Cool room to store instruments?
November 14, 2012 6:16 PM   Subscribe

I would like to store musical instruments in an uninsulated attic room with a volume of about 2000 cubic feet. It has a single 2x2.5 foot window and I hired someone to install electricity for an A/C unit. He says no unit that can fit in that window will ever be able to keep the room cool during the summer months (80-95 degrees last summer). True? Other ideas?
posted by vilcxjo_BLANKA to Home & Garden (9 answers total)
Perhaps not with the unit itself in the window but they do sell portable units which have a vent which would easily fit out that window. Here is a page with some examples.
posted by brownrd at 6:21 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Line the inside of the room with 4x8 foot 1/2" sheathing foam sheets (the kind with foil on one side), bridging seams with the appropriate tape -- ask your DIY centre for the right stuff.

This is a simple exercise; the boards cut with a knife and you can simply use long tacks to put them up.

The sheets of foam are under $10 each.

While this isn't a LOT of insulation, it is far, far better than NO insulation, especially if you seal as many cracks as you can. This, plus a window AC unit, will work.
posted by seanmpuckett at 6:34 PM on November 14, 2012

If you're storing stringed instruments you also need to consider the humidity level in the winter. If you don't have 40-50% humidity, you run the very serious risk of the wood cracking. So you might need to run a humidifier in the winter. My son's string bass was in the house (so temperature was fine) the first winter we had it and the humidity wasn't high enough (we didn't realize our whole house humidifier wasn't working); the body cracked.

My musician husband agrees with your electrician and also says he thinks storing any instruments in an unfinished attic is a bad idea.
posted by cooker girl at 6:54 PM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Yeah, humidity is a much bigger problem than temperature (in general). Big humidity changes (which you will get up there) will wreck many instruments very quickly, including anything stringed and made of wood, including pianos. If you can control the humidity it may be a possibility.
posted by unSane at 7:21 PM on November 14, 2012

(for example, storing guitars with humidifiers (which are very simple to make -- a damp sponge in a ziplock with a few holes) and making sure they're kept moist by checking once a month or so)
posted by unSane at 7:23 PM on November 14, 2012

Not only will a window AC unit be unable to keep the room cool, it will run up very high electric bills while trying. The cost of insulating could easily be less than the cost of a single instrument, so don't rule it out.

One strategy that might be useful is to store the instruments in big, sealed plastic bags so that the air is not mixing with room air and moisture can't get in or out. A caveat there is that you don't want the plastic bag actually touching the instrument, since it's conceivable that moisture inside the bag could condense on the bag's interior surface in cold weather, and that might damage the instrument's finish. Furniture and cabinetry that is stored or shipped in unknown or less-than-ideal conditions is often treated this way.

Also, you can pick up some small, cheap hygrometers and store them with the instruments, where you can see them right through the bags.
posted by jon1270 at 3:45 AM on November 15, 2012

Your best bet is to store something else in the attic and move the instruments to the house interior. Attics are meant to be buffer zones between the hot outside and the cooler inside. Trying to air condition that space will be an exercise in futility.
posted by gjc at 5:04 AM on November 15, 2012 [3 favorites]

This is a bad idea, depending on the instrument. I know someone who had a harp in an upstairs room that was slightly insulated, but no AC (meaning more controlled than an attic). The variations in temperature during hot summer days caused strings to break and a crack to form. My concern wouldn't necessarily be that the attic will get hot (although this is certainly bad), but the fact that it will get hot quickly, causing the wood to swell or shrink too rapidly, over and over again, which will cause things to break.

I've always been taught that you should keep instruments in the same climate that you would be comfortable in. An attic certainly doesn't fit in this criteria. I would strongly suggest you don't do this.
posted by markblasco at 8:37 AM on November 15, 2012

Well, this site suggests that a 10-12 kBtu/h unit should do the trick (4000-6000 for a 10'x10'x8'room, +4000 for being under an uninsulated roof, +1500 for a window with significant daily sunshine, +500~2500 fudge factor). But I agree with markblasco's suggestion that instruments should be kept in comfortable climates, and this would be just too dicey for me.
posted by disconnect at 8:48 AM on November 16, 2012

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