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Piano environment monitoring
#2774833 10/23/18 09:57 AM
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I used our new piano as an excuse to set up a home automation platform I've been planning for some time. Using a Raspberry Pi, the open-source Home Assistant platform, and a few Z-Wave sensors, I'm tracking temperature and humidity for both of our pianos, as well as the room they're in:
https://imgur.com/a/WojgNDj

In the Yamaha upright, the sensor is in the bottom of the piano. In the Schimmel grand, it's on the cast iron plate.

From reading other threads here, I know that humidity sensors tend to be fairly inaccurate. But I'm assuming that the sensors will at least be accurate relative to their own readings—enough to show trends, at least. To save power, the sensors only send updates when a value changes more than a certain threshold; the Yamaha sensor seems to be sending far fewer updates—not surprising, since the air inside a closed upright would be quite stagnant.

The blip in humidity from yesterday morning is due to the console humidifier I just set up: I had it sitting right next to a radiator, throwing its humidistat out of whack, to the point that the windows were fogging up.

The Schimmel is reading 3-5% higher than the Yamaha and the room. While that could be due to sensor (mis)calibration, I'm guessing that the piano is emitting moisture as it acclimates to the room. If this is true, we should see it fall in line with the other sensors in the coming weeks. Other than the first night, we've left the Schimmel open; when we had it closed, there was an even higher difference between the piano and the room, supporting my theory.

We're planning to get a Dampp-Chaser system installed, since we can't keep the room humidity high enough during the coldest winter months. That will be when these measurements will get really interesting.


1999 Schimmel CC213T
2006 Yamaha M450

Avocational organist, pianist, and chorister
Married to a piano teacher
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2774867 10/23/18 11:40 AM
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Very cool, I've thought about doing the same thing. I calibrated my digital humidity sensors, one reads 6% low, the other 19% low. So if you calibrate yours you could add the correction to the data taking.
I would have expected the temps in the piano to show small changes compared to the room, given the huge steel mass. Especially since the one that varies the most is the schimmel.


Yamaha P90, Kawai GL-10
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2774868 10/23/18 11:44 AM
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I'm guessing it's due to the sensor location: the Schimmel is partially in the bay window, while the living room sensor is (currently) on a chest nearer the middle of the house. The front of the house faces east, so the morning sun probably also is a contributing factor (the piano itself doesn't get any direct sunlight past early morning, so I don't think we have to worry about that).


1999 Schimmel CC213T
2006 Yamaha M450

Avocational organist, pianist, and chorister
Married to a piano teacher
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2774880 10/23/18 12:18 PM
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Interesting. We are base lining the piano room before the piano arrives (in a few weeks, god-willing). It is a good time for that as we had high temps outside with the AC on a lot and stable T and RH early in October. Now that fall is here, the AC is off so T is falling but RH is rising. I will observe this for a few more days to see how it goes before turning on the HVAC again to see how well it modulates the RH variance.

The RH appears precise but no telling how accurate. I guess I should calibrate it.

First plot is T and RH time series since 3 Oct. Second is RH vs hour of the day (diurnal variation), colored by days - darker colors are later.

[Linked Image]

[Linked Image]

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2774977 10/23/18 05:52 PM
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Not sure I understand your last diagram. What period does it cover?

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2774998 10/23/18 07:17 PM
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Here go again ,humidty worries ! I find that the bottom graph does not make sense either .

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775034 10/23/18 09:56 PM
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The bottom graph shows the humidity reading each hour. So if we look at 10 am, we see the readings each day at 10 am. There were about 20 days in the dataset, so 20 readings at 10 am. They are color code by day, so you can see a scatter of RH readings tracking across a particular day. There is some weird clustering going on which I should look at more closely.

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775092 10/24/18 06:16 AM
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My old piano tuner, long dead by now, told me once that all you need to do is place a small bowl with water in your piano, at the bottom left or right. That sounds very simple, but he was the official tuner of the concert hall, so I guess it must make some sense.

Last edited by Rowy van Hest; 10/24/18 06:19 AM.

A piece a day keeps the debt collector away.
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775122 10/24/18 08:45 AM
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oldMH, your graphs are awesome—definitely gives me some ideas for visualization once I've collected enough data.

The bowl of water trick might work with an upright; not sure where I'd put it in a grand, though...

Lady Bird, how long have you lived in Vancouver? Wikipedia tells me that you have a very different climate than mine, with temperatures usually not falling below freezing. We have 3-4 months of freezing temperatures, usually including at least a couple of spells at or below 0°F. At those temperatures, it's impossible to keep the humidity level in the house at anything approaching comfortable—neither for us, nor for pianos.


1999 Schimmel CC213T
2006 Yamaha M450

Avocational organist, pianist, and chorister
Married to a piano teacher
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Rowy van Hest #2775125 10/24/18 08:54 AM
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Originally Posted by Rowy van Hest
My old piano tuner, long dead by now, told me once that all you need to do is place a small bowl with water in your piano, at the bottom left or right. That sounds very simple, but he was the official tuner of the concert hall, so I guess it must make some sense.


