Piano owners: act now to keep your piano healthy by preventing costly dryness-related damage.
As the coldest part of the year approaches, we'd like to remind piano owners that the dryness caused by home heating systems can be extremely damaging to pianos of all shapes and sizes. All home heating systems (even steam and hot water baseboard) are capable of drastically reducing relative humidity levels in your home.
Piano technician Tony Bochetta recently wrote an excellent article for The Ridgefield Press detailing the dryness-related problems he's been experiencing with the pianos he services:
Why is dryness so bad for pianos?
Wood is an integral part of the construction of all acoustic pianos, even brand new ones. When its environment is very dry, wood will quickly lose moisture and begin to shrink, causing many of the issues piano owners experience during cold-weather months:
- Nuisance-type problems (such as sticky keys, frozen action parts, extra clicking or buzzing noises, and tuning instability) can develop very quickly when a piano is distressed due to dryness. These are often early warning signs that tell you to pay close attention to your piano's humidity.
- Permanent structural damage will result when pianos are exposed to dry conditions for prolonged periods of time. Dryness-related damage includes cracked soundboards, pinblocks, and bridges, all of which adversely affect the piano's musical performance.
Piano owners should be aware that the repairs necessary to fix dryness-related damage are not covered services under any piano warranty (new, used, or reconditioned) that we've ever seen.
What can I do?
- Monitor your home's relative humidity with a hygrometer. You can find them at any hardware store or buy one on eBay. Keep it close to the piano to get an accurate reading of your piano's moisture content.
- Add humidity now! If your home's relative humidity is below 42%, your piano could be in danger!
Humidifiers we recommend
You can add humidity to your piano two ways, either by humidifying the space around the piano or by adding humidity from the inside of the piano.
- Humidify the space around the piano with an evaporative humidifier. We recommend a humidifier that outputs 12 gallons of water vapor or greater per day. Steam or misting humidifiers are not recommended.
- Humidify from inside the piano with the Piano Life Saver System from the Dampp-Chaser Corporation. This system will automatically monitor your piano's humidity and add or remove moisture as necessary. It runs silently (with no fan) and requires much less water than an evaporative humidifier. We highly recommend it to keep your piano in the best health possible. It can be installed in your home - Contact your local piano technician or locate a certified installer on the Piano Life Saver website.
42%: The magic number for good piano health!
Piano owners who keep their pianos in a space with a relative humidity at or above 42% all year round will keep their pianos in top musical condition, minimize their tuning and service costs, and prevent costly permanent damage to their instruments. Think of your piano as a living, breathing thing that responds to its environment and keep it healthy!