When Do You Need Climate-Controlled Storage?

Renting storage space can be a major lifesaver if you have limited square footage or you’ve run out of room for treasured belongings you don’t need to have on hand every day.

In these situations, keeping your stored items in a climate-controlled environment can preserve their value, reduce the likelihood of pests, and allow you to continue enjoying them for years to come.

Start your search with our best self-storage companies, but don’t hesitate to do your research. In this article, we’ll dive into the best times to use climate-controlled storage, its advantages, and when you might choose to go with a standard storage unit instead.

What is climate-controlled storage?

Climate-controlled storage keeps your treasured belongings in a temperature- and humidity-regulated environment to prevent pests, vermin, and weather conditions from damaging them.

Onsite and self-storage options may be tempting from a budget standpoint, but they don’t fit all storage needs.

Air conditioning and heated storage are particularly important if you live in an area where the weather varies dramatically throughout the year. Even if you live in a milder climate, temperature-controlled storage is non-negotiable if you have expensive, sentimental, or otherwise irreplaceable items.

When do you need climate-controlled storage units?

In most parts of the country, extreme heat and cold are facts of life. These harsh weather conditions can cause sensitive items to warp, crack, and split.

You live in a dry area

In arid areas like Arizona and Nevada, dry air has a tendency to wick natural moisture from furniture. Dry air is especially damaging for musical instruments. Books, photos, and other paper mementos may become increasingly brittle in low-humidity environments.

You live in a humid area

In high-humidity environments, such as Alabama and Georgia, absorption causes items to swell, often resulting in warping and other irreparable damage. Excessive moisture can also cause corrosion and rust.

Likewise, perpetually dark and damp spaces (like some self-storage units) are perfect breeding grounds for mold and mildew, especially in absorbent items like mattresses, overstuffed furniture, and bedding.

You have delicate furniture

Particle board, upholstered, and wood furniture are especially susceptible to damage, but the list of sensitive items that need climate-controlled storage is a long one.

You live in a tornado, hurricane, wildfire, or earthquake zone

Once-in-a-lifetime tropical storms and unprecedented heat waves can spell disaster for electronics, important documents, and artwork, so you should always take worst-case scenarios into account when considering your storage options. Climate-controlled storage can offer an additional layer of protection for vulnerable items in an area where natural disasters are common.

You need long-term storage

For the long-term storage of sensitive items, climate-controlled storage is almost always preferable to traditional storage. It’ll give you peace of mind that when you return months or years later, your items will likely be in the same condition they were when you left them.

For those who only need short-term storage and live in an area with mild weather, these factors may not be such a big deal — particularly if you rent a storage unit in a facility with fans and ducts that keep fresh air moving.

What items should be kept in climate-controlled storage?

Before you move into a storage unit, you should carefully go through the list of items you plan to store to identify if you have anything that requires special care.

Though this isn’t an exhaustive list, the following items usually require climate-controlled storage:

  • Musical instruments like violins, cellos and clarinets
  • Collectibles (other than glass and porcelain)
  • Important documents, such as birth certificates, medical records, and financial forms
  • Vinyl record collections
  • Antique and wooden furniture
  • Family heirlooms
  • Artwork like oil, watercolor, and acrylic paintings
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Leather or upholstered furniture
  • Linens and textiles
  • Wine storage
  • Mattresses
  • Books and magazines
  • Electronics

If you’ll only be storing sensitive items for a month or two, you may be able to get away with using a standard unit, but you’ll need to take precautions — especially if you’ll need college summer storage or be using your unit during the winter.

The following items can be stored in outdoor and non-temperature-controlled storage units:

  • Boats and outdoor gear
  • Vehicles
  • Garden tools, tractors, and lawnmowers
  • Patio furniture and grills
  • Sporting goods
  • Tools and automotive supplies
  • Building materials like bricks, lumber, and tile
  • Most kitchen items like glassware and dishes

Climate-controlled storage unit cost

Climate-controlled storage is more expensive than standard storage in all major cities. In general, you can expect to pay 25%–50% more for a climate-controlled storage unit.

