deep freeze darkroom

Discussion in 'Darkroom Equipment' started by Wayne, Dec 2, 2013.

  1. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I'm thinking of letting my house freeze this winter, and am curious if this will damage anything. My understanding is that most older electronic equipment can stand freezing, as long as you warm them up slowly and don't operate them when cold. I doubt if anything in my darkroom is less than 25-35 years old. A dry mount press. A super chromega head. An old Beseler timer. I'll probably leave a camera or two behind and some lenses. It will likely get down to 20-30F below zero at times. But I'm thinking they will all probably be fine if the house is warmed up gradually. What do you think?
     
  2. hdeyong

    hdeyong Member

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    The only problem I see is temperature cycling, getting warmer and colder. On sunny days, (and those warm spells you get from time to time), the place is going to warm up somewhat, then drop again at night. If the place is really sealed up and there's moisture in the air, it may condense on everything a number of times. And that can't be good.
     
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  3. gleaf

    gleaf Subscriber

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    Biggest issue with a large temperature change is the changing size of every material as it cools and warms. Most materials will not have matching coefficients of expansion. If it is delicate and precise (lenses) take them elsewhere. Depending on climate the day night heat and cool cycle will cause a house with no heat to collect moisture as the coldnight air is pulled in as the house cools and there is insufficient heat to drive the moisture out the next day. That probably is a phenomena of temperate climates. In the Midwest US we call it 'Barn Behavior' where the internal humidity skyrockets at night. A sign that the outer envelope of a building is not very air tight when the inside matches the outside humidity around the clock.
     
  4. Truzi

    Truzi Subscriber

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    Umm... I take it you will have the house "winterized" so the pipes don't have water freeze in them?
     
  5. MattKing

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    Do you have any thermometers in your darkroom that would be damaged by the cold?

    What about chemicals?
     
  6. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    My lower level has good solar exposure and may cycle a bit but my darkroom is upstairs on the north side of the house (which will be covered in snow) with only one small window so I don't think it will cycle much. There may be a few weeks toward spring where there is some moister air, but I'll be back in spring. The winter air will be pretty dry if we have a real winter.
     
  7. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    If there's film or paper in there, you run the risk of condensation forming on it, which will ruin it. If you let your chemistry freeze, you can ruin it depending on what it is - some will precipitate out, some will (reportedly) be destroyed despite no change in appearance. And freezing chemistry (water-based) will expand, which might crack bottles.

    Equipment I wouldn't worry about, though bagging delicate stuff (lenses?) to reduce the chance of internal condensation might be useful.
     
  8. AgX

    AgX Member

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    Why would the condensation just take place on the film and paper? And not on the coldest part of that house?
     
  9. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Condensation will take place on anything that is colder than the dew-point of the air surrounding it. Presuming the house is closed up while warm, the air will become supersaturated as it cools and you will get condensation basically everywhere. This is particularly true if rooms are closed because moist air will be trapped in them. Even if the doors are open, there will be moist air trapped in (opened) film and paper boxes, which will then condense.

    It only takes one little droplet to ruin an image!

    Film sealed in its original foil packets should be OK though, same as it is in a freezer.
     
  10. Kawaiithulhu

    Kawaiithulhu Subscriber

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    Film and paper stored in ziploc bags will condense on the outside of the bag, especially if they're sealed in with a little rice in a pouch to suck up humidity inside.

    Chemicals aren't going to carry through a freezing reliably, as has been said.

    A thought is that you might want to plastic wrap electronics and large components so condensation or frost doesn't get to them as readily (especially lenses), again with a cloth bag of rice inside to suck up humidity.

    Just random ideas.
     
  11. polyglot

    polyglot Member

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    Silicon cat litter is also an excellent desiccant. I'm pretty sure it's the same stuff as the silicon desiccant used in little packets shipped with electronics and some foods, but comes in 5kg+ packs instead of a few grams.
     
  12. Pioneer

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    Just lay tarps or painters cloth over anything you don't want damaged by condensation. I lived in northern Minnesota for many years and whenever my grandmother and grandfather left for the winter this is what they did. Nothing was ever damaged by condensation that I ever noticed and Grandpa had some nice old cameras as well as a darkroom in the basement (a moist spot if there ever was one.)
     
