I'm Tony Miceli, and I'm a vibe player in Philadelphia, Pa. I play, teach and I run

Saturday, February 10, 2007

Humidifiers & pianos - Any tips?

Having recently acquired a grand piano, I've been doing some reading about humidity and its effect on pianos.

"Relative humidity," measured as percentage, expresses the amount of water vapor actually in the air compared to the maximum amount the air could hold at a certain temperature. When the relative humidity level drops low, moistures leaves the piano and the pitch can fall, tuning pins can loosen, and parts can rattle. Also, drastic seasonal swings in relative humidity and resulting repeated expansion and contraction of wood can cause damage through cracking and warping.

It's said that the ideal humidity level for pianos is about 40-50%. In recent months, the humidity in my place has ranged from around 65% down to 20% - not good. (By the way, I've been pleased with this $19 thermometer/hygrometer I picked up at Radio Shack to measure humidity and temperature - it has a nifty feature of showing the high and low points in between resettings.)

I've started to research humidifiers - both room humidifiers and systems that attach underneath the piano to regulate humidity at the soundboard. Two concert pianists I know in New York use Venta room humidiers, which are $200-300 for the size I'd need. Another Philadelphia pianist is happy with a less expensive Sears brand for about $170.

I've heard the Dampp-Chaser system that is installed on a piano costs around $400-500 (not including labor - a technician must install it if you want the warranty). I know one professional pianist who used one, but then removed it with no ill effects.

If you've got any experience with humidifiers, please share! Thanks.


  • At 1:09 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    are there good humidifiers and bad ones? all they have to do is put moisture in the air right? i live in new york and have a friend who puts a pot of water in the room near the piano.


  • At 12:59 PM, Blogger Skimmie said…

    If a pot of water works for your friend, that's great! However, my insane cats would spill that in no time, and I'd like to have a little more control over a system to maintain the humidity at a level I choose.

    Actually, I think in fact there are good and bad humidifiers, or at least I'm learning they have differing features. Some are warm mist, some cool mist, some ultrasonic. Some require filters (added maintenance & expense) and some don't. Some can deposit white dust in your home if not properly filtered. They also vary based on the size of room they will humidify. Some will monitor the humidity in the room and keep it at a certain level, others won't. Some turn off if they run out of water, some don't. Some require filling more frequently than others. It all kind of makes my head spin!

    I had found one I like the sound of til I read some customer reviews saying the floors were totally wet after the system ran overnight. I don't want to take a chance with that on my hardwood floors.

    Anyway, I think I'm going to try a Venta if I can find that Bed Bath & Beyond coupon I stuck somewhere....if that doesn't work out, a pot of water may well be next.


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