Humidity Control

Why it matters - and why your piano will benefit from it.
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Humidity Control

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Why does it matter ?
 
Pianos are not quite the same as most consumer products. For the most part, TV's, video games, home gyms, and the like are completely unaffected by changes in their environment. If the weather turns rainy for a few weeks, we will notice no change in the way they operate, and they will require no attention from us to adjust to that circumstance. PIANOS, on the other hand, are dynamic, not static. They shift and change according to the variations in the ambient conditions. This is because they are made from materials that are essentially biological in origin, porous and sensitive to shifts in moisture. They swell and contract as the moisture content rises and falls. Too much moisture brings dry-rot and corrosion - too little causes cracking and loosening. AND fluctuations cause tuning instability and joint separation.
 
That's all bad. Really.
  
  
How does the Piano Life Saver system work?
 
In a nutshell, it consists of both humidifying and dehumidifying components, along with a humidistat that controls their operation according to the surrounding atmosphere.  These operate  in concert to keep the humidity inside your piano at 45%.  If the humidity goes higher, the dehumidifier brings it back down.  If it drops below 45%, the humidifier brings it back up.  It's all automatic.  Easy-peasy. For more information (LOTS of it), click here . On the left side of the page you'll see a short list of topics. Click on them one by one, and you should get all the info you need on the topic of humidity control for pianos and how the system itself operates. Contact me with any further questions!
  
We gotta talk . . .
 
"Do they really make much difference?"
"Do they cause damage to pianos?"
"Are they worth the expense?"
"So-and-So said . . . "
People run into all kinds of opinions about the issue, some from ostensibly creditable sources. It is admittedly easy to get confused. Honestly, I can't believe there is still any controversy about these things anymore given the evidence - but apparently there is still a remnant. Listen, I can only speak to what I have observed over the years, but I have personally installed nearly 600 systems in Colorado - and I work on a lot of pianos into which others have installed systems. Here is what my experience has been:
 
Do they really make much difference?
 
Not just yes, but heck yes. For example, last summer (2014) we had unprecedented humidity for this region - weeks of regular hard rainfall. What a great laboratory for testing the effectiveness of these systems. All the pianos I tuned during that season which did not have systems installed went SEVERELY sharp - as much as 50 cents (half a semitone) !! ALL of the pianos with humidity control systems moved at most 5-6 cents! This is a HUGE difference in response. And now I am tuning at the driest time of year (February). The pianos without humidity control have dropped around 20 - 30 cents, needing a pitch-raise to be tuned, while those with system control are needing only a bump of around 5 cents! SO much more stable!
 
I have also installed these systems in pianos with quite loose tuning pins and watched as those pins became tighter and tighter until they were well within the acceptable range for tuning stability - the humidity control system actually fixed these pianos! Is that cool?!
Do they make a difference?
  
Are they worth it?
 
Again, I have to rely on my own experience and that of my customers, and what I have observed is that customers who install this system in their pianos spend about half of what they were spending prior to the installation due to reduced need for repairs, regulation, and tunings. In most cases this means that the system pays for itself in around 6 years. After that it is essentially money in the pocket for the customer.
Are they worth it?
  
  
Do they cause damage to the piano?
 
The short answer is: "no". The longer part of the answer is: ". . . wherever the system has been installed properly"`. Over the years I have only seen 3 pianos with adverse impacts that could be attributed to the humidity system.  Two had stains on the underside of the soundboard because SOME NIMROD HAD NOT EVEN INSTALLED THE BAFFLE IN THE PIANO! It wasn't the system that caused the problem,  it was the NIMROD! The other was because the humidifier had been installed too close to the underside. Again, not the fault of the system, but of the installer.
 
SO, the moral of the story is:
 
Don't let NIMRODS near your piano!
 
 Insist on certified installers. You might also want to talk to others who have had experience with your potential technician (By the way, it's not like it is that difficult to figure this stuff out - the manufacturer offers free installation training and certification.)
  
 
Caveats:
 
Keep these things in mind!
 
  • System must be plugged into a working power outlet at all times - 24/7 ! It needs electrons to work!
 
  • System must get water within 24 hours after the Yellow indicator light begins to flash! Can't humidify without water!
 
  • Wicks (aka "pads") should be changed at least once a year - more often when water has high mineral content.
 
  • Genuine (and I mean Genuine) Dampp-Chaser brand treatment additive should be added to the water whenever filling the system.  It prevents biological activity and reduces mineral buildup on the system components.
 
  • If your situation really cannot accommodate these requirements, then honestly this is not for you.