  13. pbromaghin

    pbromaghin Subscriber

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    Another norther MN boy here too, and I'm with Pioneer. All you really have to worry about is the liquid. The transition in temperature will be slow enough inside a building that the the air will dry out as the temps go down. Also, condensation on the windows will take any excess humidity out of the air. Oh, and inside a structure, even without heat, will be 10 degrees or so warmer than outside.
     
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  15. sepiareverb

    sepiareverb Subscriber

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    NOthing to worry about, assuming the chemistry is all powder or dumped. I've worked in an abandoned grain elevator for the last few years (not my darkroom, but shooting in there), and with HUGE southern exposure and zero insulation the temperature changes extremely slowly. Like days where it changes 10% of the outdoor temps.

    It may stay much colder than outside after a prolonged cold spell, but any change will be so gradual that nothing will be bothered.
     
  16. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I wonder how my stores of Rodinal and Ilfochrome chemicals in plastic bottles will make out. And my Epson 4990 scanner. Wouldn't want to damage that.
     
  17. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Look at it this way. You have to do what you have to do. You wouldn't be asking this if you were a rich man. You have to chose priorities--what you can afford to lose if you had to, to take care of what must be managed. Shows personal responsibility to me, that you would even be trying to decide. But in the end, you know you have to turn off the juice and let the place freeze, and hope enough of it will be there when you get back. It probably will, for the most part. So just do it. Rodinal is nothing special. Ilfochrome chemistry is almost entirely worthless already, and a scanner is just a scanner--ebay is filled with millions of 'em. So what? Turn off the lights and walk away and forget about it entirely till you get back. Life's too short. To heck with it. Hope I've helped.
     
  18. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I appreciate the injection of philosophy into the question Tom, but I don't have to do what I have to do. I can make choices to do and not do things that minimize my exposure to damages=financial loss that I can't afford. If I could, I'd just fill the fuel oil tank and keep my house heated while I'm gone. There are hundreds of things in my house I'm not worrying about and only a dozen or so that I am.
     
  19. trythis

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    Condensation = rust. Machinists worry about this sort of thing when they have tools in unheated garages.

    Lubricant chemistry could be affected and you could contribute to oil leaching from grease when it thaws.

    Expansion coefficients as mentioned could move precision elements, grease (again).
     
  20. Loren Sattler

    Loren Sattler Subscriber

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    I frequent a resort area in northern Michigan where there are many summer cottages that are not winterized and left cold for the winter months. Damage appears minimal to me, but most of these are cottages with wood interiors, not drywall. If your home is constructed with drywall, I would worry about moisture damaging your walls. I believe your darkroom equipment would fare ok in the cold.
     
  21. Pioneer

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    Oh come on folks. Have any of you actually been in an unheated house when it is 20 or 30 below? Condensation? From what or where? Did you burst a water line? Is the roof leaking? Unless someone or something is creating warm moisture inside the house to condense on things, there won't be any.

    Garages, maybe. Mostly because they are usually unsealed and so moisture more readily moves from outside to inside and temperature varies a little more. But even there in the deep of winter it would be unusual if there is nothing to create that moisture in the first place. Do you park your car in the garage in the winter? Why? Besides keeping snow off your car, it is because you don't have to scrape any frost of your windshield before you leave for work in the morning!

    Barns, yeah. But only if you have animals that are breathing warm moist air.
     
  22. Tom1956

    Tom1956 Inactive

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    Thank you for seemingly being appreciative to some degree with the spirit in which I posted that. Personally I don't think it's the best idea to let everything go cold. I think you'd have a clean-up problem upon return, and the equipment will all age much more quickly.
    But I weighed that as I would weigh it, on a scale pertaining to money. I've never been to Minnesota. Northerners like that are a hearty breed. I'd freeze. It gets unimaginably cold up there. You folks certainly must be tonning a pile of money into heating prices. I'd go broke the first month. So, with that, I said what I said. GL
     
  23. ChuckP

    ChuckP Subscriber

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    Probably just saying the obvious but if you have any liquid chemicals you might want to store them in some kind of plastic tote container in case they leak. Easier to cleanup.
     
  24. RalphLambrecht

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    some darkroom chemicals should not get much colder than 50F or you run the risc that some ingredients fall out of solution and are difficult to disolve again, which would ruin the solution.
     
  25. RalphLambrecht

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    You'll be better off to keep the house at a low but constant temp.
     
  26. Wayne

    Wayne Member

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    I know that. But I will still use at least several hundred gallons of oil (at about $4/gallon) even if I turn the heat down.