Piano Dehumidifier 101: Why it is Important

A piano dehumidifier keeps your keyboard action smooth, solves sticking keys, and can even keep your piano in tune longer!

A piano dehumidifier keeps your keyboard action smooth, solves sticking keys, and can even keep your piano in tune longer!

Regulating humidity in your piano room is important. A piano dehumidifier is one of the keys to keeping your piano working well, especially in the summer months (or year-round if you live in a warm climate).

So much of your piano is made of wood. Many very intricate wooden parts work together (called the piano action) to make that piano sound we love so much.

Humidity affects wood: higher humidity causes wood to swell. (Think about how some of your doors and cabinets are harder to open and close in the summer.)

In your piano, wood swelling in humidity means that your piano action - all those tiny parts - become sluggish. Your piano suddenly becomes harder to play and goes sharp as the soundboard swells, increasing pressure on the strings.

And although you can't see it, the extra wear and tear on the wooden parts will mean more maintenance work in the future.

Even in our modern, climate-controlled homes, changing seasons and our use of heat and air conditioning change the environment around your piano. Rises and falls in temperature and humidity can cause sticking piano keys, tuning problems, and affect the keyboard action.

In extreme conditions, wood can even crack, or your piano's case can start to come apart as the glue can't hold the flexing wood.

The best way to keep your piano in wonderful condition (aside from regular tuning, of course) is to regulate the humidity in the room where your piano lives.

Piano Dehumidifier 101

The piano technician I used to work for (as a teacher) recommended a relative humidity of 45% in my piano room. I've read some technicians recommend even lower, around 40%.

It's easy to find out the relative humidity in your room with a nice little tool called a hygrometer (humidity gauge).

A quality piano dehumidifier for the summer months can keep that humidity away. In the midwest where I grew up, the humidity in the summer was often above 90%! That's twice what is recommended for your piano.

A few tips on using a dehumidifier:

  • Dehumidifiers can be noisy. If your piano is in the main room of your house, such as a living room, think about investing in a quiet dehumidifier to keep the annoyance at a minimum.
  • You need to check and empty the storage tank regularly, sometimes every day.
  • If you happen to have a sink or drain nearby, you can use a hose and pump system to pump the water from the tank. We do this in our basement, it works wonderfully. (Unfortunately, I don't have a way to do this where my piano is.)
  • Dehumidifiers produce a bit of heat. In a small room, it could be a better choice to use a small air conditioner.
  • You will see an increase in your electric bill, usually $15-$25 per month depending on the size of your room and the climate.

Modern dehumidifiers have settings that allow you to control how much drying they do. You'll need to experiment with your particular machine and your hygrometer to find the levels that work best for your room.

A piano dehumidifier is one of the simplest ways to keep your piano in excellent condition, minimize wear and tear on your keyboard action, and make your technician's job easier. It will save you money and make practicing much more enjoyable (have you ever played on a piano with keys that stick? So frustrating!).

And let's face it, anything that helps us enjoy practicing is a good thing, right?

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