Humidity, Temperature, and Keeping Your Piano In Tune

Aside from playing, the two things which most affect the tune of a piano are temperature and humidity. Of those, humidity is the predominant factor. Piano manufacturers recommend that relative humidity be maintained in the range of 35 percent to 45 percent. For most climates, in modern homes, humidification and/or dehumidification may be required.

The following information is specific to the Wasatch Front area of Utah

In Utah, we fortunately avoid extremely high humidity conditions. The main issue we need to mitigate is extremely dry indoor air during the winter time. If you monitor the relative humidity in your home, you will find that in the spring, summer, and fall humidity ranges from 30 to 40 percent. While the 30 percent is somewhat below manufacturer recommendations, this range is reasonable for good piano care. Importantly, it is a fairly narrow range. The problem we experience here is the wide variance in the cold winter months. If you measure relative humidity in January, you'll find that it drops into the teens. With whole house humidification you'll be able to move it back into the 30 to 35 percent range. That's good for the piano and good for the people. Personally, without humidification, I experience dry, itchy skin and splitting finger tips during the winter season. With humidification, those problems are minimized. So it's a win-win. Humidification units install on your central furnace quite simply. The unit I use is manufactured by April-Aire: www.aprilaire.com

Systems are also sold for controlling the local humidity of the piano. The market leader is Dampp-Chaser. The Damp-Chaser system utilizes humidification and dehumidification componenents to keep the soundboard of your piano at within a tightly controlled range year-round. The only downside of the system is that it does take some attention from the piano owner. I am a certified installer of Damp-Chaser systems.

Tips

  • Avoid extreme changes of temperature and humidity
  • Cover or close heating vents adjacent to the piano
  • Do not expose the piano to direct sunlight
  • Install whole house humidification to avoid dry winter air

The big myth

Have you heard: Never place your piano on an outside wall? If you live in a modern home with good insulation, don't worry about it. With good insulation and low air infiltration, your piano is just fine on an outside wall.