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#1847379 - 02/18/12 03:52 PM Dampp-Chasers in Steinways
SuperTuner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/07
Posts: 105
Loc: Manhattan, Montana
Hi all!

I've been enjoying reading your posts without responding, as I am continuously forgetting my PW password. This issue merited getting a new one.

I was recently authorized to install a Dampp-Chaser in the new Steinway D at the local university. Afterward, the powers that be discussed this with the Steinway dealer, who strongly discouraged use of a D-Ch, in favor of installing a room humidifier. Now, I am scheduled to remove the system this week.

The environment is rough for this piano. Humidity measures at a consistent <5%RH this time of year, reaching up to 25%-30%RH during a summer rainstorm. The proposed room humidifier would be in the off-stage room the D is usually in, but the stage area is always dry. Additionally, it is often onstage for a day or two at a time.

Knowing how things run in the school, I have doubts that a room humidifier would be filled daily. I'm also worried about how the piano will respond from going back and forth between humid and dry rooms.

Needless to say, this is frustrating for me, after having already spent much of my own time in solving this situation for them. I seem to have hit a wall with the Steinway dealer's recommendations. Can anyone lend some advice? Have you met a similar situation?
_________________________
Elizabeth Heppler, R.P.T.
www.hepplerpiano.com

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#1847396 - 02/18/12 04:16 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Jerry Groot RPT Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 11/07/07
Posts: 6828
Loc: Grand Rapids Michigan
In my college, we have our concert instruments located and LOCKED in a room that is humidity controlled however, we also have a 2 piece DC system on each piano as well. Those pianos do not reside continually ONLY in that humidity controlled room. Sometimes they will sit on stage for several days at a time for various concerts where the humidity is not controlled at all. Have them contact Steinway directly, NOT the dealer. Or, show them information downloaded from the Dampp Chaser website supporting your decision on installing one. I highly recommend it because they work when properly taken care of.
_________________________
Jerry Groot RPT
Piano Technicians Guild
Grand Rapids, Michigan
www.grootpiano.com

We love to play BF2.

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#1847434 - 02/18/12 05:17 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
rysowers Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 04/16/07
Posts: 2340
Loc: Olympia, WA
I agree with Jer. Contact Kent Webb at Steinway directly and tell him about the situation.
KWebb@steinway.com
_________________________
Ryan Sowers,
Pianova Piano Service
Olympia, WA
www.pianova.net

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#1847440 - 02/18/12 05:35 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2545
Loc: PA
Steinway (the company) endorses the Dampp-Chaser in writing.
_________________________
DiGiorgi Piano Service (1984-2013)
http://www.digiorgipiano.com

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#1847510 - 02/18/12 08:04 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1056
Loc: PA
Contact Dammp-Chaser, too. Let them know about this.

They have long lists of conservatories, universities, and cultural institutions that are using D-C systems. I'm sure they would be happy to provide you with their lists.

From your original post:
Quote:
The environment is rough for this piano. Humidity measures at a consistent <5%RH this time of year, reaching up to 25%-30%RH during a summer rainstorm. The proposed room humidifier would be in the off-stage room the D is usually in, but the stage area is always dry. Additionally, it is often onstage for a day or two at a time.


It seems obvious that a portable humidity control system that moves with the piano would be the best way to go in this situation.

Edit: Only you can judge the situation, but it may be time to play a little hardball:
You could have the school ask the dealership to provide a signed statement in writing recommending that the D-C unit be removed, including the reasons. I wonder what the dealer will say when asked...

If you want, you could then offer to provide a signed statement indicating why you recommend the D-C system over just humidifying the storage room, including that the D-C system travels with the piano.


Edited by daniokeeper (02/18/12 08:33 PM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1847547 - 02/18/12 10:04 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
SuperTuner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/07
Posts: 105
Loc: Manhattan, Montana
Thank you all, for responding! I have messages in to Kent Webb, and Dampp-Chaser, but I'm not sure how far it'll get me. Apparently, the seminar Kent just gave in Spokane included discussion against D-Ch altogether. Loren, do you know where I can find that endorsement?
I just love how administrators value the opinion of a dealer (interested in selling) over a technician (much more interested in long-term performance). Apparently, I need to learn how to project more authority. Perhaps after another 16 years at this job, eh?
_________________________
Elizabeth Heppler, R.P.T.
www.hepplerpiano.com

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#1847550 - 02/18/12 10:16 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2545
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: SuperTuner
Loren, do you know where I can find that endorsement?


