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#2077749 - 05/05/13 02:58 PM Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system  
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dynamobt Online content
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My piano does not have the humitity system installed in it. We decided to go the "whole house" route and put in a system hat ties into our heating unit. The advantage of that is that it is pretty much maintenance free. But, we have discovered some unexpected problems. When I keep the whole house unit set high enough to make the piano happy, we have encounted problems with our wood ceiling. Moisture gets behind the wood through the seams between the boards. When the temperature outside is hugely contasted with inside, we get condensation freezing on the underside of the roof. Then the sun hits the roof, melts the condensation and we get drips. So, this is hardly ideal. To compensate, we have the whole house unit set to a lower humidity to prevent condensation. But of course, now it's not effective for the piano!!!

So, I am considering getting a humidty system for the piano. You can see it's a 7' BB M & H. I was told initially by my piano technician that because of the size of my piano, it would need two separate systems to keep uniform humidity in the piano. Is this true?

Other question: does the system need distilled water in it? We are on a well and even with a water softening system, our water is still "hard" meaning it contains minerals.

Is the system mantained by the piano technician so that all I would need to do is fill it with water?

What is the going rate for installing a Dampp-Chaser unit in this size piano?

Thanks for reading if you have gotten through all my ramblings!


1918 Mason & Hamlin BB
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#2077778 - 05/05/13 04:03 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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So, I am considering getting a humidty system for the piano. You can see it's a 7' BB M & H. I was told initially by my piano technician that because of the size of my piano, it would need two separate systems to keep uniform humidity in the piano. Is this true?

Yes.

Other question: does the system need distilled water in it? We are on a well and even with a water softening system, our water is still "hard" meaning it contains minerals.

Distilled water is better because it will leave less residue in the tank - the additive helps with this, though.


Is the system mantained by the piano technician so that all I would need to do is fill it with water?

Someone has to change pads - either you or your tech would do that.


What is the going rate for installing a Dampp-Chaser unit in this size piano?

Can't help on that one = Prices vary so I'd call around. I would not recommend taking the lowest price....you get what you pay for..

#2077782 - 05/05/13 04:08 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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You do NOT need two separate systems for the piano. You need ONE system that has a dual humidifier.


DiGiorgi Piano Service
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#2077787 - 05/05/13 04:14 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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To fill out the reply you already have...

You could use a Dampp Chaser "Piano Life Saver system", specified with the dual-tank humidifier and a dual-rod dehumidifier with a "Smart Bar." As a package, installed, you should expect the range of $700 - $800.

If you have a technician you are happy with, ask them about it.


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#2077797 - 05/05/13 04:35 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Thanks for the replies. I went to the Dampp-Chaser website after posting. Many of my questions were answered. I also looked on their dealer locator list. The RPT who did a lot of the finish work on the rebuild of my piano is listed as a STAR installer as is my current piano technician. Between them, I should get any remaining questions answered.

I figure that even after spending money on the whole house unit, we are going to need to go with an "in piano" system after the troubles we had this winter with condensation. Making the piano happy will be easier than trying to vent the roof even further. And even doing that, I think we will have problems wiht condensation. There's just too much of a temperature difference in the winter for the whole house unit to be effective for the piano.


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#2077853 - 05/05/13 06:31 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: Loren D]  
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Originally Posted by Loren D
You do NOT need two separate systems for the piano. You need ONE system that has a dual humidifier.


I'm pretty sure that's what he meant, Loren. When selling it, some would say a double system, or dual system, neither one meaning two HD units.

#2077857 - 05/05/13 06:36 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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I just wanted to be sure, because the OP, not being a tech, phrased it as "two separate systems." Just for the sake of clarity. smile


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#2077858 - 05/05/13 06:37 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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dynamobt,

As you can tell, there are so many factors which come into play and it all focuses on the structure and insulation of any given house and the permeability of the 'envelope.'

I am a believer in both humidity control for the entire structure and using a D-C system. I'm what some would call 'hygrometer happy!'

I always use distilled water and the D-C treatment. When I was using tap water, the pads needed to be changed about four times a year. Now they are changed yearly and the humidifier element doesn't gunk up at all.

The M&H-BB is a tremendous instrument. It deserves your care.



Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2077863 - 05/05/13 06:43 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Check with Damp-Chaser about which is the proper system to order for your piano and your situation. I think the "BB" only has room for one water tank and the Heater rods come in different sizes and watts ratings. Their recommendations might be on their web site.


"Imagine it in all its primatic colorings, its counterpart in our souls - our souls that are great pianos whose strings, of honey and of steel, the divisions of the rainbow set twanging, loosing on the air great novels of adventure!" - William Carlos Williams
#2077867 - 05/05/13 07:00 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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I'm pretty convinced the Dampp Chaser system is a necessity. We've struggled with the whole house system and our cold winter weather. My piano tech says I do more than most people to keep the humidity stable for my piano. And so far, no issues with the piano. But, I feel like "so far" isn't good enough. This is the piano of my dreams. I never thought I would have an instrument of such beautiful quality and sound. It is everything I could hope for in a piano. I really was lucky to find it. Lucky to have read Larry Fine's book so I had an idea of what I was looking at. I need to take the best care of it that I can.


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#2077893 - 05/05/13 07:58 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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I don't know why the other techs are saying a M&H BB needs a dual humidifier system. Dampp-Chaser has schematics available on its technicians' website, which specifies a G6PS-38-SB (one tank w/ smart bracket, two rods, humidistat) for this piano. Make sure you hire a certified installer!

#2077900 - 05/05/13 08:08 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Hmmm, the two techs I have talked to ARE certified installers. I've contacted Dampp Chaser through their website. I've also made a note of the model number you have listed, beethoven986.

Perhaps the techs were only surmising what would be needed and not actually have gone to the DC website to see what was recommended.

I'm armed with more information now. Thank you


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#2077926 - 05/05/13 08:55 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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If the BB can or must use the single tank system, it will save you some cost, also - at least $150.

A technician actually working for you would check the exact model required, before doing the installation. Depending upon the air movement around the piano, an under-cover may suffice. Of course that cover adds back in some cost.

I have seen stage situations where a single tank humidifier portion of the Dampp Chaser system could not keep up during periods of low humidity. The piano was a Steinway B with no undercover. The cover would probably remedy that situation. A mini-tank is also available. On a 7' piano, Dampp Chaser will very likely say that the undercover will be needed.

As you say, now you are informed enough to understand the systems in general and the expected cost range.


Lavender Piano Services
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#2077927 - 05/05/13 08:56 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Yes, the Dampp-Chaser schematics show a single humidifier system. That is a recommendation, and will work well in many pianos. But it isn't necessarily the best in ALL situations. The Piano Life Saver Systems can be customized to each piano. Some pianos need more humidification than shown in the schematics. Some pianos need stronger dehumidifiers, or even more than those specified.

Will you still be using your whole house system, just at a lower humidity level? If so, and if it keeps the humidity at a fairly consistent level, you may be OK with a single humidifier.


Eric Gloo
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Richfield Springs, New York
#2077934 - 05/05/13 09:08 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Yes, I would keep using the whole house system. Although condensation problems in the winter keep us from setting it higher than 30% humidity, that percentage is stable. Our A/C in the summer acts as a natural dehumidifier. So I can consistently keep the room at about 30% humidity. That's comfortable for us, but not the piano. I can see where if the atmosphere in the room is aleady at 30% humidity that the Dampp Chaser system in the piano would not need to work so hard.

I think the next step is to convince my husband that this is a priority. Then I will contact my piano technician. I'm due for a tuning in July. At this time of year, I think I can safely wait till then. If this was our full heating season, I would be acting sooner.


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#2077938 - 05/05/13 09:14 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Are you using a hygrometer to take the readings of the RH in your home? The numbers on the control dial on a HVAC humidifier are not even close to a true reading. A decent electronic hygrometer, with a memory, is only about $35 at a good hardware or home improvement store.


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2077968 - 05/05/13 09:56 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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I have a BB as well and use the DC system. It has one humidifier tank and two dehumidifier rods. I keep the house HVAC at 40 to 55 % according to the three hygrometers in the piano room, depending on the outside air temperature, and the DC system keeps the piano at about 40 to 45%, according the hygrometers inside the case and underneath. It is well worth the cost and very modest effort.

#2078251 - 05/06/13 10:01 AM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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I do have a hygrometer. It's battery powered. It is consistently a bit lower than when my piano tech checks the room humidity when she tunes. Maybe it's time for a new one of these too.


