I saw Debbie from the corner of my eye coming to the door for her piano lesson. I had to squint because the sun was bright that morning, but she appeared to be carrying a fishing pole. I turned back to the student who was on a FaceTime lesson, finishing my sentence and the lesson plan, before turning to Debbie, now in the room, to ask what was up.
She asked me if I knew what she had. Closer now, I replied, “Yes, that’s a heating rod for a Dampp Chaser system. Where’d you get it?”
She explained she’d picked it up from a local store, and she wasn’t quite sure what to do with it. Then she opened her right hand to show me a small plastic hygrometer, similar to the ones I’ve seen in cigar boxes. “I’m not sure what I’m supposed to do with this thing either,” she said.
Some things are best left to professionals, and I feel installing a climate control system in a piano is one of them.
With pianos, humidity matters. Forced hot air heat/AC vents and various types of fireplaces can be very drying for both your skin and the piano soundboard. Windows open in the humid summertime months causes the wood to swell, just like your doors or floorboards will do.
There are solutions to these problems. The Piano Saver is made by the Dampp Chaser Company and will regulate the humidity levels for you. Quoting from their website: “Extreme or fluctuating humidity levels can have detrimental effects on your piano, ranging from inconsistent pitch to long-term structural damage. The Piano Life Saver provides a consistent environment for your piano, prolonging tunings and the life of your piano.” These systems come with proper humidistats so that they automatically run when appropriate. All you have to do is add water in the dry months when the indicator light comes on.
If you own a grand piano, a piano string cover is something else you might wish to consider. This is a wool cover that is placed inside the piano on top of the strings. This cover doesn’t need to be removed when playing. It completely covers the strings, soundboard, tuning pins, and plate. By keeping moisture and dust off the strings, the potential for rust is greatly reduced. The cover also helps optimize a humidity control system by keeping the air contained around the soundboard. If you live near the coast like we do here on Cape Cod, you already know the salty air can cause your car to rust -- and it can also easily lead to rust on your piano strings.
Both the Dampp Chaser system and the string covers are reasonably priced and well worth the investment, in my opinion. As always, I suggest discussing these things with your piano technician. Having a professional do the work for you will free up your time to play piano – or go fishing!