Here’s a very basic comparison chart of the costs, but the range varies a lot depending on where you live. Smaller cities like Dallas and Phoenix will be more affordable than densely populated areas like New York City and Los Angeles.

Type of storage Average cost
10×10 climate-controlled unit $76–$660 per month
10×10 standard storage unit $71–$365 per month

The factors that affect the cost of your storage unit include:

  • Storage unit size
  • Geographic location
  • Demand in your area
  • Length of contract
  • Insurance

We recommend shopping around and requesting multiple quotes from various self-storage facilities until you find the best price for your budget. You may be able to access additional discounts if you forgo month-to-month rentals and sign a long-term contract.

How to pick the best climate-controlled storage units

There are a few things you can do to ensure you’re picking the best climate-controlled storage facility for your needs:

  • Read customer reviews. Any storage company can talk an impressive game, but it’s real-life customer experiences that matter. Look at reviews across Yelp, Facebook, TrustPilot, the Better Business Bureau, and more until you feel confident you have the full picture. Also check out feedback from our Better Moves participants to get insights on specific storage companies.
  • Evaluate security features. If you have a lot of valuable belongings, you’ll want to make sure they’re secure in storage. Look for features like gated access, video surveillance, and onsite personnel,
  • Look beyond the brand names. Public Storage, Extra Space Storage, and U-Haul are recognizable household names, but they may not always have best prices or track record. They may, but it’s always helpful to cast a wide net when looking for the best bang for your buck.
  • Ask about perks and promotions. Promotions may not be readily advertised, so it doesn’t hurt to ask. Many storage facilities offer perks, such as your first month free.
  • Consider access. If you need to frequently retrieve items from your storage unit, 24-hour access may be a priority for you.
  • Vet services. Not all facilities offer the same storage services. Consider whether or not you’ll need additional services, such as business storage or moving trucks, for getting your belongings to the unit.

When should you use a standard storage unit?

You should use a standard storage unit if your indoor storage needs have a very clear expiration date, such as a minor renovation, near-future move-in date, or short-term business storage.

Climate-controlled self-storage units are typically worth the extra expense if you need a long-term storage solution, you live in an area with intense weather fluctuations, or you have a large volume of valuable––or even priceless––possessions.

If you need to keep your belongings in a standard storage unit, there are steps you can take to mitigate potential damage.

Tips for reducing damage in non-climate-controlled storage units

Even without temperature-controlled storage, you can still do a few things to better manage your unit’s temperature and humidity.

These simple tricks can reduce the risk of mold, mildew, and odors:

  • Choose the right unit size to avoid overpacking it
  • Research the temperature range month-to-month for the time you’re using the unit
  • Leave space between items to allow the circulation of air
  • Put a few trays of new kitty litter or silica around the edges of the unit
  • Fill clean socks with fresh coffee grounds and placing them inside appliances like refrigerators and washing machines
  • Leave appliance doors open

FAQs about climate-controlled storage

Is climate control worth it for storage?

Climate control is worth it for storage if you have a lot of humidity or temperature-sensitive belongings, such as documents, photos, art, wood furniture, and antiques. You’ll want to consider climate control storage if you live in an area with intense weather fluctuations and intend to keep your belongings there long-term.

What is the difference between climate-controlled storage and regular storage?

Climate-controlled storage has heat, air conditioning, and humidity controls, whereas regular storage is similar to an uninsulated garage.

What are the benefits of climate control storage?

The benefits of climate control storage include:

  • Protection from humidity, extreme temperature, and other weather conditions
  • It increases longevity for furniture, clothes, and collectibles
  • It’s a less hospitable environment for pests and vermin

Does furniture need to be stored in climate control?

Valuable wooden or upholstered furniture needs to be stored in climate control to prevent warping, mold, and odors.

What are the average temperature and humidity levels in a climate-controlled storage unit?

The average temperature of a climate-controlled storage unit should be between 55 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit, and the humidity should be 55% or less.

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