Hmm...in Dampp-Chaser's past brochures, there was a list of manufacturers that endorse the system, and one of the endorsements was from Steinway. I just checked a recent brochure and the endorsement is absent from the list.

Interesting....
_________________________
DiGiorgi Piano Service (1984-2013)
http://www.digiorgipiano.com

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#1847607 - 02/19/12 01:47 AM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: Loren D]
Horowitzian Offline
8000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/18/08
Posts: 8453
Originally Posted By: Loren D
Originally Posted By: SuperTuner
Loren, do you know where I can find that endorsement?


Hmm...in Dampp-Chaser's past brochures, there was a list of manufacturers that endorse the system, and one of the endorsements was from Steinway. I just checked a recent brochure and the endorsement is absent from the list.

Interesting....


I could not find any references on their website either. Of course they have completely redone their site since the last time I was there...so perhaps I missed it.


FWIW, I'm really happy with the D-C full system in my 'B', and I don't care whether or not Steinway blesses D-C systems anymore.
_________________________
Close only counts in horseshoes, hand grenades, and nuclear weapons.

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#1847624 - 02/19/12 02:29 AM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Dave B Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/01/11
Posts: 1733
Loc: Philadelphia area
I only remember Steinway stating that DampChasers did NOT void the warranty.

I have always kept in mind the possibility that a warranty issue could be blamed on the DC system and or the installer. This may seem a bit paranoid, but I always make sure the decision to install is made by the customer.

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#1847630 - 02/19/12 02:44 AM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
In case the proposed removal goes through I suggest getting a digital humidity data logger and placing it on the beams under the soundboard. Then, after a few months (or a season or two) you can show unequivocally what environmental conditions the piano is being exposed to. The resulting data should provide solid and unquestionable information on which to base further measures.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#1847663 - 02/19/12 05:33 AM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: Supply]
wayne walker Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/29/08
Posts: 515
Loc: Windsor,Nova Scotia Canada
I just checked the piano tech only site of Dampp-Chaser and this was on it.

Steinway & Sons

"The installation of a Dampp-Chaser Humidity Control System can, in our opinion, provide a degree of climate control for the piano which may not otherwise be attainable."


On the public site no mention of Steinway.
_________________________
Wayne Walker
Walker's Piano Service
http://www.walkerpiano.ca/

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#1847687 - 02/19/12 07:31 AM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: wayne walker]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2545
Loc: PA
Thanks, Wayne. That's the statement that used to appear in the DC brochures and literature.

edit: And you're right, it appears on the private tech area of the site, not the public.


Edited by Loren D (02/19/12 07:32 AM)
_________________________
DiGiorgi Piano Service (1984-2013)
http://www.digiorgipiano.com

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#1847816 - 02/19/12 12:33 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2556
Loc: western Wisconsin
As a non-tech who teaches in a university music department--

Have the piano faculty been included in this discussion? Often times the administration doesn't communicate with the people who actually use and teach on these instruments (for that matter, sometimes the techs don't either...).

Can you demonstrate the ravages of insufficient climate control on the instruments currently in your care (i.e. not protected by either a DC or additional humidification)? I can point to two of our concert instruments that have suffered significant problems due to insufficient humidity control at a very young age, and they (allegedly) add a little humidity to the HVAC in the winter here. (RH is in the low 20's in the dead of winter) I'm talking about things like soundboards collapsing, ribs buzzing, failed pinblocks, and bridge caps showing cracks at the pins.

We now have DC systems installed in 5 pianos: four piano teaching studios, and one concert hall piano. 3 of the 4 piano teachers monitor their systems regularly. The other is currently sitting unplugged with pads that are over a year old and probably caked solid with crud. The concert hall installation was probably used for 10 days and then permanently unplugged. I don't know if the problem was water splashing out of the tank when being moved around or people not wanting to maintain it & keep it plugged in.

