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Now that I've made peace with getting the piano tuned, and have started to "live" with it, I am becoming concerned with the humidity issue (which was mentioned in at least one post above). Maybe it's way too late, as I am assuming this piano lived the past 60 years in Chicago (where the climate is not that much different from here in Milwaukee). But the weather is now getting colder and the air is drier. I noticed the piano tuner set up a little temperature/humidity gauge while he worked and that at that time the humidity was in the mid 40s in my living room. A couple weeks ago I bought a similar device and have noticed the humidity has been dropping to the low 30s pretty consistently. I bought a big plant to put near the piano which has not seemed to make much difference on the humidity gauge (but it does look nice by the piano). So now I'm trying a low-tech/DIY solution: a (Tupperware) vessel of water tucked into a fairly clear space in the lower cabinet, with a width of shop cloth suspended as a wick into the water with a length of coat-hanger wire. I'm also keeping the humidity gauge in the cabinet with it (it records/displays the range of humidity measurements over the preceding 24-36 hours). It seems to be working as I am now seeing measurements of 40+ (inside the piano) Anyone else use this sort of solution with their upright piano? Here's a peek. [Linked Image]

Last edited by PHC Joe; 11/28/20 07:28 PM.
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Try putting the humidity gauge in different parts of the cabinet. I suspect you'll get a lower humidity reading away from the water container. I used to have a piano tuning client with a larger older upright. She would have a larger container of water in the bottom, like you do, but she twisted rolled up newspaper pages and stood them upright in the water. She checked the water often, and it actually seemed to help.

Last edited by Eric Gloo; 11/28/20 09:09 PM.

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Don't try this.
First of all, it's not original -- the old-fashioned lore was to put jars of water in the bottom of the piano.
But, more importantly, it's simply not effective. And for at least two reasons -- actually three:
1) it's always "on"-- regardless of actual humidity need. You have no regulation or control.
2) It's not active or dynamic. Passive evaporation simply won't be adequate in MKE (I'm 3 hours north of you, so I know the climate).
3) Experience over decades has shown this approach to be futile.

Also, if you are going to experiment, at least get valid, functioning equipment. You need a HVAC professional's thermo/hygrometer. If you didn't spend in the $90-$120 range it probably won't be accurate and in any case, the display will simply go blank if the humidity goes below 20% -- which I often observe around here.

Final comment...
If you want to address humidity in your piano, just do it right and get a Dampp-Chaser system that has been developed and improved for decades based on research and practical experience. I regularly install them and in all cases they actually work. By that, I mean that they actually make a difference that is detectable by the resulting improvement in tuning stability.


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Originally Posted by kpembrook
Don't try this.
First of all, it's not original -- the old-fashioned lore was to put jars of water in the bottom of the piano.
But, more importantly, it's simply not effective. And for at least two reasons -- actually three:
1) it's always "on"-- regardless of actual humidity need. You have no regulation or control.
2) It's not active or dynamic. Passive evaporation simply won't be adequate in MKE (I'm 3 hours north of you, so I know the climate).
3) Experience over decades has shown this approach to be futile.

Also, if you are going to experiment, at least get valid, functioning equipment. You need a HVAC professional's thermo/hygrometer. If you didn't spend in the $90-$120 range it probably won't be accurate and in any case, the display will simply go blank if the humidity goes below 20% -- which I often observe around here.

Final comment...
If you want to address humidity in your piano, just do it right and get a Dampp-Chaser system that has been developed and improved for decades based on research and practical experience. I regularly install them and in all cases they actually work. By that, I mean that they actually make a difference that is detectable by the resulting improvement in tuning stability.

Hear hear! At least as far as things go in my area, the West of Scotland, where the climate is damp all the time. Yet here too, the myth persists about the jar of water in the piano, and I too have seen one with a jug and a rolled-up newspaper. Seen pianos full of mildew too because of the damp! I made a page on my website all about this jar of water thing https://www.davidboyce.co.uk/the-jam-jar.php

It is quite common here to fit just the Dampp Chaser heater bar, without a complete system.

Last edited by David Boyce; 11/29/20 05:56 AM.
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Originally Posted by PHC Joe
It seems to be working as I am now seeing measurements of 40+ (inside the piano) Anyone else use this sort of solution with their upright piano? Here's a peek.
Wow, good for you for giving something a try! If you've achieved a 10% increase (30% outside the case vs. 42% inside the case), then that DIY solution is working amazing well.

In terms of mold, you can go look at the charts-because it changes with temperature and RH-but as long as you are under 65%, you have no risk of mold. Just look for one of the many charts that are online.

I would, however, move the the gauge elsewhere in the piano. I'm not sure I would celebrate yet, with the gauge being so close to the water, but the preliminary results look promising. I've never tested this myself. But, similar DIY methods like that have exist all over the world for centuries, probably for a reason. With today's technology, anyone can test an approach like this to see if it is a viable option or not.