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#2078257 - 05/06/13 10:16 AM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Originally Posted by dynamobt
Yes, I would keep using the whole house system. Although condensation problems in the winter keep us from setting it higher than 30% humidity, that percentage is stable.


I have some doubt that your whole house system is functioning correctly.

You should not be getting condensation below 65% unless something is very unusual with your setup.

Your piano is worth protecting, but so is your house.


gotta go practice
#2078262 - 05/06/13 10:23 AM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Originally Posted by dynamobt
I do have a hygrometer. It's battery powered. It is consistently a bit lower than when my piano tech checks the room humidity when she tunes. Maybe it's time for a new one of these too.


Consumer grade hygrometers are required to meet +\- 7% accuracy. It costs a lot of money to get better accuracy. Even a sling psychrometer with 1 degree Celsius accuracy per thermometer will still only yield about +\- 4% accuracy. I tested mine in a home built sodium chloride test cell and chose the most accurate group of hygrometers. Considering that they are not completely linear, the readings around 42% are still suspect. Good luck.

#2078296 - 05/06/13 11:39 AM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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The problem comes from the fact that the ceiling in the piano room is wood interlocking boards not sheetrock. The boards do not provide a complete barrier for moisture going up into the eves of the roof. The roof is vented. But still, moisture collects on the underside of the roof and freezes due to how cold it is outside. Later in the day,when the sun hits the roof and warms it up,the condensation melts and produces drips. It's only in one particular area of the ceiling that this occurs. Luckily, not near the piano!!! We've had our builder out to check things out. I think the problem is unique to having a wood ceiling. Sheetrock would provide a more complete barrier.

Ultimately, the effort to humidify the whole house has been a failure as far as I'm concerned. My piano tuner is not unhappy with the stability of my piano. I just think it's time to do something that has a more proven reliability. It's likey we will not live forever in this house. I'm not parting with the piano. EVER!!! I'll talk to my piano tech. And the technician who did a lot of the regulation and voicing of the piano. My hygrometer is close enough to what my piano tech measures when she comes. At best the house is in the high 30s. Not good enough for the piano.


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#2078393 - 05/06/13 02:17 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Is the area above the ceiling insulated? Has spray insulation been considered?


Marty in Minnesota

It's much easier to bash a Steinway than it is to play one.
#2078413 - 05/06/13 02:55 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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The space behind the ceiling is insulated. It doesn't matter. The problem is the the moist air passes through the spaces between the boards. Granted, the spaces are small. But the board ard fitted together and not glued together. So air definitely passes from the room to the space behind. And the moist air continues past the isulation to condense on the back side of the roof. The roof is freezing cold. So, the condensation also collects an freezes. Then the roof warms up and it all melts at once. It only happens when it is really, really cold out and the humidity difference between inside and outside is extreme. As I said, we've had he builder look at the problem. The roof is vented. There isn't any more venting to be done. We just have to keep the humidity from gettng too high inside when it is very dry and cold outside. Most of the year with not temperature problems, I'm happy with how the whole house humidifier works and how it keeps my piano stable. It's the few cold months in the middle of the winter that we have problems. I don't believe sprayed in insulation would change anything. Not unless it is a complete air tight barrier. The least costly solution to the problem seems to be to get a DC for the piano.


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#2078492 - 05/06/13 05:35 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Hi Dynamobt,

What your ceiling needs is a vapor barrier between the ceiling material and the insulation in the attic. It doesn't really matter whether the ceiling is drywall, wood, or any other permeable material -- when inside air passes through it and meets cold air, it will fall below its "dew point" temperature. At that point, the vapor in the air condenses into water and soaks whatever* is below it. Drywall and wood are both permeable, though some drywall comes with a vapor barrier on one side.

Many contractors don't understand this.

In a cold climate, the more you humidify a house that doesn't have a good vapor barrier, the more condensation you'll have. You can severely damage a house very quickly if you let condensation collect.