The system on my piano (full install with undercover) can easily push the RH > 40% on either side of the soundboard when the room humidity is down in the low 20% range in winter. I keep the piano fully closed when I leave work everyday. Tuning seems very stable at this point, and I'm noticing our tech hasn't been around to tune as often...

I would imagine (again, just a layperson talking here) humidity levels as low as the OP describes could provide grounds for denial of warranty coverage in the future. If this is true, does your administrator/piano faculty know this?

fwiw, our Steinway dealer had no problem installing systems on our recent purchases. They did the work themselves.
_________________________
Pianist, teacher, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Casio px-200, Bechstein A190 #192939 @ home
Steinway A #585209, B #416809 @ work
Schimmel 130T #339100, on loan

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#1847825 - 02/19/12 12:51 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Zeno Wood Offline
Full Member

Registered: 11/20/07
Posts: 427
Loc: Brooklyn, NY
It would probably be better for the piano if it kept the DC. But on the other hand, it's their piano, and if they want to keep the DC installed, that's their right, as long you were paid for both the installation and the removal. Also at stake is your working relationship with the college - do you want to continue your work with them? If they end up without a DC in their piano, that could mean more tunings for you, and in a few years there will probably be a nice dramatic crack in the soundboard that you can sadly point to and suggest they get a new piano.

Best of luck whatever happens, it doesn't sound like an easy situation.
_________________________
Zeno Wood, Piano Technician
Brooklyn College

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#1848089 - 02/19/12 09:13 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3297
Well. Here's the thing. For any humidity management system to work, they need to be monitored and maintained, and if they are not, the results may well be worse than it otherwise would be.

The best practice in a situation like this would be to have the building's humidity controlled plus DCs for all the pianos, with a hired student assistant to water them every week.

Even still, the problem with DCs in any institutional setting is that they get unplugged; especially pianos that get moved. The solution to this is to install an unplug alarm that goes off when the DC loses power.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1848435 - 02/20/12 12:09 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
SuperTuner Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/30/07
Posts: 105
Loc: Manhattan, Montana
Again, thank you for all the replies, it does help!

To follow up, I received the following from Kent Webb:


Steinway & Sons does not recommend nor endorse Dampp-Chaser products installed in the piano but as a last resort suggestion where environmental climate-control measures are impossible or not feasible to implement. Not that the Dampp-Chaser doesn't work; it is usually very effective for its intended purpose, but things can go wrong. If not properly installed or maintained it can damage the piano and void the warranty. Another disadvantage is that the Dampp-Chaser targets the soundboard only; that is, it controls the moisture content of the soundboard and thereby imparts tuning stability, but it does not affect or remedy the effects of humidity on the piano in its entirety.



Steinway & Sons recommends environmental humidity control such as room dehumidifiers and room humidifiers or environmental climate-control systems because they affect a piano in its entirety and thereby safeguard it from the effects of excessive humidity swings.



We have always advised environmental climate control where necessary for the maintenance of Steinway pianos. The use of room humidifiers or dehumidifiers and other environmental climate-control measures are sometimes necessary in order to provide a suitable environment for the piano. The use of a hygrometer in the vicinity of the piano is recommended in order to monitor humidity changes. Drastic swings or even gradual fluctuations of relative humidity in excess of 30 points on the hygrometric scale are excessive enough to affect the piano and would indicate the need for protective measures to be taken in the piano's overall environment in order to protect and preserve the piano and its various components such as the soundboard, action, wrestplank, and the finish.



The Dampp-Chaser system, installed inside the piano, is designed to help maintain a consistent moisture content in the soundboard only and thereby to improve tuning stability. The Dampp-Chaser however is not intended for nor is it effective in protecting other components such as the finish, action, and wrestplank of a grand piano kept in an environment of unsuitable humidity conditions.



