Low Humidity

Discussion in 'Hardware, Setup & Repair [BG]' started by dxb, Sep 18, 2017.

  1. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    For many years I've kept all my instruments in a basement room that was a little on the dry side but still around 40%, which was humid enough to keep my instruments intact. But now I've had to move all my gear to a different room where the humidity hovers around 20-25%. I can keep several of them in cases many don't have a case and I also want to be able to keep several out to play, but I'm concerned about the air being too dry. How do other people who live in a very dry climate manage this issue? Thanks.
  2. Turnaround

    Turnaround Commercial User

    May 6, 2004
    Toronto Canada
    Independent Instrument Technician, and Contractor to Club Bass and Guitar - Toronto
    Get a room humidifier. Adjust it so that the room is around 45% RH.
    Diamond_Dave and dxb like this.
  3. Ant Illington

    Ant Illington I'm Anthony but I'm only illin' Inactive

    And be sure to set up a humidity measurer (hydrometer?) across the room or where your instruments are because the sensor on the machine will be measuring and, consequently operating the machine, based on the air right around the machine. Adjust the machine setting to make the general room air where you want it based on the meter across the room. Might take a day or two to figure it out, depending on how much babysitting you want to do. It's probably not as big a deal with a humidifier as with a dehumidifier which has a pot of discharged water skewing things but something to consider, nonetheless. I use a basement dehumidifier and once it shuts off it rapidly reads the humidity way higher than the air across the room then kicks on way early and will over-dry things... and run up my electric bill.
    dxb likes this.
  4. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    Thanks for the replies so far. Will a room humidifier also control the temperature? The room gets in the high 80's during the day which is probably not ideal either.
  5. 202dy

    202dy Supporting Member

    Sep 26, 2006
    Hygrometer. Used to measure water vapor in the air.

    Hydrometers measure specific gravity (relative density) of a liquid to water. Used by the folks who ferment adult beverages.
    GrooverMcTube and JGbassman like this.
  6. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    So I've been researching room humidifiers for a while and I'm having a lot of trouble deciding. Does anyone have a specific recommendation for something that's reliable, relatively quiet, and most importantly low maintenance? Most of the ones I've looked at need daily- or even twice daily- water refills, require frequent replacement of expensive filters and various types of maintenance like taking apart and cleaning the fan. I'd like to avoid as much of that as possible.
  7. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    South Bend, Indiana
    This is going to make me unpopular - well, more than I am already, I imagine - but, my solution is to do... nothing. I have basses and guitars of all types, that have been in the house here with me since 1990, and they seem to be just fine. According to the US government weather websites, the relative humidity in Las Vegas runs from a low of 13% (June) to a high of 40% (January), for an average of 27.7%. When I get a new bass/guitar, it takes a week or 3 of sitting out on a stand to get it acclimated. Then, I tighten all the screws and whatever; do a set up on it; and it's good to go. Usually stays that way, too. Fret boards do tend to get a little dry, but that's easy to deal with. Other than that? No problems so far...
    So, should you do what I do? Lots of people here will tell you "Oh GOD, no!" But, that's up to you. Personally, I have no desire to create a micro climate in my house; spend a lot of time maintaining it; and have a bunch - and I do have a bunch - of "Bubble-baby" instruments that can't leave their room, lest they dry out and blow away. But, some folks do... As for humidifiers themselves? Yes, they are maintenance intensive and a PITA. Your other alternative might be to install a swamp cooler. There are a ton of older, cheaper houses here in Vegas with them, and they do work pretty well. And, judging by all the rusty tools in my friend's garages that have a swamp cooler on the roof? They keep it pretty humid in there, too ...:whistle:
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2017
  8. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    The humidity here is similar to what you describe. I managed this in the past by keeping all my instruments in a basement studio and had pretty constant humidity in the high 30's to low 40's. Even then I often had to oil rosewood fretboards because they got dry, but there were no other major issues. Now I've had to move everything above ground though and the new room has been hovering around 20% for the last few weeks.

