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Bedbug treatment!
#2709348 01/27/18 11:45 PM
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Hi, I have a client whose house is about to be heat-treated for bedbugs brought in by an unreliable housesitter. It involves the house being "cooked" i.e. brought to a very high temperature for about 8 hours. She's been advised to remove any musical instruments, but having her tall upright taken out of her basement and stored somewhere for a day would cost hundreds of dollars and is not something she could easily afford. There are other ways of treating the house, but they are not as reliable. I told her it couldn't be helped, that it's just a one-time thing and that she shouldn't worry too much, but does anyone have actual experience with this? Was I wrong to tell her not to worry, that the piano will probably recover with a little tuning? Thanks for any advice.


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709365 01/28/18 01:41 AM
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Yeah, dry heat for 8hr in a normally humid basement, not good at all for piano,,,,I could be wrong, but im thinking 8 to 10 glasses of water 1/2 way filled spread out at lower pedal area, replace the lower board you removed and wrap piano in many moving blankets, no plastic.
I believe high temp will be okay but the lack of humidity from the dry heat will shrink and crack glued joints,,, so,,,, as temperature slowly rises in enclosure, evaporation of water in glasses will increase and will help keep wood hydrated, moving blankets will allow it to slowly breath as well, good luck.



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Re: Bedbug treatment!
synthnut #2709397 01/28/18 07:18 AM
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It seems that to kill bedbugs the temperature is raised to 122 deg F (50 deg C). From this psychometric chart it would appear that if you take air at say 20 deg C and 40% RH, and raise the temperature to 50 deg C, the RH will drop to about 9%. The professionals here will be able to say whether 9% RH for 8 hours matters or not, but it doesn't sound good to me.

Following synthnut's idea, you could try to thermally insulate the piano. Wrap it in many layers of bubble-wrap (including underneath the piano), and surround that with as many duvets, blankets etc as you can lay your hands on, tied in close with string. Try not to allow any "thin spots" in the insulation, where heat might creep in. You would need a LOT of bubble wrap and a LOT of duvets, but I have hopes that this might work. Though I am not very confident that it would.

Re the idea of the glasses of water - this might help, but I think it might be risky. You could easily underdo it or overdo it. If you had a Dampp Chaser inside the piano, and if it was deemed safe to run this while the piano is wrapped in bubble-wrap, that might be rather effective.


Last edited by David-G; 01/28/18 07:47 AM.
Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709470 01/28/18 12:48 PM
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Since it seems that one way or another this piano is going remain in the house it may be an opportunity to see how a piano does in this situation, assuming the owner understands the risks involved. Cover it as best you can, put some water in the bottom of it and report back with the results. The upside of it remaining in the house is that if there are any bedbugs in it they should be dead. The downside of it not staying in the house is the possibility that some may survive in the piano. I don't know if that's possible - just throwing it out there.

I had a similar situation here and I suggested they take the piano out to be safe, but I haven't heard what happened.


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709480 01/28/18 01:34 PM
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Why take the chance? I would have a mover put the piano out in the garage for a day if there is one. There is a reason the treatment company said "no musical instruments."

Last edited by Lakeviewsteve; 01/28/18 01:35 PM.

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Re: Bedbug treatment!
That Guy #2709571 01/28/18 06:16 PM
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I agree with the idea of bedbugs hiding in the piano surviving treatment !
In S.Africa I took a 1890 KarlEcke piano inland to Zimbabe where the RH was considerable less than at the coast, the pins did loosen but it was still tunable but at a lower tension, at the time I had no way of checking the frequency of A but it held steady after about a year !

Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709582 01/28/18 06:46 PM
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Thanks for all your advice, I appreciate it. No garage--she lives in a downtown urban environment. But she says the company told her they often treat houses with pianos, that they hardly ever get moved out (except fine grands, obvi), and it's fine. The company will cover the piano with blankets, and I'll go over and put containers of water inside. It's an old upright and not valuable, but has value to her of course, and it does have a very nice tone. Hopefully it'll be ok. I've asked the DC company if they have any specific advice also (besides putting in a system!).


Anne Francis
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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709586 01/28/18 07:15 PM
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I would think the piano should be ok... If only 8 hours at around 120.
The tuning will suffer- it will go flat with the dry heat.

Don't know HOW hot you are actually talking here...But, you might think twice about how much humidity you wish to introduce at very high temps so suddenly...
You might be better off letting it dry with the heat, rather than tinker with a lot of water containers inside.

I believe that it would take a much longer period of exposure to extreme dry heat for the pinblock and soundboard to be in danger.

Dry is more preferable than throwing a huge amount of humid into it all at once- as, with humidity the piano will go sharp (who knows how far), the action could get overly humid and your centerpins begin sticking, the keys and felts will all swell. And, if it is old, as you say- all that dust and dirt in the action flanges and friction points could turn to grime with high humidity poured in.

