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Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
#2693480 12/01/17 01:54 PM
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I'm looking for advice from those who control humidity with a room or whole house humidifier not attached to HVAC. I'm wondering if my placement of my humidifier is causing my piano to absorb too much moisture even though the RH in the room is well within a normal range and causing the Bass / Tenor to go sharp.

My scenario
I have a S&S Model B (former C&A piano from 1981). Since I bought it in February, I've tried to keep the temperature and humidity relatively constant in our house. The temperature stays between 68 F (colder months) and 72 F (warmer months) and with both a room dehumidifier and humidifier that I place pretty close to the piano, the RH typically stays between 40 - 44%. It may dip a little below or higher for a very short period of time if we weren't paying attention and forgot to change the fan speed on one of the units or something.

I bought larger units, rated for 2400 sq ft since our house is just about that size and has a very open floor plan with a 2-story foyer. The piano sits just off the foyer in the living room so the air flow is very unrestricted in that area.

Right after delivery in February, the tuning went pretty sour, but I held of tuning based on the advice of the dealer and my technician. Once the cold weather broke, the piano had sometime to acclimate, and I got the RH stabilized, I had it tuned and voiced in April. That's when I decided that the voicing would not hold due to the condition of the hammers. In late June, we ordered new hammers, whippens, shanks, and flanges. The action was gone until mid-October (due to parts back orders @ WNG). When my tech started working on all the adjustments inside the piano (hammers. string, damper alignment, voicing, etc) the tuning done in April sounded pretty good for 5+ months. The room dehumidifier seems to have done an excellent job all summer and into the unusually warm fall for Indiana.

About the time my tech finished up, the weather turned cooler so I've switched back the humidifier primarily, placing it pretty close to the piano to try to keep the RH most consistent there since there is no way to keep the whole house at a constant RH. My hygrometer at the piano is staying within the 40-44% range, but the tuning has gone out pretty quickly. Last night, I checked the tuning with my copy of Entropy on my MacBook. To my surprise, it appears that the Bass and low Tenor sections are sharp, but the middle and treble are pretty spot on.

The humidifier is closer to the treble end, so it surprised me that the bass/tenor end went sharp instead of the treble. The placement of the humidifier closer to the tenor end of the piano also places it close to the open foyer so it can impact more of the RH in the whole house and not just the living room.

The soundboard does have a couple of pressure ridges on a couple of seams, so at some point in the past it was under stress, but my technician isn't concerned about them. I'll probably go the next step and have it re-strung within the next couple of years when the budget allows, and we'll take care of the soundboard then. He hasn't found any issue with the bridges, there are no buzzes, the ribs are in good shape, and the sound board is in perfect shape from underneath. The pressure ridges are only noticeable from the belly side. It has excellent sustain, it projects very well, and the new Ronsen Weickert hammers are developing nicely.

I've moved the humidifier to an outside wall opposite the piano as an experiment. Now there is a little humidity drop between it and the piano. The humidifier is set for 45%, and the hygrometer at the piano is reading around 41%. I'm going to wait a couple of days and see if the pitch in the Bass & low Tenor drops any.

My tech is out of town right now on an extended trip so I haven't discussed it with him. I thought I'd get the PW consensus. I'd like to try to address any environmental issues before having it tuned again.

So what are your thoughts? Has anyone else had a similar experience?

And I'll pose this question as well. Is it possible to "spot seal" the varnish at the pressure ridges I mentioned earlier for now without re-string the piano?

Last edited by GC13; 12/01/17 01:58 PM.
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Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2693585 12/01/17 09:59 PM
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Wood absorbs moisture at a much faster rate than it releases moisture, so you may have to wait more than a couple days for results. How close is "pretty close" regarding the humidifier? Did you check the tuning with Entropy back in April? I'm just wondering if the entire pitch was sharp back then, and possibly the middle and treble have actually dropped in pitch since then? I'm not sure where you are located, but in my area, when the heat comes on, the middle and treble drop in pitch first.

Where is the hygrometer placed on your piano? If you can, check the humidity underneath, as close to the soundboard as possible. You're apt to get yet a different reading there, which is where the change in humidity is most crucial to a stable tuning.


Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York
Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2693599 12/01/17 10:56 PM
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The longest plain wire strings often will go further sharp/flat than the short ones, so your scenario is normal. Indeed measure the RH under the piano near the soundboard. Also, it is likely that different units (separate humidifier, dehumidifier and hygrometer) will differ in their readings from each other by a few percent. In my case, I found it is best to adjust the target RH a notch under the maximum measured RH happening under the piano throughout a year (usually at the end of the humid season). YMMV

Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
Eric Gloo #2693660 12/02/17 08:57 AM
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Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
How close is "pretty close" regarding the humidifier?.

Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
Where is the hygrometer placed on your piano?


I actually had the humidifier placed just outside the curve of the piano on the treble side which is the side that is open to the foyer at an angle. I had been measuring humidity on top of the lid. Now I've moved the humidifier across the room. Reading above and below at the soundboard, RH is in the 40-42% range this morning. I've taken readings throughout the house and the RH is between 40-44% so that seems pretty stable. But we haven't hit really cold weather yet here in Indiana.

Originally Posted by Eric Gloo
Did you check the tuning with Entropy back in April?


I didn't check with Entropy back in April. I'll capture a baseline with Entropy the next time I have it tuned. I'm not into tuning myself other than a couple of touch ups here and there.

Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2694168 12/04/17 08:52 AM
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I have one of these placed in the opposite corner of the room from the piano, although it sits out more towards the center of the room than the corner, so it's equidistant from the radiator and the piano. The piano is as far away from the radiators and the windows as it can be.

https://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000G0LDRI/

I have steam heat and live in one of those old long Chicago six-flats. I got tired of filling one humidifier a couple times a day so I got a second for the back of the apartment this year and it seems to work better. Generally if I remember to fill them the humidity keeps between 40-45%.

The piano goes out of tune anyway, so it's more of a matter of how fast it goes out of tune.

Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
David Farley #2694203 12/04/17 12:21 PM
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Just another aspect to this topic that hasn't been discussed yet.

How reliable is your hygrometer? Basically, if you haven't spent in the $100 range for an HVAC-quality hygrometer, you can't count on what you are using. It is entirely possible that it could be giving correct readings. But, it could be wildly off, too. I've seen a lot of variability. And even the best start to drift with time -- which reminds me I should probably be replacing my current unit which must be ~15-20 years old by now.

Also, you haven't mentioned where on the planet you are. Exterior climate has a huge impact on what goes on inside a house.



Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
kpembrook #2694218 12/04/17 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by kpembrook
Also, you haven't mentioned where on the planet you are. Exterior climate has a huge impact on what goes on inside a house.


Central Indiana.

Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2694251 12/04/17 03:15 PM
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Also, just because the setting on the humidifier says a certain %, it cannot be relied upon to be all that accurate.

Pwg


Peter W. Grey, RPT
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Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
P W Grey #2694276 12/04/17 05:07 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Also, just because the setting on the humidifier says a certain %, it cannot be relied upon to be all that accurate.

Pwg

The point I was making earlier. What kind of device do you have to help you determine RH?


Keith Akins, RPT
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USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2694318 12/04/17 09:21 PM
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Kpembrook, I have bought a new Yamaha YUS 5 in 2016. I have a humidifier and a dehumidifier in the room with the piano. Generally the range stays 40-50%. I have 2 hygrometers that are a few points apart-- between 3-4. I bought them for about $12. Do you have any recommendations for a reliable hygrometer?
I have my piano tuned every 2 months. The tuner (he also rebuilds pianos) never mentioned for me to get another type of hygrometer. He did tell me about the option that controls the RH internally, but I did not want to put that in the piano since I feel I am controlling the external environment. Thanks Deb


Deb
"A goal properly set is halfway reached." Zig Ziglar
Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
kpembrook #2694325 12/04/17 09:51 PM
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Originally Posted by P W Grey
Also, just because the setting on the humidifier says a certain %, it cannot be relied upon to be all that accurate.
Pwg


Originally Posted by kpembrook
The point I was making earlier. What kind of device do you have to help you determine RH?


Yes, I'm understand that the RH% reading on the humidifier may not be exact. I have a thermometer that also reads RH - just something I picked at Lowe's or Home Depot. I know they aren't precision instruments, but I hope they are close, within a couple of %.

I've positioned the humidifier (a console model) a little further from the piano, and I'm monitoring RH up under the soundboard as suggested by Eric Gloo. Right now the RH reading on both is no more than 1 or 2% off - hovering right around 44%. The height of the humidifier is pretty close to the underside of the soundboard.

The tuning shift, which was the reason I started the thread, seems to be more stable right now (after moving the humidifier away from the piano). We're going into a real cold snap here in Central Indiana starting tomorrow thru the weekend. I'll see how stable it is over the next few days. I know I'll need to have it tuned again to really see, but my tech is going to do that again soon when he returns to do some follow up regulation and voicing.

Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2694331 12/04/17 10:28 PM
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Store bought humidistats are just fine, its the swing that matters since most manufacturers recommend ranges from 40%-65%. I tested a couple of $30 dollar store bought humidistats in a certified humidity chamber and it they were +-3%.

Find a target RH based on where you live and try to stick within 10%. If you live in an area with average 80% RH then you shoot for the 50's . If your average is 30% and below then shoot for the 40's.




Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
Miguel Rey #2694345 12/05/17 12:19 AM
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Originally Posted by Miguel Rey
Store bought humidistats are just fine, its the swing that matters since most manufacturers recommend ranges from 40%-65%. I tested a couple of $30 dollar store bought humidistats in a certified humidity chamber and it they were +-3%.

Find a target RH based on where you live and try to stick within 10%. If you live in an area with average 80% RH then you shoot for the 50's . If your average is 30% and below then shoot for the 40's.


What I said is that under-$100 hygrometers "can" be accurate. I've worked with more than 2 and find that they can be off and you don't know unless you test them against something known to be accurate. Also, some do not register below 20% -- they simply go blank. Something like this is a professional-grade hygrometer.


Keith Akins, RPT
Piano Technologist
USA Distributor for Isaac Cadenza hammers and Profundo Bass Strings
Supporting Piano Owners D-I-Y piano tuning and repair
editor emeritus of Piano Technicians Journal
Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2694411 12/05/17 08:35 AM
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I posed a secondary question regarding sealing the pressure ridges on the soundboard in my original post. Can that be done without restringing? The piano sounds great, but I'm wondering if those places where the varnish is probably unsealed is allowing it to absorb and release moisture much faster than is normal.

Any thoughts on that from the pros? It doesn't seem possible, but many of you have little tricks up your sleeves. What type of sealant did Steinway use in the early 1980's -- varnish, shelac, lacquer, polyurethane?

Last edited by GC13; 12/05/17 08:36 AM.
Re: Room Humidifier Placement Question & Tuning Stability
GC13 #2694427 12/05/17 09:21 AM
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You might want to repost the pressure-ridge question on its own with an appropriate title. Posted in this thread, it may not be noticed.


Dorrie Bell
retired piano technician
Boston, MA

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