Honestly, I would have only expected to see something like a 2-3% difference. A 10% difference, if that really is the case further away from the water source, is mind blowing to me.

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As the air in the house is getting dryer with the colder temperatures (I also notice it in my hands which start to require regular applications of Eucerin cream this time of year) I think we have good old osmosis on our side: there is enough dryness surrounding the piano inviting the water wicking up the towel that will tend to spend at least some of the time building up within the case prior to drifting out. I will give this a few weeks (and move the hygrometer around a bit: I like that suggestion). I have some other odds and ends around like little quiet computer fans that I could try putting into service to blow the air around inside the case if the humidity is indeed uneven in this small space. Might even invest in a bit pricier hygrometer with wireless so I don't have be opening the case all the time.

I doubt that mold will be a problem. Right now I am most anxious that I'll somehow manage to dump the water container inside the piano when I go in to refill it from time to time.

Thanks for your opinions. I feel like it seldom gets really humid here for any sustained length of time, but the winter air can indeed be very dry.

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Originally Posted by piano411
In terms of mold, you can go look at the charts-because it changes with temperature and RH-but as long as you are under 65%, you have no risk of mold. Just look for one of the many charts that are online.

.

Correction...
65% humidity is hospitable to mold. To be reasonably certain mold will not grow, ambient humidity should be at or less than 50%.


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Originally Posted by kpembrook
Correction...
65% humidity is hospitable to mold. To be reasonably certain mold will not grow, ambient humidity should be at or less than 50%.
The HVAC people have worked this out using the scientific method. I haven't done the testing myself, but the data seems reasonable to me. Just like the tuning of a piano, mold growth is dependent on both temperature and RH. For neither tuning nor mold can we reference only RH. Both are involved.

There are many charts out there regarding mold growth, this was just the first one that popped up.
https://energyhandyman.com/knowledge-library/mold-chart-for-temperature-and-humidity-monitors/

I prefer 70F in the winter, so according to the chart, I have no risk of mold at 66%. At higher RH levels, they show the days to mold. Kpembrook, maybe you have a different source that substantiates the growth rate of mold going down to 50% that shows how that is statistically relevant?

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OP, I like your setup with the bend wire and the towel. While I haven't tested this myself, I have looked into the water container in the piano concept a long time ago. What I remember is that the surface area was important. So, a cup of water was not effective at all. Your towel, significantly increases the surface area. That is why the roll of newspaper, while extremely low tech, may have an advantage = there is even more surface area. I hope you test out what you have there now, but if you wanted to expand on that, you could bend the wire so that the towel go out and above the container (with a longer towel), and you could probably could even add 2 more wires and towels. At that point, you may want to add some weight to the bottom of the container. As a piano tuner, I have lot of spear lead around, I'd just throw that in the container to lower the center of balance.

Please consider getting 2 data loggers (one for inside the piano and one on the outside). This will track both the temperature and RH and plot the data over time. This is the kind of data that you need to have to know if it is doing anything. You don't need to spend a lot of money on accuracy. The RH may be off a few percent from what the RH actually is, but the relative movements will be accurate. Just find a data logger that you feel comfortable working with.

You don't need to move the air around. Pianos and tunings don't like air movement of any kind. The piano will be OK with uneven moisture in the air, as nature has a way of evening things out.

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FYI, I have tried exactly this setup in the past. I'm sorry to say that it does not do the job (unless you are in an already very moderate climate zone). In my New England area it does not even come close to what is needed to actually approach 45%RH in the winter months.

What you have is essentially a "Dampp-Chaser" reservoir sans evaporater bar. You are "adding" humidity in exactly the same area as the DC unit. The research has been done in this area. DC has the humidifier and the control unit to shut it off at the correct point. I am simply recommending it. I get nothing out of it. It works, and works well.

Hope this helps.

Peter Grey Piano Doctor


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That is the second time in this thread where a person who has spent their professional careers selling and installing Dampp-Chaser systems has referenced research that implies that what OP is doing doesn’t work. I’d sincerely like to read that research for myself. Please, where can I find it? It doesn't have to be published or peer-reviewed, but I would like to read it none the less. People have talked about it like it has been written and tested extensively. I can’t seem to find anything. Can you please help locate this research? I would like to see what the testing protocols were and what kind of data was produced.

OP has stated that he wanted to try a DIY approach. He has already done it. He has submitted preliminary data that appears very promising. If he happens to go through the process and the data contradicts your statements, then the installers here are not actually a neutral party. They have a vested interest in him not going through with a process that seems to be working. Maybe it doesn’t, I don’t know, I’m just stating the obvious.

As a side note, I would be worried about the container spilling. That is a very real possibility. You may want to consider securing the container in some way.

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Tempered probably means that A4 was not brought up to 440Hz ?

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