When it comes to storage units, it’s essential to understand the different options available and the situations that require specific services, such as heated or cooled units, before you shell out extra money, potentially unnecessarily, to store your belongings.
Two types of self-storage units provide heating services: climate-controlled units and heated units. These units maintain an internal temperature within a specified range, typically between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
There are many reasons why you may consider a climate-controlled unit. These units offer the most protection for your possessions. This guide will break down everything you need to know about self-storage units, including the types available, the benefits of climate control, items that require protection in storage, and geographical and seasonal factors to consider.
Climate Controlled Storage Units
Climate controlled storage units ensure internal temperature and/or humidity levels are kept within a specified range. Climate controlled storage units are generally located inside extensive facilities, providing an extra level of security for your possessions. Items stored in climate-controlled units are usually of higher value or risk damage if exposed to harsh conditions.
As the most expensive storage option, thought and consideration should be made before deciding to use a climate-controlled unit. These units are best for:
- Long term storage. Perhaps your parent had to move out of their home unexpectedly, and you’re unsure when, if ever, they will be able to move back into a space that can house their stuff. A climate-controlled storage unit would provide the most protection and would be worth the value in this situation.
- Storage of high value or antique items. We will do a deep dive into items that MUST be stored in a climate-controlled unit later on, but generally, antiques, old photographs or papers, furniture, and other high-value items should be stored in climate-controlled settings to prevent damage or destruction.
- Extra security. Keeping your items and yourself safe is of the utmost importance when selecting a storage unit. With units located inside a facility, climate-controlled storage units offer enhanced security for you and your things. If you know, you’ll be visiting your storage facility often, and during non-working hours, an internally located storage unit may be the right choice for you.
How Does Climate Control Storage Work?
Climate controlled storage work by maintaining the storage unit temperatures to fall within a specific range, generally between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit, using heating and cooling elements. Units are not regulated on an individual basis; rather, a facility regulates the temperature for the entire set of units.
So, while units are technically heated (or cooled) depending on the need at the time, the temperature is not maintained the same way as it is in your home. You can expect your unit to fall within the lower end of the range on very cold days, perhaps in the 60s. A climate-controlled storage unit is similar to a garage that has been insulated and is attached to your home.
Certain facilities provide more than just temperature control in their climate-controlled facilities. Some offer humidity control, as well. The availability of these options will depend highly on your geographical location. For example, if you live in a dry, arid environment, there won’t be a need for humidity control, and so, it may not be offered in storage facilities in your area.
Types of Climate Controlled Storage
There are four types of climate-controlled storage units that may or may not be available in your area due to seasonal and geographical weather conditions. Understanding the difference between each type will help you decide which unit is best for you if multiple options are available.
- Climate-Controlled Storage: This is the most common type of temperature controlled unit. Climate controlled means that the facility will provide both cooling and heating sources to maintain unit temperatures. These units are found in locations that have a typical four-season weather cycle.
- Air-cooled Storage: Found in parts of the country where temperatures rarely dip low enough to require added heat sources, air-cooled storage facilities offer cooling services only. If you live in a part of the country where most homes do not have central heat, the storage units available will likely be air-cooled.
- Heated storage: On the opposite end of the spectrum, parts of the country that maintain cold or freezing temperatures for most of the year will offer heated storage units. These units will protect your items from freezing, which is vital as a freeze/thaw cycle on a precious antique could cause severe damage.
- Humidity controlled storage: For high value or precious items, humidity may be more damaging than extreme temperatures alone. Especially if you live in a humid locale, such as the Southeast United States, the moisture caused by moist air can lead to mold and rapid deterioration.
It’s important to note that climate-controlled storage and cooled/heated storage are similar but are not the same. Cooled/Heated storage units have air blown through the units to cool or warm the units as needed, but not to regulate them to a specific temperature range.
This means that while facilities will do their best to keep your units from extreme temperatures, they will not guarantee your unit is kept within a specific temperature range.
Also, humidity-controlled units often come as an added feature to climate-controlled units. Because humidity and temperature are closely related, you are unlikely to find a humidity-controlled unit that is not also climate-controlled.
What Items Must Be Stored in Climate Controlled Units?
Certain items require a climate-controlled environment. If you plan on storing any of the below items, especially for longer than two weeks, you will want to invest in a climate-controlled storage unit to protect your items from damage or destruction. You may also consider a humidity-controlled option for certain items if it is available in your area.
Your first inclination may be to wait to pack your electronics at the last minute, keeping them close at hand and exposing them to standard storage for as little time as possible. However, electronics are especially prone to damage when exposed to the elements. Even a few hours can do damage.
Electronics include items such as:
- Gaming Systems
- Stereos and speakers
Humidity poses the greatest threat to electronics, as any moisture that makes contact with the internal wiring, micro-chips, etc., may render your item useless. However, extreme temperatures can also damage electronics. We’ve all left our cell phones out in the sun for a little too long and had alerts pop up that the phone cannot work due to overheating.
Electronics also tend to be high-value items that are often targets for being stolen. The added security provided at most climate-controlled units will protect your items both from the climatic elements but also from potential robbery.
Artwork and Collectibles
Antiques, artwork, and collectibles are especially at risk for suffering damage due to ill-regulated climate conditions. Artwork and collectibles include:
- Books, newspapers, and other printed materials
- Stamp collections
- Ceramic or clay figurines
- Vintage clothes
Any item that could be found in a museum should be stored in a climate-controlled environment. These items don’t need to be museum-worthy to be considered high value in your life. Family photographs, old journals, beloved books, or personal art projects are all priceless items that, if damaged or lost, would cause significant distress.