Good luck,

Andy

Last edited by AndyJ; 05/07/13 08:20 AM. Reason: Corrected "soaks water is below it" to "...whatever..."
#2078516 - 05/06/13 06:30 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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AndyJ, this makes the most sense of any explaination I have heard. Only problem is that without taking the ceiling down completely, I don't see how a vapor barrier can be installed now. The solution is easy. We can't humidify the house to the degree we'd like. All the more reason for me to get a Dampp Chaser system for my piano. I'm going to have to do some convincing of my husband that our plan to humidify the house instead of the piano has been a bust. But, I will work on him. I see the Dampp Chaser as my only solution at this point. We have survived not humidifying the house before the piano. I just won't push it past 30%.


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#2078707 - 05/07/13 07:18 AM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: AndyJ]  
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Originally Posted by AndyJ
Hi Dynamobt,

What your ceiling needs is a vapor barrier between the ceiling material and the insulation in the attic.
Andy


I agree.

Well, depends on the climate. Sometimes you put the vapor barrier on the house side of the insulation, sometimes on the other side, and in areas like mine with both hot and cold weather it can be hard to decide.

Beyond the condensation problem, once your insulation becomes moist it loses its effectiveness.

I think you have two problems: too much infiltration (movement of air) and lack of vapor barrier (movement of humidity).

Drywall would stop the infiltration, though not nearly as well as plaster. But it is not a vapor barrier.


gotta go practice
#2078803 - 05/07/13 11:09 AM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Gee, I've got bigger problems than I realized. Seems I have opened a huge can of worms. I don't know what to do now. The room we are talking about is 44' x 21' in dimension. This is not a small undertaking to fix. I can sit my husband down and have him read this thread. It was enough to be considering the Dampp Chaser system. I'm a bit overwhelmed by the other issues discovered in this thread. I don't see us pulling the entire ceiling down in the room. I simply can't go there in my mind. I'm trying to think what else to say. And I am speechless.


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#2078849 - 05/07/13 01:21 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Don't panic! If the piano room's ceiling is made from tongue-in-groove wood, your house is probably pretty old. And if it's pretty old, it's apparently survived being occupied for many years without serious humidity damage. If you're having condensation problems now that you didn't have before, it's probably from setting the humidity higher than it should be. A simple solution would be to turn the humidity down to preserve the house and install a Dampp-Chaser to preserve the piano.

I see you live in New Hampshire. In that climate, vapor barriers should be on the inside to protect the insulation. You can apply vapor-barrier paint throughout the house and greatly reduce moisture problems -- but the wood ceiling would need some extra attention.

Good luck,

Andy

#2078856 - 05/07/13 01:45 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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The piano room is not old. The other half of the house is 40 years old. But the big room we built as a great room and for the piano is less than 5 years old.

Still, we didn't have problems until we put the piano in here and I tried to humidify the room for the benefit of the piano. We will, of course, be turning down the whole house humidifier so as not to create more problems with the ceiling. If we can come out of all this with only having to have installed the Dampp-Chaser system in the piano, then, I think we dodged a disaster.

I say "whole house" humidifier. But it is really "this room" humidifier since the other part of the house is on forced hot water heat and this new room is on forced hot air with the added system. Before we had this big room built, the piano was in the other part of the house with a room humidifier with no problems. It's this darned "I had to have pine wood ceiling", that is at the root of the problem!!

We're just not going to contribute anymore to the potential of condensation. As my husband said when I started telling him all this: "Don't ask these questions", he said!!!


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#2079054 - 05/07/13 10:12 PM Re: Questions about the Dampp-Chaser system [Re: dynamobt]  
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Florida
The danger with all that condensation for the roof structure will be rotting wood. You might have condensation up there even though it is not leaking though the ceiling. This might be a bit strange, but what if you quit trying to humidify the room in winter and let the RH naturally be 25% or so on cold days, and use a de humidifier in the summer to take the moisture out. The piano will be fairly stable if the RH is 25% to 35% year round. You want to avoid RH below 25% if possible though. I can't imagine 25% RH will condensate the roof structure though I could be wrong.

In my Chicago home I had to turn down the furnace humidifier to 25% during outside temps below zero or the windows would condensate. Yes the piano went a bit flat. When the outside temps were in the 30's, I'd run 40% RH without problems.

You could check into insulating right underneath the roof with bat insulation, however, you must use spacers between the roof and the insulation and vent the spacers to the outside air to prevent condensation.

If nothing works, maybe this should be a home theatre room, and move the piano back where it was?

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