    Do you have any acoustics or is it all electrics? I'm honestly not too worried about my solid-body electric guitars and basses- especially the ones with maple boards that are entirely coated in poly- but I have several acoustics and also semi-hollows and a couple electrics with unfinished maple necks that I am concerned about.
  9. GIBrat51

    GIBrat51 Innocent as the day is long Supporting Member

    Mar 5, 2013
    South Bend, Indiana
    Trio 1.jpg Except for a mandolin - and a banjo - they're all electric. But, 3 of the guitars, and 4 of the basses, are true hollow bodies; and some of them - like these 3 Japanese Epiphones - are 40+years old. One of the guitars, and 3 of the basses, are semi-hollows; with one exception, all of those are at least 20 years old. I know acoustics tend to be sensitive to humidity- or the lack of it - but, nothing I have shows any problems I can see. Well, the banjo does; but it was made in 1963, and it's a banjo...:whistle:
    dxb likes this.
  10. theRocco


    Jan 7, 2010
    The Expanse
    I live in Southern California and my room averages 40-50% Relative Humidity most of the time, a "safe" zone imo for most of my acoustic guitars, solid-body electric guitars and basses, which I leave out on stand or hanging on the wall year round--but during the cold, dry winter the RH in the room goes down to 10-15% quite often (with the electric heater and/or the room steam radiator on, the RH goes even lower).

    I get "fret sprout" (sharp fret ends) on my solid-body guitars and basses, and the Fender basses get higher action, too. I've noticed that the sprout disappears when the weather changes and humidity levels return to the "normal" 50% range.

    I just started putting out a bowl of water in the room (it's a small room), near some of the guitars and basses on stands on the floor, and another bowl of water on top the steam radiator and will see if this helps--I hesitate to purchase a Room Humidifier because of the maintenance and health issues if they become "dirty" or moldy.

    I'll report back how the bowls of water work--anybody else trying this?
    dxb likes this.
  11. dxb


    Dec 25, 2016
    I've pretty-much given up on the idea of sealing off the room and running a humidifier. Its just too much of a hassle to constantly refill water tanks and clean or replace the wicks, not to mention the long-term cost of buying replacements. At $10-20 a pop and having to replace them every couple months, that really adds up over time.

    I think ionizing humidifiers might be better in that they don't use wicks, but any minerals in the water turn into white powder that settles on everything in the room. I don't know for sure that the water here has a lot of sediment but it probably does. I might test sometime just to find out for sure though.

    At the moment my strategy is just to buy more hard-shell cases that are air-tight and keep my most expensive instruments in those when I'm not playing them. The winter has also brought a slight increase in humidity which helps.
  12. 96tbird

    96tbird PLEASE STAND BY

    There’s millions of fifty year old acoustic guitars in the world that have just sat in corners and are perfectly fine. As long as they aren’t out in the elements stop worrying. Cold Dampness is the worst thing for wood so avoid that. If in the basement, keep them away from outside walls and corners; damp cold is focused there.

    Huge temperature swings with huge humidity swings in short periods is not desirable. Consistency in both, whatever that is, is fine. Slow seasonal changes are fine.

    Cool and dry is fine. Warm and humid is fine. Warm and dry is fine.

    My 1962 jazz bass is fine. Never had a lick of special care. I know it’s provenance. Originally owned by a dirt farmer that had a hell hole of a house. Then hung for five years in the wall of a furniture dealer in a small Canadian prairie town. Then bought by a gentleman that couldn’t even select the right strings to fit the nut: had a B string in the E slot. He kept it in a bedroom in a case for forty years. There is nothing dryer than a Canadian prairie winter. The humidity in summer shoots right up. But it’s GRADUAL. that’s the key.

    You are way over thinking this stuff.
    Last edited: Dec 9, 2017
  13. mapleglo

    mapleglo Gold Supporting Member

    Sep 7, 2013
    phoenix, az
    I tend to agree. I have like 25 guitars and basses hanging on the walls, on stands, and a few in cases here year around in my music room. The humidity ranges from 5% in the summer @90 degrees (my husband closes the A/C vent in here to "save money") to maybe 60% @ 60 degrees in the winter (no heat in this room). Other than the occasional seasonal truss rod adjustment and some random fret sprout, there's been no ill effects.

    Oh, and when our swamp cooler died, I insisted that we do not get it fixed. I hated that thing. I would imagine the last thing I want is a cool, wet stream of air blowing on my instruments.
  14. bigtone23


    Dec 10, 2014
    Denver, CO
    I don't do anything. They are all stored in the basement, which is just a touch more humid than the rest of the house. Being that it's dry around here, it just takes a few weeks to acclimate. I then do like what was mentioned above: tighten the hardware, file the fret ends, do a set up and play.
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