Do I Need Climate-Controlled Storage?

Once you’ve determined that you need a self-storage unit, you’ll want to ask yourself if a standard one will do, or if upgrading to one that’s climate-controlled makes more sense.

Of course, the latter will cost more, but in most cases the price difference is negligible.

In some instances, climate-controlled storage is a necessity, but if you’re storing building materials, garden tools, or fishing gear, the extra expense probably isn’t worth it.

To determine which option is best, consider:

  • Length (term) of storage
  • What you’ll be storing
  • Location of the storage unit

Though your items may just be sitting in your unit, storage can lead to damage, much of which can be avoided by taking your particular situation into account.

Let’s take a look at the scenarios that may warrant climate-controlled storage.

When is Climate-Controlled Storage Necessary?

In most parts of the country, extreme heat and cold are facts of life.

Freezing winters and blistering summers are common in New York, Dallas, Chicago and Boise– and pretty much everywhere in between.

Big variations in humidity are common too.

From nearly humidity-free climates like those in Arizona and Nevada to muggy southern states like Alabama and Georgia, harsh weather conditions can cause sensitive items to warp, crack, split.

In arid areas, dry air has a tendency to wick natural moisture from furniture.

In humid environments absorption causes items to swell, often resulting in warping and other irreparable damage.

Excessive moisture can also cause corrosion and rust in everything from delicate electronics to bedrails and appliances.

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

Particle board, upholstered, and wooden furniture are especially susceptible, but as we’ll see, the list of sensitive items that need climate-controlled storage is a long one.

Items That Need climate-controlled Storage

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

  • Musical instruments like violins, cellos and clarinets
  • Collectibles (other than glass and porcelain ones)
  • Important documents like birth certificates, medical, and financial records
  • Vinyl records
  • Antiques, wooden and particle board furniture
  • Family heirlooms
  • Artwork like oil, watercolor, and acrylic paintings
  • Medical supplies and equipment
  • Leather upholstered furniture
  • Wine collections
  • Mattresses
  • Books and magazines
  • Electronics

Insider’s Tip: If you’ll only be storing sensitive items for a month or two you may be able to get away with a standard unit, but you’ll need to take precautions.

What to Know Before Choosing a Storage Facility

Not all climate-controlled self-storage facilities are the same.

Some regulate temperature only, while others keep humidity levels in check as well.

Both temperature and humidity can damage and ruin valuable items, so choosing the option that best fits your situation is imperative.

In many states, humidity can hover around 90% for much of the summer.

In others, it can be less than a quarter of that.

Storage facilities that control humidity generally keep it at about 50%, making the air much more conducive to long-term storage.

Dark damp storage units without sufficient airflow can make otherwise fresh and clean items smell like they were stored in the basement of an abandoned house… and it may be permanent.

Excessively dry air coupled with extremely high or low temperatures tends to cause dry-rot, crumbling, and cracking, but by opting for a unit in which humidity and temperature are regulated, you’ll ensure that the atmosphere remains relatively constant.

Insider’s Tip: If climate-controlled storage isn’t an option, you may be able to make regular storage work for short periods by regularly accessing your unit. Plan on swinging by once or twice a week for an hour or two to open the door and let in a little light and fresh air. It can work wonders.

Indoor and Outdoor Units

Storage units come in indoor and outdoor options.

Outdoor ones are usually built garage-style with two rows of units facing each other on either side of a road that’s wide enough for cars and moving vans.

They also generally have roofs that are directly exposed to the elements.

Outdoor units often feature roll-up doors and are great for hearty items typically stored in attics, basements, and garages.

The following items are OK for outdoor and non-climate-controlled storage units:

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

On the downside, they’re more susceptible to bugs, extreme temperatures, and big swings in humidity than their indoor counterparts, which are located within a larger structure.

The roofs and ceilings of indoor units usually aren’t exposed to the elements, and doors open onto an enclosed hall or corridor so they’re protected from direct sunlight, rain, and snow.

They’re also much less prone to flooding and infestation and have fewer problems with settling dust than outdoor units.

Sometimes indoor storage facilities have multiple floors, which means if you rent a 2nd or 3rd-floor unit you’ll need to use stairs or an elevator to access your items or move them in or out.

These facilities usually have free carts and dollies for customers to use, but they’re definitely not as convenient for loading and unloading as ground-level ones.

Air Quality is Important Too

For those who only need short-term storage and live in an area with mild weather, air quality may not be such a big deal.

If you rent a unit in a facility with fans and ducts that keep fresh air moving, air quality may not be an issue.

In this instance, you can probably skip regular visits

However, once-in-a-lifetime tropical storms and unprecedented heat waves can spell disaster for electronics, important documents, and artwork, so take worst-case scenarios into account.

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.

The Benefits of Climate-Controlled Storage

Though they’re not right for everyone, climate-controlled storage facilities:

  • Prevent damage caused by extreme humidity and temperature changes
  • Prevent mold, mildew, and odors
  • Are less likely to experience rodent and insect infestation
  • Are safe for sensitive items like important documents, family heirlooms, antiques, art, and valuable wine collections
  • Usually aren’t much more expensive than standard units, making them attractive storage options
  • Are operated by national and independent storage companies all over the country

Storage Tips

Remember, some storage units provide temperature control, while others regulate humidity or circulate fresh air only.

Climate-controlled storage units can use:

  • Air conditioning
  • Evaporative cooling
  • Heaters
  • Fans

Also consider:

  • Leaving passageways between items to allow the circulation of air
  • Putting a few trays of new kitty litter around the unit
  • Filling clean socks with fresh coffee grounds and placing them inside appliances like refrigerators and washing machines
  • Leaving appliance doors open

These simple tricks will reduce the likelihood of mold, mildew, and odors.

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