Wednesday, November 7, 2007

Building a Walk-In Humidor: part I

Building a Walk-In Humidor is the kind of project that seems a lot easier to do than it really is. A Walk-In Humidor must be able to maintain precise Temperature and Humidity regardless of the outdoor climate: it is like creating a self-contained ecosystem in your home or work.

While craftsmanship and aesthetics will vary, there are a few important issues to keep in mind.

· Locate the Walk-In on the interior of the house/building to avoid temperature variations created by the sun and season.
· Always acclimate the wood for a minimum of 72 hours to 70% RH. All wood will expand in high humidity.
· If you are staining and sealing any of the wood, do it outside of the Humidor so the Spanish Cedar will not absorb the chemical aromas.
· Use all-weather nails and screws that will not rust or bleed onto the wood.
· Make sure all electrical outlets and machines are grounded and use surge protectors.
· Use a plastic vapor barrier between your interior walls and the humidor lining material (Spanish Cedar).
· Insulate the Humidor as much as possible to preserve your temperature and humidity.
· If you are using drywall as a substrate, use the mold resistant variety.
· Always wear safety goggles and a mask when cutting or sanding wood!

Any discussion of Humidors would not be complete without mentioning and understanding Spanish Cedar. Spanish Cedar is a hard wood that easily absorbs humidity and releases a mild, spicy aroma for many years. When used in a humidor it should not be finished with lacquer or urethane; the wood should be exposed so it can breathe and release its fragrance, as well as absorb moisture.

Unfortunately, Spanish Cedar is also very expensive so it may not be a prudent expense. Fortunately, it is not necessary to use when constructing a Walk-In. You can use Spanish Cedar as trim or shelving to save money and still get the great aroma it provides.

Take Note: Spanish Cedar produces an extreme amount of dust when cut or sanded so always wear a mask since the dust is extremely carcinogenic. And even worse, the dust will impregnate your system and ruin your taste buds for days.

Cooling & Heating
Maintaining a cool temperature is often the biggest challenge to a Walk-In. Raising the temperature above 72° or 73° F will put your cigars at risk for a Tobacco Beetle infestation. Keep in mind that the ‘hot spot’ in the humidor will be towards the top where hot air and heat from lights will accumulate. If you are building your Walk-In below grade, in a basement or cellar, then you may never have to worry about cooling.

In commercial applications the thermostat for the air conditioner can be located inside the humidor, which makes it relatively simple to control temperature. When this is not possible, it may be necessary to add a small air conditioner to the Walk-In. The size of the air conditioner will vary depending on the room, but there are generally two important issues to consider:
· Disposing of the residual water created by the a/c.
· Evacuating the hot air produced by the a/c.

Most portable and wine cellar air conditioners have a heat vent hose which can be exhausted outside or into an adjacent room (check with specific manufacturers). If you are able to vent outdoors, then this solution should work well for the water which needs to be removed. Otherwise, some portable air-conditioners have water reservoirs which can be manually emptied. In addition, there is technology which mists the excess moisture back into the environment.

If you keep your building at a comfortable temperature it may not be necessary to heat the Humidor; the machinery, humidity, and interior walls may trap enough heat to keep the Walk-In at 70° F during the winter; it is also possible to keep your cigars in the low 60° range and maintain acceptable humidity. If the temperature gets too hot, you may want to have a manually controlled damper/vent or exhaust fan on the ceiling of the humidor which can vent into the attic; this will allow hot air out and cool air in during the winter months. Remember: Heat is the enemy of Cigars.


Anonymous said...

Nice blog. Interesting read!

Anonymous said...

Where do you have your AC unit in your humidor