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Fireplaces and Pianos

Posted By: mrose

Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/26/07 02:36 AM

Ok, this might seem like a basic question, but I promised my family I'd do my due diligence . . .

I have a wonderful Steinway that I hope to keep for many many years. It currently sits far from any windows, and it is equipped with a dampchaser and is hydrated by an additional humidifier. Here's the catch: the piano is adjacent to an inoperable fireplace, and my kids desperately want me to put the fireplace in working condition. Naturally I'm concerned about what effect it will have on my beloved and well cared for piano. The piano is not in front of the fireplace, and the question is whether the problematic heat from fireplaces is typically directed forward (so that its current placement would not be problematic), or if there's some way of protecting the piano by means of heat shielding panels or anything else. (As you can probably tell, I have little experience with fireplaces).
Also, are there factors apart from the heat generated by fireplaces that can harm pianos of which I should be aware?
Any ideas?????? I'd like to accommodate my kids' wishes if possible, but if it's not possible then the family will just have to deal with it. Thanks so much in advance! -- Mark
Posted By: Piano*Dad

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/26/07 03:28 AM

In a word, don't.

Radiant heat is not good. I'm not a wood expert, but I would think that radiant heat would do potentially very nasty things to the working parts of a piano and to the wood by direct drying. I can't imagine having much tuning stability with a working fireplace making for substantial changes in temperature in the direct area of the piano. The fireplace likely would wreak havoc on your careful humidity controls as well. If the fireplace created quick changes in humidity that your Dampp-chaser and other humidifier could not counter you could wind up prematurely aging or cracking your soundboard.
Posted By: mr_super-hunky

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/26/07 03:43 AM

I have recently done a lot of research on just this topic as I'm about to have my acoustic piano moved into our log home that we are using a wood burning stove to heat.

While heating a home with wood is fine, so long as you monitor your rooms constant humidity levels (around 40%), PianoDad is right in that *direct* radiant heat is very bad is you could create *hot spots* of uneven temperatures/dryness on the piano.

This would only happen if your piano is fairly near the heat source however.

In my case, the wood stove is around 30' away and since heat rises (quickly), ther will be no radiant heat directed at the piano to create hot spots or uneven dryness.

You may want to do a test by placing a piece of plywood with a thermometer on it in the proposed location of your piano and then fire up the fireplace. Should the temperature vary even one degree from one spot on the piano to another, I would'nt do it.

Unfortunately, your piano is already in its location and you would have to move it to try it out.
Posted By: SEODave

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/26/07 04:07 PM

I also agree that radiant heat is your problem, particularly with a fireplace. But I also think that a simple heat shield would be a workable solution.

I don't think fireplaces do very much to actually heat the air. Most of the convective heat is lost via the draft up the chimney. It's all infrared radiant heat. It's a line-of-sight issue. It seems that you could possibly adapt a standard fireplace screen to include an opaque heat shield that's just large enough to interrupt the view between the flames and your piano.

Humidity may also be a problem but I'd say that depends on the size of your house. The fire itself does not dry the air. Actually, water vapor is a common byproduct of wood combustion. You're not going to have a concentration of low humidity right in the vicinity of the fireplace. When the fireplace draws air, somewhere that air is replaced with outside air seeping in through gaps. As the cold outside air warms up, it sucks up all the moisture from inside your house. If the inside space is large enough to absorb the impact, it shouldn't cause dramatic fluctuations beyond what your humidity system can cope with.

Although it should go without saying, with a Steinway at stake, I'll say it anyway: I'm not an expert on this subject.
Posted By: jazzwee

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/26/07 04:29 PM

I have a gas fireplace and my Steinway is a few feet off the side. I have turned on the fireplace since I've had my piano. The direct heat from the fireplace is usually minimal, as SH says. Most of the heat is wasted. At least in the case of gas fired flames, the byproduct is water so I've seen the humidity rise and seen the dampp-chaser kick in.

I'm not particularly worried as I was monitoring the increase in humidity and it wasn't too much of a change (5% in my case). I didn't fire up the fireplace to a high setting though and it was already a humid rainy day.
Posted By: -Frycek

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/26/07 08:18 PM

I would recommend you repost this question on the Piano Technicians Forum. They're the guys who really know this stuff.
Posted By: mrose

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 11/27/07 03:31 PM

Thank you very much, everyone, for all your very helpful suggestions. -- Mark
Posted By: Cheech Maroon

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 08/11/09 02:13 PM

I found this topic searching for a solution to my inquiry. Everyone seems to say "no..no..no" under any circumstances.. but I want to know the real deal.

I am planning on building a large pole barn with an upstairs recording studio (and also my living area) in Tennessee. The building would have 15' high peak at the top and 9 foot on the wall. I plan on building with geothermal radiant floor heating as my primary heat for the living/recording area and want a wood stove just for enjoyment (obviously not to be used when recording). So, the piano would sit about 12' from the woodstove- I could even push it easily to about 20' away when in use if I wanted too with my floor plan. Say I cover the piano and put a reflective panel in between line of sight when it's lit up?
I don't really want the wood stove for heating the whole area, just for pleasure. Lets say I get a wood stove rated only for around 1000 square feet (the building is 2000 square feet). With such high ceilings, is this a good enough distance away from a moderate output wood stove? With radiant floor heating, I can't imagine cranking up the wood stove very high... especially in Tennessee.

What do you think of all this?

There's no where farther to put the piano. I'm hoping I don't have to scrap the wood stove as I love fire!!
Posted By: jotur

Re: Fireplaces and Pianos - 08/11/09 04:08 PM

hi, Cheech - welcome to Piano World.

Like -Frycek above, I think this post would get expert answers in the Piano tuners/tech Forum. Not that Hunky might not chime in again with his 2 years of experience, because he might. And *I* can say from experience his piano's still in good shape!

Your new dwelling sounds like a dream -

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