The installation of a Dampp-Chaser system in a Steinway piano will not, in itself, void the manufacturer’s warranty; however, if any functional or structural damage to the piano should occur because of the unit’s improper installation, operation, or service, then the piano’s warranty would indeed be voided.



Environmental humidity control, rather than a system installed in the piano, is also best for people, pets, and furniture.



STEINWAY & SONS


I will be removing the system this week, and attaching a humidity data logger to the piano. (excellent suggestion, Jurgen, thanks) Hopefully they'll allow me to put the D-Ch into one of the faculty pianos, as I have parts to make that work. Then we'll go from there.

This is the second time I've heard the argument that the soundboard could warp or otherwise be damaged by the water tank. There must have been some really bad installations out there - I've sure never seen this!

At least I'll have job security with the constantly fluctuated piano now, right?
_________________________
Elizabeth Heppler, R.P.T.
www.hepplerpiano.com

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#1848473 - 02/20/12 01:34 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
daniokeeper Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/01/09
Posts: 1056
Loc: PA
The first sentence of his reply would indicate that a D-C installation is correct in this case:
Steinway & Sons does not recommend nor endorse Dampp-Chaser products installed in the piano but as a last resort suggestion where environmental climate-control measures are impossible or not feasible to implement.[Emphasis added]

This piano is mobile. It is routinely moved from storage to the stage. The piano is likely to have more stability issues if it is routinely moved from a humidity controlled room to a dry stage. The soundboard is more likely to split because of the fluctuations in humidity. Btw, this doesn't have to be an either/or thing... Why not humidity control the storage area AND use the Dammp-Chaser?

Edit: So what if a D-C unit only controls the humidity of the soundboard? (Btw, there are some of us on this list who would dispute that a D-C unit has no effect on the wrestplank or action.) This piano is a special case. It is used for public performance. FOR PUBLIC PERFORMANCE. It is unacceptable to have the piano drifting under these circumstances. The humidistat of a D-C unit sits very close to the soundboard to keep the humidity there very consistent.

Again, you gave very good advice re the installation of a D-C unit. It's a pity that you are not being listened to.


Edited by daniokeeper (02/20/12 01:56 PM)
_________________________
Joe Gumbosky
Piano Tuning & Repair
www.tinyurl.com/tunerjoe
(semi-retired)

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#1848479 - 02/20/12 01:56 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
I have a lot of respect for Kent Webb and know him personally. However, anyone who works for Steinway has to say things sometimes that they don't believe themselves or get shown the door. I am also amazed at the number of dealers who could be adding to their bottom line by installing systems before the piano leaves the dealership, yet they forgo substantial profits by believing what some ill-informed people say.

If a concert grand is covered by a heavy quilt cover when not in use as most are, the moisture produced by the humidifiers will, in fact permeate throughout the piano. Yes, the system does "target" the soundboard but hour after hour of operation under the quilt, the moisture cannot disappear into the soundboard wood alone. It has to go somewhere else.

The dealer is misinformed and has no expertise in the matter, yet he is calling the shots. I really sympathize with you in this matter because you are essentially in a dilemma. They are forcing you to take out the one thing that you know will be beneficial yet it will be you who is to blame when the piano does not stay in tune, the soundboard cracks, the finish deteriorates and the tuning pins get loose. Telling them. "I tried to tell you" afterward won't get you anywhere either except out the door.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#1848494 - 02/20/12 02:33 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
beethoven986 Online   content
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 01/20/09
Posts: 3297
The problem, particularly with older DCs, is that the tank rod would not shut off if the system ran out of water. This could inevitably damage the soundboard.
_________________________
B.Mus. Piano Performance 2009
M.Mus. Piano Performance & Literature 2011
PTG Associate Member
Certified Dampp-Chaser installer

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#1848545 - 02/20/12 03:44 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: beethoven986]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2545
Loc: PA
Originally Posted By: beethoven986
The problem, particularly with older DCs, is that the tank rod would not shut off if the system ran out of water. This could inevitably damage the soundboard.