So again, I would think that a DRY extreme heat is preferable if you have to choose- if it is only a for that one day that is.

That's my opinion anyway.


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709590 01/28/18 07:42 PM
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Interesting, Rick. You may be right. Anyone?


Anne Francis
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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709601 01/28/18 08:10 PM
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Yea, I don't like the water introduced into the piano either. Just leave it as-is in the high temperature. It should be fine.


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709626 01/28/18 09:58 PM
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I would put pans of water inside on the bottom board. The more surface area you have for the water the better. With temps/RH like it is going to be at, just remove the pans as soon as the temp returns to "room" temp.

We are in the dry time of year inside houses so adding moisture in this situation runs no risk of swelling the action.


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2709635 01/28/18 10:42 PM
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It would be interesting if you can place a high/low temperature/hygrometer gauge inside the piano before adding the water and wrapping it up. This way, when the treatment is over, you'll know just how warm and dry it was inside the piano.


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2710266 01/31/18 01:23 AM
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Thoughts to consider, Pianos/wood will absorb moisture/humidity quickly and release it slowly, so, a good wrap is a good idea to slow the traumatizing dry heat from reaching the hydrated piano too fast. uncover immediately after!
The evaporation rate of 20 buckets of water under a grand piano in a "dry" room @ {15% RH} will not raise the RH to a safe level {30-35%} regardless of how long!, so, the rate of 10 glasses of water in piano?, i doubt the levels would even change after 8 hours, so, perhaps a large wet towel on the floor in front of pedals, but inside your wrap sounds a bit safer & might actually provide a little more evaporation. {just slightly open bottom board}

In the summertime my dehumidifier will pull a gallon+ of water just to drop the RH level by 15% in my living room. I highly doubt you could "over do it", with just evaporation from a large towel for a few hours!,,,,,, just don't let it touch any wood surfaces.
Personally, i'd also be worried about window/door trim,molding joints, drywall joints, wood flooring, ect... all shrinking, maybe they would allow a pot of steaming water on the stove!


Retired Prototype Engineer,Auto Ind. Longtime professional piano/multi keyboard player and recording. 35 years tuning/restoring, A deep passion for high end grands and woodworking. Currently have 1921 Steinway B and countless multi keyboards/drums/guitars in my studio
Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2710338 01/31/18 09:23 AM
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I lived for a year in a country with low humidity and high temperatures. The humidity was 12% or 13% all year round, and the hottest temperature I recorded was 50.9C (122 Fahrenheit). A fascinating experience, but a country with no pianos.

Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2710369 01/31/18 11:11 AM
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I presume most pianos in places like Las Vegas, Phoenix, etc. are in air-conditioned buildings. Places like that can achieve dry 120F heat in the summer.
Air conditioners also do not add moisture to the air; if anything they de-humidify air as they cool the air.
Do people have to install humidifiers or Dampp-Chaser systems to have pianos in desert locations like these? Or can pianos survive a hot, dry climate like that?


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2714840 02/16/18 01:35 PM
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I would wrap the piano in blankets to thermally protect the piano as much as possible. A dammpchaser system inside would only help if it were a full system that de-humidifies and humidifies. Most applications, especially for pianos in a basement would only be a partial system, the part that heats only and de-humidifies. A full system in both grand and upright applications have a pan of water underneath or inside at all times. I do not think there is a system in this piano, and I do not think it would hurt to have a small loaf pan with water inside this piano would hurt during this heating. I would remove it afterwards. The basement may not generally have a humidity problem otherwise. I would wait at least 3 weeks after the procedure to tune. That should allow piano time to go back to normal humidity level that it was use to. This is only my opinion. Very interesting situation and thought you brought to the table. I have dealt with major temperature swings, but my experience have always been unintentional cold temperatures from heating systems going out in the winter. Humidity is pianos major tuning enemy, but I always thought the major temperature swings affected the plate and metal structure. (Expanding and shrinking) And again my experience was that the piano wasn't in the extreme cold for long and I never gave it a thought of a humidity issue. Temperature VS. Humidity So, you have more that just humidity to think about. Overall, I'm sure we are over-thinking, pianos are tougher than we give them credit sometimes. This piano has survived many years, most uprights see 100 years, It will be fine with the actions you mentioned doing. Good luck and please give update afterwards!


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Re: Bedbug treatment!
Anne Francis #2714920 02/16/18 05:56 PM
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When I think about how much time pianos spend in cargo containers, cargo bays, railroad cars, trucks, etc, I tend to think this one will be ok. Or, maybe a better perspective is that its condition coming out of this will be determined by its condition going in.

If it's old and lives in a basement, then it's probably already spent most of its life without much in the way of climate control.

The OP's best bet is to probably say "I don't know," and have the client go with the exterminator's recommendation.



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