio power faster.
Lastly, this radio has a 2000 mAh rechargeable battery, so hand cranking the rechargeable battery provides a decent amount of charge to the unit. One charge gives approximately 4-6 hours of radio use and roughly 12 hours of light.
- AM/FM/NOAA radio capabilities
- Solar, crank, USB, 3 AAA battery charging
- 2000mAh power bank
- Reading lamp or 1W LED flashlight
- SOS flashing light alarm
Kaito KA500 Weather Alert Radio
Need a deluxe weather radio with alert capabilities? Kaito may be the answer. The KA500 model is an NWS (National Weather Service) certified shortwave emergency radio.
First, there are 6 ways to power this radio: solar panel, crank generator, 3 AA batteries, a with wall adapter, 5V USB input, and a built-in rechargeable and replaceable battery pack.
Also, this portable radio’s coverage is comprehensive. It has AM/FM capabilities and it also has 7 NOAA weather channels that are pre-programmed. In addition, this radio also has 24/7 weather forecast capabilities for the USA and Canada and it also Public Emergency Alert System (PEAS) enabled.
Like many emergency radios, this unit also has a light with 3 settings. The settings include an LED flashlight, reading lamp, and an SOS light beacon in a red LED.
Next, this radio also has an external telescopic antenna. The antenna is 14.5” high for optimal tuning. This radio also incorporates a LED signal indicator that shows the strength of the radio signal and an advanced semiconductor design to help fine tune accuracy.
Lastly, the radio itself water-resistant and impact resistant. The weather radio is made from ABS material. And, because of its strong construction, it is rugged and durable for any emergency situation.
- AM/FM/NOAA radio capabilities
- PEAS enabled
- 6 ways to charge radio
- 7 NOAA pre-programmed weather channels
- 14.5” extendable antenna
- 3 light settings
- Impact and water resistant
Midland WR120/WR120EZ Weather Radio
Sometimes listening to weather news from every surrounding county can be tedious. The Midland WR120/WR120EZ model offers a solution for this.
The SAME feature allows users to choose specific counties to hear weather news and alerts about so they only hear the news that’s important to them and not extras that don’t affect them or their loved ones.
Next, this model receives all 7 NOAA channels so users receive all up-to-date alerts and warnings directly from NOAA and don’t have to wait for alternative weather stations to receive the news and relay them to listeners.
Also, the WR120B/WR120EZ models are both public-alert certified. The unit itself has a 90 dB siren, flashing LED warning light, and voice alert system. These features are invaluable for anyone with special needs, or people with large homes who may not hear alerts.
The radio also has alert jacks to plug in additional devices. This is a necessary option for special needs people who need additional alert systems installed throughout their home.
In addition, this emergency weather radio also has a 25-county system for memory. So, when it is programmed for specific alerts per county, users do not have to repeatedly reprogram the preferences.
This radio also has a built-in clock, and snooze and alarm features so users can easily set this on a bedside table instead of using a standard alarm clock.
Furthermore, this emergency radio also has multi-lingual capabilities in French, English, and Spanish so even users that are not fluent in English won’t miss a weather or civil danger warning.
Lastly, the radio has a 9V DC plug-in as its main power source. However, users will want to keep 3 AA batteries on hand for power back-up in the case of an emergency.
- SAME feature
- 25 programmable counties
- Voice, display, tone alert systems
- 7 pre-set NOAA weather channels
- Alarm clock with snooze feature
- 3 languages: English, Spanish, French
- PEAS certified
- 3AA batteries back-up
- External device jack
Kaito KA101 Weather Radio
Another Kaito addition to this weather radio review list, the KA101 model is a simplified version of a weather radio. This is not an all-in-one system, but it is geared for those who don’t want all the extra bells and whistles.
This KA101 model has the 7 NOAA weather channels pre-set into the unit so users may receive weather information as simple as touching a button on this simple radio. In addition, this radio can also auto scan and pick up other local weather channels. The intelligent circuit design allows the radio to look for the station with the strongest signal strength.
In comparison to other weather radios, this model is relatively small and stylish. It is water resistant and available in 3 colors. Also, the radio has a 7-section swivel antenna that can be extended out up to 18 inches.
Lastly, the main power source for this little radio is a 5V DC plug. However, it has an additional backup power source and, it can be powered by 3 AA batteries.
Keep in mind, however, that this is a basic weather radio. Therefore, it does not have PEAS, SAME, or external jacks for other devices.
- 7 pre-set NOAA weather channels
- Scan or manual tuning functions
- Compact design
- 18” telescopic swivel antenna
- Water resistant
- 3 AA battery back-up power source
- 3 colors
Everyone needs a reliable weather radio, even more so for residents who live in areas with frequent severe weather conditions. However, the “best weather radio” may depend on individual needs.
In general, NOAA weather alert radios are better than simple weather radios, but people with special needs may also need additional alert capabilities such as those offered by Midland’s WR120/WR120EZ model.
Other special features like flashlights depend on how much a person wants their emergency supplies tied to their emergency weather radio. However, as long as the radio has access to NOAA weather broadcasts, everything else is a matter of preference.