Very true. The new systems are light years ahead of the old ones technologically.
_________________________
DiGiorgi Piano Service (1984-2013)
http://www.digiorgipiano.com

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#1848594 - 02/20/12 05:24 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: SuperTuner
To follow up, I received the following from Kent Webb:
...Steinway & Sons recommends environmental humidity control such as room dehumidifiers and room humidifiers or environmental climate-control systems because they affect a piano in its entirety and thereby safeguard it from the effects of excessive humidity swings...

...The installation of a Dampp-Chaser system in a Steinway piano will not, in itself, void the manufacturer’s warranty; however, Environmental humidity control, rather than a system installed in the piano, is also best for people, pets, and furniture.

STEINWAY & SONS
While there is no doubt that environmental humidity control is the best first line of defense, I have no doubt that any damage to the piano caused by external humidity control operation or service (and I have seen that happen) would also be void any warranty.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#1848600 - 02/20/12 05:38 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
terminaldegree Online   content
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/03/06
Posts: 2556
Loc: western Wisconsin
Using a couple of digital hygrometers (not anything as nice or accurate as what you technicians have), I took a measurement during the winter from the action cavity with the piano closed, overnight. I repeated this over 2 days, once with the DC + undercover, and a second time with the DC alone. RH in the room was identical both days- 23%

The results in the action cavity overnight were certainly less noticeable than that around the "belly" of the piano, but there was still a difference:

Room RH: 23%
RH in action cavity, overnight, DC w/ undercover: 27%
RH in action cavity, overnight, DC w/o undercover: 25%

The RH difference in the area of the soundboard was much more dramatic (even more with the undercover installed, in the high 40% range on either side of the board).

In our case, my desire to have better room humidity control continues to fall on deaf ears, so the DC w/undercover is as good as it's going to get for my Steinway.



Edited by terminaldegree (02/21/12 12:04 AM)
Edit Reason: additional data
_________________________
Pianist, teacher, internet addict.
Piano Review Editor - Acoustic and Digital Piano Buyer
Casio px-200, Bechstein A190 #192939 @ home
Steinway A #585209, B #416809 @ work
Schimmel 130T #339100, on loan

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#1848621 - 02/20/12 06:06 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Bob Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/01/01
Posts: 3789
A 2% difference in RH with and without undercover is not enough of a difference to confirm anything, in my opinion. I installed a full system in a Kawai GS 100. They use a piano cover, but I have not installed an undercover. The DC system has helped stabilize this piano so tunings hold longer. It's in a church, and thanks to ASHRAE, outside air blows into the building, making the environment a bit unstable. I still tune the piano every two months, but it's held much better between tunings since the install. Total pitch drop this winter has been 5 cents...3 cents in December, and another two this month.
_________________________
www.PianoTunerOrlando.com






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#1848656 - 02/20/12 07:22 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
For most of North America, the fact is that all measures taken are still not enough. In other words, no one system or combination could ever be too much.

"...The installation of a Dampp-Chaser system in a Steinway piano will not, in itself, void the manufacturer’s warranty; however, Environmental humidity control, rather than a system installed in the piano, is also best for people, pets, and furniture.

STEINWAY & SONS"

True enough. I recommend both. For that concert grand, storage in a humidified room with a Dampp-Chaser system also operating and a full quilt cover, (under cover too, why not?), then when it is brought on stage, the D-C system still engaged (a heavy duty power cord would be required) then, the piano closed when not in use and covered if not in use for any more than a few hours would work wonders. I know, I service two concert halls and two churches where that is done, 2 Steinway D's and 2 B's.

For three of these, the before and after difference in tuning stability and tuning pin torque consistency was dramatic: like night and day. The second church had the system installed right after delivery over the advice NOT to do it from the dealer. I told the music director it would be the best and really only effective measure to keep the piano sounding good week after week. He is very persuasive with anyone he deals with because he is an extraordinarily gifted musician. He totally trusts in what I tell him too. I have known him for more than two decades.

