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Solar Screen Shades: a Piano’s Best Friend!

Draperies Turnberry Penthouse

by Kim Newby for Insolroll

Any musicians out there? This one’s for you!

Pianos are big. Bulky. Heavy. None of that stops them from being a delicate flower, though, especially in a home environment. My granny always told me “Don’t put your piano agains an outside wall!”, and “put a shot glass of water behind the soundboard for humidity”. I don’t know how well either of these pieces of advice actually work, but the idea behind them is sound. Pianos are made up of around 85% wood, an organic, biological material that responds to environmental conditions like heat, light and humidity. Even serious pianists don’t think about this very much. They might indeed place their piano away from exterior walls, and never directly under a window, but the sun’s radiation is powerful, and unchecked, it finds its way into the middle of a room and can still do damage there. What is a delicate flower to do?

Solar screen shades protect piano health

So heat, light and humidity are a problem for pianos (and truth be told, for other instruments, most especially strings and percussion). Solar screen shades can’t do anything about humidity, but they can significantly reduce damage done by heat and light entering at the windows. Solar screen fabric is a precision-manufactured mesh that allows a specific amount of visible light to pass through, stops a specific amount of UV rays, and stops a specific amount of heat gain. Each fabric has slightly different solar/optical properties, and Insolroll’s fabric sample cards present that information on the back, to help our customers and dealers select the right fabric for their particular application. Our webpage How Solar Screen Shades Work has some very helpful information, with pictures, diagrams, and descriptions to help regular people like you and me understand how solar shades accomplish this by means of their precise, individual solar/optical properties.

Too much heat variation damages your piano

Pianos like their environment to be temperature consistent. Controlled. The biggest temperature variation problems happen in the summer, when blasts of cool air from the AC combat interior heat gain. You don’t want your piano to be near a heat or air conditioning vent, where the variation can be much too great, resulting in harm to your piano’s regulation, tuning and voicing. Solar screen shades will reduce heat gain, keeping your home’s temperature more consistent, and reducing your AC’s cooling load. Your home is more energy efficient, and  you save money all while protecting your piano from a harsh indoor environment (and spending less of piano servicing). Win!

Let there be light! But not too much…

solar screen shades protect piano from too much sunlight

The visible part of the spectrum causes glare, and that’s uncomfortable to our eyes. The piano itself doesn’t care about glare, but you may find too much ambient light irritating to your eyes as you read through your sheet music, so that’s not good. But, along with the visible part of the spectrum that produces light, we have the invisible part of the spectrum known as ultraviolet, or UV. This is the part of sunlight that can wreak havoc on the piano, even if you have it placed away from windows. The carefully matched fine finish can be faded , yellowed or cracked, and if you happen to leave the lid up over the keys (horrors!), the keys can suffer the same fate. Solar screen shades block up to 99% of harmful UV rays, depending on your choice of fabric openness, but they don’t take away the view like drawing heavy drapes or solid blinds will. You can have your view, but manage uncomfortable glare and protect your piano from UV rays.

Sunlight it powerful, and hard to keep out!

this piano needs solar shade protection!
Help me! My owner didn’t protect me from the sun!

I’ve said this before in this forum: sunlight is powerful. Even a little bit changes things drastically, and that’s why solar screen shades can let you keep your view. A little light goes a long way, and our brains piece together the picture of the view on the other side even when solar screen fabric blocks 90+% of the surface area. UV and infrared rays are also very powerful, and need to be mitigated for the sake of your baby… grand, that is. Solar screen shades are an effective and beautiful way to protect your piano, and the rest of your home’s furnishings and finishes, while making it a more comfortable place for you. So protect your investment in home and instrument, and enjoy them even more than you thought possible.