Heating Season: Humidifier/Hygrometer Recommendation

MGT88

It's heating season; our (chess equipment collectors) least favorite time of year. It feels like a good time to recommend some humidification equipment:

  • Link to my post about humidity: https://www.chess.com/forum/view/chess-equipment/humidity-research-and-questions
    • Cliffs: Keep your chessmen/boards in a temperature/humidity controlled room (18/21 degrees C, 45-50% RH), away from direct sunlight and direct sources of humidity (like vents/humidifiers), exposed to the open air (chessmen should not be trapped inside a coffer, and boards should not be kept flat (they should be stored vertically so both sides of it are exposed to the air, unless you can raise them up with a spacer of some kind)).
  • Hygrometer:
  • Humidifier:
    • Boneco Air O Swiss S250 Digital Steam Humidifier + Distilled Water: https://www.thebay.com/boneco-air-o-swiss-s250-digital-steam-humidifier-44903/product/0600089711362?R=834546000985&P_name=Boneco+Air+O+Swiss&Ntt=boneco+s250&N=0
      • The trouble with humidifiers is water; tap water contains minerals (which create limescale (gunk)) and sitting water breeds bacteria; as a result, almost every humidifier on the market has bad reviews (because water is hard to manage) and requires either expensive filters or regular cleaning with chemicals (or both). In order to prevent limescale (which builds up VERY quickly, clogs/gunks up machinery, and is a pain to constantly clean), distilled water should be used; distilled water does not contain any minerals, therefore it does not produce limescale. In order to prevent bacteria, 99% of humidifiers on the market require filters/regular cleaning with chemicals (they are either ultrasonic (no fitler, regular cleaning) or evaporative (expensive filters, regular cleaning)). After a ton of research, I finally found one of the few (if not only) steam humidifiers on the market, which is the Boneco S250. Why is the steam-style S250 the best option? The S250 boils water to create steam to humidify the room, which means it kills any bacteria that may be in the water, which means you don't need any filters and you don't need to clean it (however, some discretion is required here; the water tank is separate from the reservoir, and while it does not (in theory) need to be cleaned because any water inside it will be boiled when it moves to the reservoir, it should still be air dried after each use (every day if used daily) and cleaned (with vinegar or something similar) at least once per season). The S250 is a very well-made product, has some nice features (like a programmable hygrostat and a self-cleaning mode), and is probably the lowest/cheapest maintenance humidifier on the market; if you run only distilled water through it, you really don't have to do anything other than air dry the water tank after each use and clean the water tank with vinegar at the end of each heating season.
CyborgDokey

Helpful post! thank you 

Rubicon0367
Owners of stringed musical instruments need also be concerned with humidity, temperature and storage conditions. The only reason I have a hydrometer is for my acoustic guitar.

My methodology for combating the drying effect of central heating is to dry my laundry on the radiators if the hydrometer is giving a low humidity reading.

I learned though that in a centrally heated or air conditioned environment, a hydrometer is a good device to have to combat the health issues that can arise from air that is either too damp or too dry. You don’t need to have a musical instrument or expensive chess sets to reap the benefits of a hydrometer.
Laskersnephew
Yes, Winter and dry air is the worst time for acoustic guitars, so it stands to reason that high quality wood sets and boards would need special care
andrewv128

This is actually far more interesting than I thought it would be!

RussBell

About 1/4 cup of bleach in the water tank will kill any bacteria and will not harm the humidifier.

MGT88
Some additional pieces of helpful information:

- Gravity has no real effect on boards.
- Temperature has no *direct* impact on the shape/size of wood (in other words, temperature conditions alone do not cause warping of any kind; temperature, however, does have an impact on RH (which DOES have an impact on the size/shape of wood), so temperature can have an indirect impact)
- HVAC air (both hot and cold (when fan is set to “auto”)) reduces RH; it can be helpful to control the air vents serving the room your chess pieces are in (controlled blocking in the winter, open in the summer)
MCH818

I thought I would dig up this old thread which might be relevant to some of the discussions here at CB&E. @MGT88 suggested to me previously in a PM that I should strongly consider buying a hygrometer. He highly recommend the AcuRite 01083M Pro, but I didn't want to deal with batteries. I ended up buying the analog ones which were more trouble than they were worth due to the calibration process. I actually broke one trying to calibrate it. Recently, I finally decided to buy a bunch of digital hygrometers because of all of the discussions lately about cracked chess pieces. I bought the AcuRite 01083M as suggested by @MGT88 as well as a bunch of small digital ones. The AcuRite sits in the room where I keep the sets and then I have 1 smaller hygrometer inside each of the chess boxes. I did this so I can compare the readings between the AcuRite and the other smaller ones to understand what the RH might be in each of the chess boxes in case I came across a cracked piece in the future. So far, the room RH ranges between 40 to 50% every day. I don't check the boxes that often but so far, the RH in the boxes ranges from 45% to 48%. What is interesting is the relative humidity in the room fluctuates more than the chess boxes do.