The reason these items are particularly susceptible to damage is because of the materials they are made from. Paper, in particular, breaks down quickly in hot, humid environments. The inks or paints on these items are also prone to deterioration in overly hot areas. Fabric can suffer damage in humidity as well.
These are also items likely to be stored long term in a unit. While they are not essential to your day to day life, they are items you want to keep and potentially pass on to family members. Storing them in your home may not be feasible, so a storage unit is a terrific option.
Due to the fragile materials and potentially extensive time, these items will be kept in storage. A climate-controlled unit is essential to best protect your beloved pieces, whether of high-monetary value or not.
Similar to artwork, the materials used to build or cover furniture can be ill-equipped to handle extreme temperatures or high humidity. Furniture pieces also tend to be very expensive, making the investment in their protection cost-effective. Not all furniture needs to be stored in climate-controlled environments; the pieces you should protect those made of:
- Wood: Wood will expand in hot temperatures and shrink in cold temperatures, potentially cracking or warping your furniture pieces. The pieces most susceptible to this are furniture built of solid wood, not particle board or other manufactured materials that mimic wood.
- Leather: Leather is prone to mold and mildew if exposed to moisture and hot temperatures. It will also crack if exposed to highly arid environments for extended periods.
- Rare or expensive materials: If you have one of a kind or irreplaceable pieces of furniture, you should plan on storing them in climate-controlled environments. While the specific materials may survive standard storage, the risk of loss is too high if the item cannot be replaced.
Furniture is another high-value item that is at risk of being stolen. In addition to the temperature-controlled features, storing your furniture in a unit that is not easily accessible to vehicles makes theft a much less likely threat.
This list is not exhaustive but covers the most common items stored in climate-controlled units. If you are wavering whether or not you should invest in a climate-controlled unit, consider the value—emotional and monetary—that would be lost if the item was damaged or destroyed.
If the thought of losing an item is devastating, the investment in a climate-controlled unit is worth the added protection.
Benefits of Climate Controlled Storage
Beyond the reliable temperature levels and added security, climate-controlled storage offers additional benefits that you may consider when selecting your storage preference.
- Dust, dirt, and water protection. Because of their location inside more extensive facilities, climate-controlled units are not exposed to dust and dirt being blown in from the outside and are less likely to suffer from flood incidents. This further protects your items from potential damage or loss.
- Circulated air. In addition to controlling the climate, circulated air in your facility means your items won’t be left smelling stagnant or mildewy, even after being stored for a long time. You want your items to be in the same condition, both looks- and smell-wise, on the day you take them out as they were on the day you put them in.
- Less worry and anxiety. Moving is stressful. Organizing and filtering possession is a lot of work. You already have a lot to handle just getting your items into storage. The last thing you want is an added worry that your stuff might not be safe when you leave it. Climate controlled units provide peace of mind, and that alone may be worth the extra cost.
Climate controlled storage offers a range of benefits that will ensure your items are kept safe from many potential threats. However, this comes at an added rental cost. While you want to keep all of your items as safe as possible, you do want to be mindful of the price you are willing to pay to maintain this safety.
While climate control benefits are great, they are not always necessary. You may decide to keep only certain items in climate-controlled storage while keeping the majority in standard storage. This could be a great option to lower storage costs while protecting your most high-value items. You should weigh all of your options before selecting the storage solution that is right for you.
Non-Climate Controlled Types of Storage Units
There are storage units available that do not have climate control. These units tend to be less expensive and offer external entry. These units offer some unique features and benefits that fit particular situations if you are unsure whether a climate controlled unit is right for you.
Standard Storage Units
Think of a standard storage unit as a detached garage. Standard units are usually drive-up accessible, making it easy to load and unload directly from your vehicle. Like a detached garage, these outdoor units are subject to temperature and humidity changes based on the storage center’s outside weather conditions.
Often the least expensive storage option, standard storage units are great for:
- Short-term storage. If you plan to store your items for a month or less, especially during the spring or fall season, standard storage should work great.
- Storing large outdoor items. Like an extra garage, large standard storage units are great for storing lawnmowers, patio furniture, or even a spare vehicle.
- Drive-up or external access is needed. Standard storage units are generally drive-up accessible, while other units are housed inside a facility requiring an internal entry. If you want to be able to drive up to your unit, standard storage is for you.
Portable Container Storage Units
If you live in a suburban neighborhood, you’ve likely seen your neighbors use portable container storage. Like the popular PODS, portable container businesses deliver a large cargo-like container to an individual’s residence and leave it on the driveway or curbside.
The containers can be filled with items directly from an individual’s home over the period set by the unit’s renter. Once filled, the container can remain on an individual’s property or be picked up for storage in the company’s warehouse or delivered to a new location. If a container is stored in a warehouse, access to the container is limited during storage.
Similar to a standard unit, portable containers are not temperature controlled. They are best suited for:
- Home improvement projects. Finishing your basement or redecorating your kitchen? A portable storage container is an excellent option because you can move items out of your house but still keep them close at hand.
- Moving homes. If you’ve ever moved before, you know that it always takes much longer to pack than you think. With a portable storage container, you can start packing early and pack at your own pace over several days or weeks. Your container can then be conveniently dropped off at your new house to be unpacked on your timeline.
- A child moving out or going to college. Similar to a family moving into a new home, portable containers are also an excellent option for families with one or more children growing up and moving out of the house. The portable size is perfect to fit the furniture and items that fit in a standard bedroom.
Climate controlled storage units are heated but not in the same way that your home or office is heated. Climate controlled storage is a type of self-storage unit with temperature regulation capabilities that keep the temperature within a specified range, generally between 55 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit.
Additionally, different types of climate-controlled units may be available regionally due to specific climate demands.