This article is a part of our Caring for Your Piano series, where we go over various tips and tricks to keep your piano both looking and playing like new.
What is the Dampp Chaser system?
The most common causes of piano malfunctions are humidity fluctuations. Every piano contains hundreds of small wooden parts, skillfully engineered to meet the exact needs of a given instrument. However, as the humidity in a room changes, the piano's wooden parts expand and contract as they absorb the moisture in the air. Over time, this fluctuation causes the piano to go out of tune, and eventually even damages the components inside. This is where the Dampp Chaser system comes in.
The Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver system (we usually just call it "Dampp Chaser") is an internal humidity control system that protects your piano from humidity fluctuations by monitoring and changing the piano's interior humidity in real time. Instead of managing the humidity of your entire home, which is an incredibly difficult and inefficient task, Dampp Chaser monitors the humidity changes inside the piano itself and makes adjustments to keep the interior at an optimal 45% humidity.
How does Dampp Chaser work?
The system is made up of three key parts: The humidistat, dehumidifier, and humidifier. These three components work together to ensure the piano stays at an optimal humidity at all times. The humidistat monitors the humidity around itself, and activates the dehumidifier or humidifier as needed, when the humidity exceeds or falls under safe levels. When the humidity level is too high, the dehumidifier kicks in and warms the damp air to encourage proper airflow and lower the moisture levels. In the same way, the humidifier activates when there is too little moisture, to provide the extra humidity needed.
What are the benefits of Dampp Chaser?
Pitch and Tone
The soundboard is the largest piece of wood in your piano. It essentially functions as a speaker: amplifying the sound made by the strings. In order for the piano to have proper tone, the strings, bridge, and soundboard all have to be in tension together. To enforce this tension, the strings are designed to have a slight downward angle on both sides of the bridge.
Additionally, the soundboard has a slight upward curve. These two factors have to be very precise, or else the piano's tone is changed dramatically. When the humidity inside the piano drops, the soundboard shrinks and flattens, which lowers the string tension, in turn, flattening the pitch. Similarly, when the humidity increases, the soundboard swells and curves more, which makes the pitch go sharp. Maintaining proper humidity levels prevents both of these issues.
Improved Quality of Action
When you press a key on your piano, there are many tiny wooden parts that have to move in sync with each other in order to make the hammer strike the strings and play a note. Altogether, there are literally thousands of these little parts that make up the action of the piano, and very minor changes in humidity can affect these parts dramatically, destroying the precision and changing the touch that you've grown accustomed to. In vertical pianos, this effect is particularly prevalent. The Dampp Chaser system greatly helps alleviate these issues.
Preventing Sticking/Loose Keys
When exposed to high humidity, the wooden keys of your piano can expand and become slow to respond, or even stick down. On the other side of the spectrum, when the keys become too dry, they may shrink and rattle around, making unwanted noise and leading to expensive repairs down the line.
Preventing Permanent Soundboard Damage
Extended exposure to changing humidity can permanently damage your piano's soundboard and bridge. This damage often takes the form of cracks and pressure ridges in the soundboard. These damages are permanent, and do extreme damage to the value of your instrument. You can effectively eliminate this risk by managing the humidity level inside your piano.
How do I get Dampp Chaser?
The Dampp Chaser system is highly calibrated and requires professional installation. Ask a local piano technician, or check Dampp Chaser's list for more information. You can easily order Dampp Chaser systems from our store.
We highly recommend using the Dampp Chaser Piano Life Saver system for your piano! It will definitely save you money on tunings and repairs down the line. Don't wait until the damage has been done; protect your instrument with the best humidifier/dehumidifier system on the market.