Humidification Systems in Churches

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Humidification Systems in Churches

Postby JohnGouwens on Fri Apr 12, 2013 5:22 pm


This particular post comes from a member who wished to remain anonymous but gather input on the subject. It is not, therefore, from me:

If you have a sanctuary humidification system set to maintain the organ's humidity, has your church encountered issues with condensation on stained glass windows?

There it is! I have a reply to that one myself. So, what are your experiences with this?

- A. Nonymous
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Re: Humidification Systems in Churches

Postby JohnGouwens on Fri Apr 12, 2013 5:58 pm

Interesting question, A.!

This issue comes up especially in affluent churches with high-price-tag tracker organs, which are particularly susceptible to what the dryness of a forced-air heating system can do to them. I remember, for example, hearing of how the humidification at House of Hope Presbyterian in Saint Paul, Minnesota, caused condensation to form on the wires above the console of the carillon. If that was the real cause, that indicates they were humidifying a whole lot more than their worship space. (They have four tracker organs in various places around the church, most of them restored antiques.) Extreme dryness is damaging to more than the organ, though.

Prior to my arrival at Culver, the humidification had been offline for several years (remedied not long after I got there and presented a letter from the organ technicians), and there were problems with cracking on the doors, the pews, the wainscoting, and the wood ceiling. The organ simply shows the most dramatic damage when notes start to cipher or the wind chests sprout raging air leaks. We had some problems in our organ (which is not a pricey tracker) as well. We have since maintained a humidity of about 30% through the winter, sometimes as high as 40%. We have stained glass windows, and indeed when it is very cold, some condensation shows up on windows, and even frosts the windows a bit. In our case, I'm not aware of any complications from that humidification (no mold or such), but more to the point, to take better care of the building, we've just added another layer of clear glass (storm windows in sense, but shaped to fit) to reduce the considerable heat loss that was happening out the leaded windows. That should take off enough of the chill from the leaded windows so that I expect to see far less condensation in the future. It was just done in the last four weeks, though, so it hasn't been put to the arctic weather test.

- John Gouwens, Culver Acadmies
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Re: Humidification Systems in Churches

Postby TerryMcGee on Sat Apr 13, 2013 12:41 am

Does a Dew Point calculator offer any help here? E.G.: Move the sliders to the temperature and humidity you'd like to maintain and the third slider tells you at which temperature dew will condense out of the air.

EG, if you want the inside conditions to be 70ºF and 40%RH, the Dew Point will be 44ºF. So, anything in that environment at or below 44ºF will have condensation form on it. I imagine the insulation properties of leaded glass windows are pretty poor, so the inside temperature will be pretty close to the outside temperature. It the outside temperature is 44º or lower, you can expect condensation on the window.

Double glazing would seem like a very desirable addition. Not only would it stop the condensation, but will reduce energy bills considerably and make it easier to achieve bearable conditions in weather extremes.

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Re: Humidification Systems in Churches

Postby davejohnson on Sat Apr 13, 2013 2:53 pm

House of Hope Presbyterian Church, St. Paul, has had humidity control in the sanctuary since at least 1979, when the Fisk organ was installed. I can't say that a bead of dew hasn't snuck onto a piece of some window somewhere, but I can say that a "problem" has never existed. The dew point ratios described previously are integral to the humidity system controls that were installed at inception. DJ
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Re: Humidification Systems in Churches

Postby JohnGouwens on Sat Apr 13, 2013 8:12 pm

So that's a pretty sophisticated system at H of H, not surprisingly. Do you ever see condensation as an issue up in the playing cabin? I know a colleague of mine mentioned seeing that there (not anybody who has been there recently). Of course, it is also possible that what was showing up was moisture forming in the chimneys (the tubes through which the wires pass going into the belfry, which in turn are covered by the umbrellas). That is the point where moisture can freeze in many Northern climates, immobilizing the carillon for a few days. It has happened on occasion here, and happened much more often in the more exposed installations at Indiana University. Do you run into the H of H carillon freezing up like that much, Dave?

@Terry: At our place it usually had to be 32 F or below before condensation turned up on the windows. We have more issues with it in our Music Building, where there are bigger issues due to the central campus steam lines running under our building.
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