Why is it important to control Dryness & Dampness in my Piano?
Pianos are constructed primarily of wood, which is sensitive to extreme dryness, extreme dampness, and changes from dry to damp conditions (such as seasonal changes). Although it is generally dry here in Colorado, we do still experience changes in the moisture content of the air (referred to as humidity) from season to season, and even day to day. And although the dryness we experience is hard on pianos in itself, it gets worse.
- In the spring we may see higher humidity as the rains come and go.
- In the summer, some of us have Swamp Coolers, which cool the air by passing it through a waterfall, increasing the humidity in our homes drastically (60– 80 % is not unusual).
- In the winter we heat the indoor air, which dries the air even more, resulting in humidity levels in most homes around 10 – 20 % (or less!). This seasonal swing has detrimental effects on your piano.
Wood swells when moist, causing the grain of the wood to be crushed. Dryness causes the wood to shrink, stretching the grain. Wood has some elasticity, and for a few years it can swell and shrink without damage.
However, after a period of time being subjected to this distress, the wood may crack open. This is especially harmful to the Soundboard, the Tuning Pin Block, and the Action Parts. A cracked Soundboard may not be able to amplify as well, and may buzz when the piano is played. A cracked
Pin Block will cause loose Tuning Pins and the inability of the piano to hold a tuning. Loose action parts can cause rattles, and affect the touch of the piano.
What can I do in my home to control Humidity?
Running Air Conditioning instead of a Swamp Cooler helps keep the humidity lower in the summer. A Whole-House furnace humidifier can help bring the humidity levels up a bit in the winter. However, these two actions are only part of the solution. Air conditioning only lowers dampness when it’s running, and with the more efficient units used today, that is not frequent enough to have a big effect on humidity.
By the same token, adding moisture in the winter with a humidifier is limited to the outside temperature. The colder it is, the less moisture you can add (or moisture will build up on windows), and to make it worse, the colder it is the more the furnace runs, and the drier the air gets.
So, what can I do to avoid damage to my piano?
The Dampp-Chaser company has developed the Piano Life-Saver System, which installs in your piano to keep the moisture level at 42% all year long. The system is designed to be unobtrusive, easy to use, and inexpensive to operate and maintain. Since the unit is installed in (or under in the case of a grand) your piano, it becomes a “closed system”, thus enabling the system to control the piano’s moisture content without affecting the room it is
Greg Shaffer is both a Certified Installer of, and a Field Expert for the Piano Life-Saver System, ensuring proper installation and maintenance of the unit. Ask to see a Brochure for more information.