I'm very pleased with the simple and inexpensive 'hydroceel' units which essentially do the same job but without the spillage risk of a bowl of water. They are just a metre long very absorbent tube that you soak and place in the piano.

It is the first year of using one for me but it worked well through last winter/spring until I removed it in the summer as here, when the heating is off, humidity is high enough. Now we are back in the heating season (even though the piano room itself is unheated) you could hear the piano starting to go out of tune so I popped the hdroceel back in and within a week we were back in tune - you could actually hear the difference within a day :-) You do need to remember to soak it at least every month though (I do this weekly as it is easier to remember).


Last edited by gwing; 10/24/18 08:57 AM.
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775129 10/24/18 09:08 AM
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Sounds similar to what I used to use in my viola: https://www.sharmusic.com/Accessories/Humidifiers/Humidi-Guard-Humidifier-for-Violin-or-Viola.axd

I would guess it would need soaking much more frequently in a grand, given the larger size and much higher air movement (unless you never open the lid).


1999 Schimmel CC213T
2006 Yamaha M450

Avocational organist, pianist, and chorister
Married to a piano teacher
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775151 10/24/18 10:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Chris Snyder
Sounds similar to what I used to use in my viola: https://www.sharmusic.com/Accessories/Humidifiers/Humidi-Guard-Humidifier-for-Violin-or-Viola.axd

I would guess it would need soaking much more frequently in a grand, given the larger size and much higher air movement (unless you never open the lid).


Yes, very similar, just larger and rigid so that it can be more suitably mounted in a piano. If in a grand with open lid and more air movement it would indeed seem logical that it will dry out quicker than in my upright, ditto if the RH where you live is very low. However you don't need to calibrate all that: if it's still heavy leave it in, if it's dried out and therefore light then soak it.

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775169 10/24/18 10:41 AM
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A corrected view of the hourly RH and T with all the days overlaid on one another.


[Linked Image]

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775214 10/24/18 12:52 PM
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Interesting. I can see you have 'cold no a/c' days with high RH and 'hot with a/c' low RH days. Do you also have 'cold no a/c but with heating' days? Are you able to split these out?

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775235 10/24/18 03:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris Snyder
oldMH, your graphs are awesome—definitely gives me some ideas for visualization once I've collected enough data.

The bowl of water trick might work with an upright; not sure where I'd put it in a grand, though...

Lady Bird, how long have you lived in Vancouver? Wikipedia tells me that you have a very different climate than mine, with temperatures usually not falling below freezing. We have 3-4 months of freezing temperatures, usually including at least a couple of spells at or below 0°F. At those temperatures, it's impossible to keep the humidity level in the house at anything approaching comfortable—neither for us, nor for pianos.

I am not saying we should not have these threads about humidty problems they are very important. I am on the point of orderinga a dehumidfier but now there is a postal strike so am going to hold on a bit .The winter in Vancouver we do nothave long periods of below freezing but now with climate change we just do not know .Last winter we had a few weeks below zero .The main problem in Vancouver especially where I live high humidty .We do have big ranges in humidity .If my digital is near correct it has been between 75 and 43 ! Not good .
We have a great deal of rain in the Fall and winter where I live .I understand your concerns .

Last edited by Lady Bird; 10/24/18 03:11 PM. Reason: Spelling
Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775270 10/24/18 06:29 PM
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Just thought I would say I meant my digital hygrometer. It was too late to edit .Also the postal strike is not all over Canada .,but I
do not know if it would affect me ordering the dehumidifier from amazon .

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775662 10/26/18 12:54 PM
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Originally Posted by Chris Snyder
I used our new piano as an excuse to set up a home automation platform I've been planning for some time. Using a Raspberry Pi, the open-source Home Assistant platform, and a few Z-Wave sensors


We have some neighbours that installed basic home automation last winter. Whist they were on holiday, apparently the battery in the control unit died, pipes froze, pipes burst and the house was essentially destroyed.

Rasberry Pi is great for monitoring but for critical whole-house heat applications in a cold place like Michigan, I think you need hardware, firmware, software, and power solutions that are rock-solid.

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2775679 10/26/18 02:12 PM
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The nice thing about sensors is that they can be sent to send an alert to your phone if conditions outside set ranges occur. Had your neighbors gotten an alarm that the house was cold, they could have had a neighbor check in. I guess if the house was completely destroyed (!) they got a nice insurance check to rebuild a shiny new one.

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2776019 10/28/18 03:02 AM
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Prout knows a great deal about this humidty techno stuff

Perhaps he will make an appearance. So Prout where are you ?

Re: Piano environment monitoring
Chris Snyder #2776069 10/28/18 09:40 AM
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I’m here, just practicing while looking out the windows at fall weather with a bit of snow. The humidity inside is finally below 50% and trending toward the middle 40s. The piano will remain close to 50% all winter as it did as well in the summer. Nothing like a Dampp Chaser to ease the worries.

[Linked Image]

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