The Hermitage Museum: a case study

One of the world’s most famous museums is the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia. It is admired by millions of visitors each year and so needs a lot of maintenance to ensure its beautiful paintings are conserved and its structure is solid.

Although from the outside it looks perfect, for more than 200 years the museum suffered from a severe rising damp problem resulting in most of the walls requiring replastering and repainting each year, without actually addressing the underlying problem.

Because of all the humidity inside the museum, the old paintings needed a lot of attention and conservation work throughout the year to prevent devastating results caused by a damp environment.

Around 18 years ago, a German electrical engineer and three professors concluded a 10-year-long study and experiment, resulting in the development of a unit built specifically to eliminate rising damp in old and even new buildings.

The unit sends out magnetic pulses, which change the polarity of the water molecules in the walls and floors, so that together with the negative loaded earth the water molecules are being pushed down slowly until underneath the foundation of the houses – this is achieved after between one and two-and-a-half years. And for as long as the unit keeps on sending out the magnetic pulses, the water molecules stay underneath the foundation and never come up again.

So, after a very successful experiment in the Hermitage (see picture), 191 units are now installed, humidity is gone, dehumidifiers are no longer needed, no more annual plastering and painting jobs, and all the artworks are in the best condition of conservation.

A side effect of the installed unit (the size is only 20cmx20cm and for houses up to 250sqm usually one unit is sufficient) is that it not only eliminates the existing rising damp but it also prevents rising damp from recurring in the future. That is why we have received more enquiries for installation of the system in new-builds, particularly in the Algarve where many old and even new houses suffer from rising damp.

How the unit becomes a money-saver:
■ After the floors and walls are dry, heating up your home will save you 25%-65 % on your heating costs (dry walls and floors need much less energy to heat up);
■ Many people try to tackle rising damp by using dehumidifiers. They are, in fact, counter-productive as they extract humidity from the air as well as from the walls and floors causing both to get a bit dryer, but only for them to suck up more humidity from the wet earth underneath the house – a vicious circle. Dehumidifiers are big energy consumers and only increase the rising damp problem. With this unit installed, dehumidifiers become totally unnecessary.
■ Instead of annual maintenance work (plastering/painting), once a house is dry, it is only needed once and then the house will stay dry for at least the next 35 years, so a new layer of paint every 15 years will be sufficient.

Other benefits:
■ The unit itself does not need any maintenance and represents a €10 annual energy cost.
■ There is a 20-year guarantee on the unit, however, we know it will work for at least 35 years (after testing in a time-accelerating machine, the unit was still in top working order).
■ There is also a money-back guarantee if, three years after installation, humidity levels on the ground-floor exceed the 3% level or in the basement the 6.5% level.

Many references are available from people who installed the system years ago, as free control measurements are taken on a regular basis. People who want to find out more about the system can contact us for a free humidity survey.
Last but not least, a dry environment in our homes is also much better for our health and will prevent humidity-related illnesses in the future.

By Martin Verloop

Martin Verloop has a background in architecture and civil engineering, and is founder of Drymat Portugal. He works as a partner in the Sustainable Superstore project. Free advice and in situ inspections are available.
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