Powderdigit
Hmmm ...albeit I am half cut from a great night out with friends ....MCH8181’s post and photo reminds me of The Queens Gambit ...is black playing upside down in that photo... or have I consumed to many pinot’s? Sorry - nothing to do with humidifiers ... as you were.😏
MGT88
MCH818 wrote:

I thought I would dig up this old thread which might be relevant to some of the discussions here at CB&E. @MGT88 suggested to me previously in a PM that I should strongly consider buying a hygrometer. He highly recommend the AcuRite 01083M Pro, but I didn't want to deal with batteries. I ended up buying the analog ones which were more trouble than they were worth due to the calibration process. I actually broke one trying to calibrate it. Recently, I finally decided to buy a bunch of digital hygrometers because of all of the discussions lately about cracked chess pieces. I bought the AcuRite 01083M as suggested by @MGT88 as well as a bunch of small digital ones. The AcuRite sits in the room where I keep the sets and then I have 1 smaller hygrometer inside each of the chess boxes. I did this so I can compare the readings between the AcuRite and the other smaller ones to understand what the RH might be in each of the chess boxes in case I came across a cracked piece in the future. So far, the room RH ranges between 40 to 50% every day. I don't check the boxes that often but so far, the RH in the boxes ranges from 45% to 48%. What is interesting is the relative humidity in the room fluctuates more than the chess boxes do.

Nice!! Yeah room humidity will definitely fluctuate more than coffer humidity; at the end of the day, humidity is basically the amount of water vapor in the air, so we would expect less fluctuation in a small enclosed space (like a coffer) which is not exchanging its air often versus a larger space (like an office) that is constantly exchanging air. To give an example, suppose a room is sitting at 45% with the door closed; you turn on a humidifier to the max setting and it begins to fill the room with vapor; the last area for the air to move into would be small closed boxes/coffers, and when the air moves into them it will be slow/less concentrated. Personally, I prefer to control the humidity in my entire home office (where I keep my chess stuff) as I can monitor/control the RH at all times, and because my boards cannot be put in coffers; if the RH in my office is poor but good in my coffers, that's great for my pieces but no so great for my boards.

MCH818
Powderdigit wrote:
Hmmm ...albeit I am half cut from a great night out with friends ....MCH8181’s post and photo reminds me of The Queens Gambit ...is black playing upside down in that photo... or have I consumed to many pinot’s? Sorry - nothing to do with humidifiers ... as you were.😏

Haha! It is not the Pinot! I see it too and I am sober.

MCH818
MGT88 wrote:
 

Nice!! Yeah room humidity will definitely fluctuate more than coffer humidity; at the end of the day, humidity is basically the amount of water vapor in the air, so we would expect less fluctuation in a small enclosed space (like a coffer) which is not exchanging its air often versus a larger space (like an office) that is constantly exchanging air. To give an example, suppose a room is sitting at 45% with the door closed; you turn on a humidifier to the max setting and it begins to fill the room with vapor; the last area for the air to move into would be small closed boxes/coffers, and when the air moves into them it will be slow/less concentrated. Personally, I prefer to control the humidity in my entire home office (where I keep my chess stuff) as I can monitor/control the RH at all times, and because my boards cannot be put in coffers; if the RH in my office is poor but good in my coffers, that's great for my pieces but no so great for my boards.

Your example makes sense and using the humidifier to also keep the boards safe is a good way. Someone gave me a humidifier but I am not too keen on using it yet.So far I would say the RH is fine for the room I keep the chess sets. I think worst case I might consider using those Boveda packs instead. I might use the humidifier if I had an MTM board or something to that level.

MCH818
GambitHawk wrote:

The RH for my coffers' interior when closed usually sit at a default of 50% range when the room is usually 30-35%. I have a humidifier on standby/backup should the RH drop.

I can understand your concern. 30% is pretty low. Does your humidifier turn on when the room reaches a certain RH or does it require someone to turn it on??

GrandPatzerDave
Powderdigit wrote:
Hmmm ...albeit I am half cut from a great night out with friends ....MCH8181’s post and photo reminds me of The Queens Gambit ...is black playing upside down in that photo... or have I consumed to many pinot’s? Sorry - nothing to do with humidifiers ... as you were.😏

Hahaha, that's great!  Now if the dark pieces start moving you know you're in full!

MCH818
GambitHawk wrote:
MCH818 wrote:
GambitHawk wrote:

The RH for my coffers' interior when closed usually sit at a default of 50% range when the room is usually 30-35%. I have a humidifier on standby/backup should the RH drop.

I can understand your concern. 30% is pretty low. Does your humidifier turn on when the room reaches a certain RH or does it require someone to turn it on??

It can be auto trigged based on RH level.

That's cool! I will look for that feature if I ever get a humidifier. I think the one I have does not have that feature.

MGT88
I wouldn’t use any auto-RH options on humidifiers; humidifier hygrometers are almost always highly inaccurate, and it doesn’t take long to really crank the RH in a room up.
MCH818

@Mgt88 Thanks for that info! I'm glad you told me so I won't come home to 75% humidity. I guess maybe the Boveda packs would be best for me if I ever wanted to go that route.

MCH818

@GambitHawk 2% does not sound like a lot. I still think Boveda packs might be the best way for me in terms of chess sets. I also placed one of the spare hygrometers inside of the cabinet where I store the chess boxes and the RH in there is also very stable like the boxes. I might just get some large plastic bin if I ever accumulate a lot of boards.

MGT88
Yeah I have several humidifers with the auto on/off function based on RH reading/setting; humidifier hygrometers can be off by 10% or more so personally, I never run one without monitoring it.
MCH818

@GambitHawk I don't use the packs either... at least not yet. I just checked the box for the set I am using and the RH is 47% which is about the same as a fully occupied box. The RH seems relatively stable where I live so maybe the RH is not impacted when I open the box to pull the pieces out. Anyhow, your friend must have the heat on a lot for the wood floor to crack. That is just crazy.

Yeah MGT88 is my brother from another mother. Haha!