Hearing of these two contrasting opinions, the church board decided to ask how the $250,000 Hamburg D is maintained at the fabulous concert hall downtown. The answer was that it is kept in a small storage room with a heavy quilt cover and humidity control system operating at all times. The piano is also tuned and maintained in that room. Only when it is time for the piano to be brought on stage for a piano concerto (which is virtually the only use it gets), the system is disconnected and the piano is ceremoniously wheeled out on stage by four men who have a practiced procedure for removing and rolling up the cover, the lid is opened, the artist comes on stage and plays the concerto.

When the concert is over or at intermission, the piano is covered again, put back into its room and the humidity control system re-connected. That quilt not only helps maintain moisture within the piano, it prevents accidental damage to the high polish finish that in seven years of use does not have a single blemish on it. They like it that way and they want to keep it that way.

The scenario that was described by the original poster is a nightmare! Keeping the piano in that humidified room is fine as far as it goes. But the moment the piano comes out of that room and on stage, it begins to lose pitch and go out of tune. If left out for several days, it will be seriously off pitch and out of tune. If it is tuned on the stage and put back in that room, it will go sharp! That is as bad or worse than letting the humidity control system run dry for a week and then watering it after it has been tuned in a dried out state.

Of course, the piano technician will get the blame. The claim will be that the "piano is stored in a humidified room" so, that can't be the reason. "Yes, but only intermittently, it is out of there most of the time" will be dismissed. The same holds true if it has a Dampp-Chaser system whose red light blinks most of the time. "It has that water thing you made us buy!" "Yes, but it is allowed to run dry more often than it gets water." That will be dismissed too because absolutely NOBODY will take responsibility for watering it.

I actually heard this complaint from a university professor who had a Steinway in his home: "There must be something wrong with that system you made me buy because the red light comes on only three days after the yellow one does!" "You must water the piano as soon as you see the yellow light", was the reply. "But that would mean I would have to water it EVERY week!". "Yes, as often as it needs it". "Well, I can't be bothered with THAT!"

That professor had bought an older used Steinway that had been reconditioned. He was originally from Europe and liked to keep his house at 74 degrees F during winter,; otherwise he felt chilly. He regarded the whole humidity issue as nonsense. He had never heard of such things before. Within five years of purchase, the entire soundboard was riddled with cracks and there were vertical cracks in the bridge roots too. It had buzzes all over the place. It was complete toast.

So, there you go. People can often be amazingly foolish about these things. Unfortunately, foolish notions often prevail.

Also, I agree that the "smart bar" was a good addition to the system but the idea that an foot long, 8 watt heating element alone would damage the soundboard is rather far-fetched. If a soundboard failed when the owner neglected to water the system, it is far more likely that the general environment was the major factor.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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#1848664 - 02/20/12 07:40 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Loren D Offline
2000 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/22/10
Posts: 2545
Loc: PA
I agree with Bill in that 8 watts is not going to damage anything.
_________________________
DiGiorgi Piano Service (1984-2013)
http://www.digiorgipiano.com

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#1848950 - 02/21/12 08:32 AM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
James Carney Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/30/10
Posts: 401
Loc: new york city
Originally Posted By: SuperTuner
Hi all!

I've been enjoying reading your posts without responding, as I am continuously forgetting my PW password. This issue merited getting a new one.

I was recently authorized to install a Dampp-Chaser in the new Steinway D at the local university. Afterward, the powers that be discussed this with the Steinway dealer, who strongly discouraged use of a D-Ch, in favor of installing a room humidifier. Now, I am scheduled to remove the system this week.

The environment is rough for this piano. Humidity measures at a consistent <5%RH this time of year, reaching up to 25%-30%RH during a summer rainstorm. The proposed room humidifier would be in the off-stage room the D is usually in, but the stage area is always dry. Additionally, it is often onstage for a day or two at a time.

Knowing how things run in the school, I have doubts that a room humidifier would be filled daily. I'm also worried about how the piano will respond from going back and forth between humid and dry rooms.

Needless to say, this is frustrating for me, after having already spent much of my own time in solving this situation for them. I seem to have hit a wall with the Steinway dealer's recommendations. Can anyone lend some advice? Have you met a similar situation?



