Do Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver Systems help with tuning stability?
I always recommend maintaining stable humidity in the room the piano resides in, first and foremost. This is, ultimately, the best possible solution for the piano, although in Maine this can be challenging. If this is not possible, the Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver System can protect the most vulnerable parts of your piano and assist with tuning stability.
I’ve installed remote humidity sensors in several pianos, both equipped with Dampp-Chasers and not. My finding has been that Dampp-Chasers do, in fact, keep the humidity inside pianos noticeably more stable. In the attached graph, the Dampp-Chaser protected piano (in gray) can be seen hovering around 35% relative humidity, even while the room (in blue) experiences a relatively normal variation in humidity. The sample for this graph is the period of about a week.
Do Dampp-Chaser Piano Life Saver Systems protect my piano from extreme humidity?
One of the largest benefits of a Dampp-Chaser system is that it protects several of the main structural components of your piano from the harshest extremes. During the winter months, in some evenings the relative humidity indoors can be as low as 15%. This is close to the humidity the piano might experience in the desert. Conversely, Maine summers can see relative humidity clearing 80%. Both of these extremes can be absolutely devastating for soundboards, bridges, and other finely constructed wooden components and glued joints.
The dehumidifier also does a superb job keeping out condensation and mold. A dehumidifier only system (about a third the cost of the full system) can be installed in pianos susceptible to mold.
However, it’s important to mention that the Dampp-Chaser system does NOT protect the pinblock. Even though the Dampp-Chaser offers significant protection to much of the piano, the humidity of the room should always be controlled to the extent possible.
Does the piano have to be tuned after the Dampp-Chaser is installed?
Generally there will be some settling after the system is installed. The usually recommendation is to wait about two weeks for the piano to settle, and then tune it.
Often with my customers, I’ll recommend timing their Dampp-Chaser install for a few weeks before their next regularly scheduled tuning.
Do I need to do anything once it’s installed?
Your only obligation is filling the humidifier when it requires it. There’s a light installed on the piano that will flash when the system needs to be filled, and it comes with a special fill bucket.
Do they wear out?
There are no moving parts, so Dampp-Chaser systems generally last decades. Once every year or so, the humidifier will require a new set of paper wicks, and I provide these for free at regular tuneups.
Why do Dampp-Chaser system installation quotes vary so much?
The Dampp-Chaser is a retail product, sold through technicians. The technician acts as both the installer and the retailer. Aside from the initial price of the product and any delivery fees, the technician will add a retail markup (usually between 50-100%) and then add their install fee, which might be flat rate or hourly. Different technicians handle this pricing structure very differently, and you’ll see Dampp-Chaser quotes ranging widely. For your average upright, I’ve seen “installed prices” between $400 and $800. For regular tuning customers, I do not charge any markup (excepting to cover shipping), and add only the installation fee.