Hi Elizabeth,

Try to remember your password, nice to see your posts here. smile

If, as you say, the winter RH in your area is often less than 5%, (makes my skin itch just thinking about it) I would say that damage will likely occur to this piano without a Dampp-Chaser installed. That 5% is less than the EMC that pianomakers shoot for when drying their soundboards before installing, so exposing that unprotected board to those types of conditions can't be good. Even at 20% RH the piano is in danger, but 5%? To me that's a really scary number.

If it were my piano, I'd install a dual-tank DC system along with an undercover, and I'd get the thickest padded cover I could find. I also like the alarm idea but wonder if it could go off at an untimely moment during a performance.

Any time the piano is not in use it should be completely closed up and covered. I would also try to increase the room humidity in both the storage and stage locations. Even your summer humidity levels are far below the target of 40-50% for pianos. And I agree with others above that the DC can be of benefit to the entire instrument when it's always buttoned up between performances.

Wow, it's simply mindblowing that you are being forced to remove the one thing that actually might prevent the piano from falling apart over the next few years. Also, you are the piano expert here and yet your professional opinion is being overruled by laypeople, which I find to be highly disrespectful, not to mention foolish and irresponsible. Maybe it's best to cut the client loose and walk away? Good luck.
_________________________
Keyboardist & Composer, Piano Technician
www.jamescarney.net
http://jamescarneypianotuning.wordpress.com/

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#1849078 - 02/21/12 12:33 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
rxd Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 03/11/09
Posts: 1680
Loc: London, England
I inherited a situation where a small recital hall had a ramshacle room humidity system that was so noisy it was swithched off at the beginning of the day and nobody switched it on again until 9.30pm.

The building supervisor was taking readings personally morning and evening and, of course getting an average that looked quite reasonable. (this was a condition of the guarantee on the organ.). The extremes were,well, extreme and the piano would not stay in tune and the organ was continually playing up. The organ builder refused to allow a unit internal to the organ. I pointed out to them that the system they had was like sleeping with your head in the oven and feet in the refrigerator and claiming that, on average you were quite comfortable.

We live in a data driven society interpreted by people who never step out from behind their desks.

My solution was that because the organ was a copy of one that still stood in a nearby chapel for 250 years with no humidity control and was still being used with a rebuild some years ago. Par for the course. why couldn't this one? Also In the chapel was a similar make and model piano that held it's tuning admirably. We finished up with no control at all. Ours was a no cost solution and everything works fine now but I had to get all concerned parties together to deal with the problem. Also we are in a part of the world that doesn't have such an adverse climate.

The same solution applies. Steinways are very helpful with new piano clients. Has anybody asked them for more detaled sugestions?

An atmosphere such as you describe is also not an ideal atmosphere for singers, or, for that matter other wooden musical instruments. Or even an audience. Is it a new building? How long was the piano in there with no humidity system? How long was it in there with its own humidity system?

Everything points to a room humidity system that includes the room where the piano is kept

This could be expensive.

Expense is not your concern. Getting it right so that the piano doesn't suffer is the Universities' concern. You and Steinways are their advisors.

I have been amazed how finances can suddenly turn up, even in this economic climate.

Does development know of the situation? They keep a little black book for grants, etc.

Get some quotes for a system that keeps both rooms at the same levels. This will cost nothing but will give you valuable information concerning what will have to happen.

Keep what you currently have on the piano until the situation is resolved, no catastrophe is likely to happen.

Bring in or at least notify the vocal dept. and all parties concerned or likely to be concerned. Health and safety. The architect. Sometimes the hot lights are made to serve as part of the heating system It's simply too dry.

A problem shared is a problem halved.

I have something to do. Let me post this now and come back and edit for clarity later.


Edited by rxd (02/21/12 01:21 PM)
_________________________
Concert & Recording tuner-tech, London, England.
"in theory, practice and theory are the same thing. In practice, they're not." - Lawrence P. 'Yogi' Berra.

Eschew obfuscation.



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#1849084 - 02/21/12 12:45 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: James Carney]
Supply Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 09/11/06
Posts: 3919
Loc: Vancouver Island, BC, Canada
Originally Posted By: James Carney
... That 5% is less than the EMC that pianomakers shoot for when drying their soundboards before installing, so exposing that unprotected board to those types of conditions can't be good. Even at 20% RH the piano is in danger, but 5%? To me that's a really scary number.
Just to clarify, there is a huge difference between RH and EMC. I don't have the tables in front of me, but if memory serves, RH of close to 20% at normal temperatures will dry wood to around 5% EMC. Over time, 5% RH would certainly dry wood to much lower EMC levels than 5%. I would agree that 5% RH is something like a death sentence for most pianos and will certainly void any warranty.
_________________________
Jurgen Goering
Piano Forte Supply
www.pianofortesupply.com

Piattino Caster Cups distributor

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#1849094 - 02/21/12 01:01 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Eric Gloo Offline
1000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/28/01
Posts: 1186
Loc: Richfield Springs, New York
Elizabeth, you may want to print out the responses to this thread and present them.
_________________________
Eric Gloo
Piano Technician
Certified Dampp-Chaser Installer
Richfield Springs, New York

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#1849347 - 02/21/12 08:46 PM Re: Dampp-Chasers in Steinways [Re: SuperTuner]
Bill Bremmer RPT Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 08/21/02
Posts: 3036
Loc: Madison, WI USA
After reading through all of these responses from professional piano technicians, I don't see a single one that takes the side against the use of Dampp-Chaser systems. We all know, of course that they need to be carefully and properly installed. The double tank system is called for and the humidifiers need to be placed in the closest position possible to the soundboard and the moisture distribution sheet MUST be installed.

Additionally, the power cord supplied by the manufacturer must not be configured so that it reaches the floor. Having it extend outside of the piano by a few inches is best, then a heavy duty power cord connected to it. In such situations, an orange cord is often used during work and rehearsal periods so that it is seen by personnel. For performances, a black cord is used so that it is not easily seen by the audience and is often taped down or put through a cord runner so that no one trips or stumbles on it.

Other such equipment which needs a power cord gets this kind of attention but for some reason, people seem to thing it odd for a piano to be "plugged in". I have often run into an artist's manager who wanted the piano unplugged for the concert saying, "The piano won't dry out in a few hours, lose the cord". I and the stage technician refuse that order every time. Yes, it will dry out in a few hours and particularly under the circumstances you cite.

Someone mentioned playing "hardball". A piano technician has always been seen as a man's occupation but that is a stereotype. Among the successful women technicians I know of, they are the most strong willed people I know. They have to be. I don't know how much competition there would be for your job but if there isn't any or not much, you would have some built in leverage.

I agree with what Eric Gloo said and I was going to suggest it myself. I would compile all of the answers that are given here, print them up (edit out anything superfluous) and present them to the people you deal with but especially the dealer. If you have not yet uninstalled the system, refuse to do it. If it is not a double tank system, insist that it be upgraded and add the bottom cover. Insist on a heavy duty power cord and a heavy duty cover and a protocol for how the piano is handled, moved, stored and otherwise maintained, particularly the monitoring and watering of the humidifiers.

General environment humidification can be very expensive and there are many considerations. Warm, moisturized air tends to pass through walls and get into insulation and cause unforeseen problems. So, yes, experts on that need to be consulted. Generally speaking, the colder and drier it is outside, the less you can boost indoor humidity without causing damage to the building. The Dampp-Chaser system serves to take over where general environment humidity systems meet their limitations. Both are clearly needed and you must insist upon both.

Put your foot down. If you can survive without this contract, give them an ultimatum. If you do not feel you can do it effectively in person, write up a carefully worded letter to all it may concern (copied for sure to the dealer), with all of the supportive comments. Tell them that as a professional, you cannot take responsibility for your work and the longevity of the piano unless certain basic problems are resolved to your satisfaction.

You may well be shown the door but let happen what will in that case. Let them do it their way, toast the piano and let them void their own warranty and let the dealer eat crow. You may get another chance a few years later with a brand new instrument and all of the protection it requires.

I do wish you good luck in this matter and I hope you will keep us posted.
_________________________
Bill Bremmer RPT
Madison WI USA
www.billbremmer.com

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