A self-storage unit can come in handy for anyone in the middle of a move, making room for a new family member, or who needs some additional space at home. But it’s not as simple as renting storage and moving everything to a unit.
There are several items that need special attention in storage, particularly those sensitive to temperature fluctuations and humidity. These items need climate-controlled storage.
What is climate-controlled storage? It’s a storage feature that keeps a unit’s indoor temperature between 55-85°F year-round and maintains a consistent humidity level. Basically, it’s a heater, air conditioner, humidifier, and dehumidifier all in one.
So what kind of items should be kept in a climate-controlled storage unit? Take a look.
1) WOODEN FURNITURE
When exposed to too much moisture over time, wood can crack, warp, or rot. For anyone storing wooden furniture like bed frames, tables and chairs, end tables, nightstands, dressers, entertainment centers, and more, this makes having climate-controlled storage absolutely necessary.
“When you get climate control, you aren’t just getting a controlled climate; you’re also getting humidity control,” says Mary Kuhnle, Property Manager of Assured Self Storage in Plano, Texas. Kuhnle says controlling the humidity in a self-storage unit with wooden furniture is key to protecting it. “The lower the humidity, the better,” she adds.
2) LEATHER FURNITURE
“Leather is sensitive to swings of hot and cold, so that’s a big issue when you’re living in an area with [drastic] weather changes through the seasons,” advises Jiffy Self-Storage, which is based in Toronto, Ontario.
Even if you’re storing in an area that’s not prone to major changes in temperature throughout the year, temperature control is an important safeguard for pricey leather pieces. “Leather that’s not stored in a climate-controlled [unit] is also more susceptible to moisture, which can discolor the pieces and cause mildew,” Jiffy Self-Storage says.
Wood. Leather. Special Collections. Keep them safe.
3) HOUSEHOLD APPLIANCES
Washers and dryers, dishwashers, ovens, microwaves, and refrigerators all need climate-controlled storage in regions that experience extreme heat or cold. That’s because climate control protects electronic and mechanical parts from cracking and rust that could cause permanent damage.
Even though you should thoroughly clean and dry the appliances (as well as remove water hoses) before storing them, climate control can aid in stopping mold and mildew from building up inside appliances, too.
4) SPECIAL COLLECTIONS
Storing Special CollectionsThe point of collecting certain items is to preserve them for years to come. Temperature control can help with that preservation. Everything from coins, stamps, and comics to wine collections needs to be stored in a climate-controlled environment to prevent damage caused by temperature changes and humidity.
“Coins should be kept as close to a constant temperature and humidity level as possible,” explains Rod Gillis, numismatic educator with American Numismatic Association. Gillis adds that too much exposure to extreme temperatures and humidity can start the oxidation process, which ruins the metals used in coins.
Copper and silver, in particular, are at risk of tarnishing. “While some collectors enjoy toning, it’s a destructive force that will eventually cause the coin to become very dark,” says Gillis.
Nick Vespucci, owner of Nick’s Stamps, says storing a stamp collection in a climate-controlled storage unit is important if you live in a region where the humidity is high all year.
“Temperature and the level of humidity are very important factors,” says Vespucci. “I would never store a collection in a room that isn’t climate-controlled. Once stamps have been exposed to high temperature and humidity, [they] will curl and stick.”
Vespucci says irresponsible storage and maintenance of your collection will damage it, meaning it will ultimately depreciate in value.
Much like the pages of a stamp album, the pages of comic books are also susceptible to damage if left in an environment where moisture can find its way to the pages.
“Storing your comics safely is key to preserving your collecting,” says ComicSpectrum.com‘s Bob Bretall. “Storage units are a great alternative to home storage if your collection is growing.”
Comic books—usually those that are older and rarer—can’t handle moisture, so Bretall says using a unit equipped with climate control that can moderate humidity is a good option for protecting your collection.
Fluctuating temperatures can accelerate wine aging and can give wine an oxidized, metallic taste, according to Patrick Gilroy, co-owner of Wine Storage Bellevue in Bellevue, Wash. For collectors who’ve invested a lot of time and money in growing their wine collections, spoiling due to improper storage would be a nightmare.
“The biggest mistake in wine storage is to have the wine in a place that does not have a consistent, cool temperature,” says wine collector Jake Austard, who’s also a WSET certified specialist with Vintage Cellars in San Marcos, Calif.
So what is the best temperature for wine storage? Austard recommends somewhere between 55-57°F.
5) MUSICAL INSTRUMENTS
Storing Musical InstrumentsMusical instruments, though sometimes large, are very delicate and need to be handled with great care. Whether it’s short-term or long-term storage for instruments, temperature control is a must.
Let’s use a standard piano as an example of a percussion instrument in storage (It’s also a string instrument, too, which means it needs extra care). Pianos can be damaged very easily by extreme temperatures and humidity, both of which can ruin a piano’s strings, keys, and wooden exterior over time.
“Humidity is a piano’s worst enemy,” says Dan Loibl, owner of Dan The Piano Man in Spokane Valley, Wash. “With the average piano having approximately 15,000 glued joints, it isn’t glue anymore if the piano is stored in a humid climate. The strings are also not rust-proof by any means. If not stored in a climate-controlled unit, they can become rusted and corroded.”
“A climate-controlled storage unit is important for a piano because [temperature] can affect the shape and condition of the instrument,” says Sal Margaglione, President of Father & Son Moving and Storage in Wallingford, Conn. “For example, if it is made of wood, the wood will expand or contract in either hot or cold weather.”
An acoustic guitar is a good example of a string instrument that can be damaged by temperature and humidity. Like a piano, its strings can snap when kept in the wrong conditions. High temperatures can also cause a major problem for the glues and adhesives that hold the instrument together.
“The good folks at C.F. Martin Guitars recommend temperatures between 72-77°F and a humidity level of 45-55%,” says Billy Penn, owner of 300 Guitars in Toms River, N.J. “When in doubt, do not keep an instrument in an environment you would not be comfortable sleeping in.”
Areas with high heat and humidity can take a toll on brass instruments, like trumpets. “[In hot, humid regions], climate control becomes more important, as bacteria growth and corrosion in the trumpet accelerate,” says John Snell, manager of Bob Reeves Brass Mouthpieces in Valencia, Calif.
Though a properly cleaned, oiled, and packed trumpet is generally unaffected by weather, a trumpet in long-term storage could have issues. Snell says certain materials found in trumpets break down when exposed to extreme temperatures. “Materials like felt, rubber, and cork that are used in some trumpets may break down faster in these conditions.”
Maintaining humidity levels is essential when it comes to storing woodwind instruments, says Nathan Pietz, Sales and School Liaison at Funky Munky Music in Shawnee, Kan.
“The dangers of storing woodwinds and other wooden instruments is that they have a sweet spot between 40-55% humidity,” says Pietz. “Humidity less than 40% will cause the instrument to dry out, and the wood parts can shrink and can cause the instrument to crack. The pieces can also become ill-fitted and uncomfortable to play.”
Pietz says that musicians who store woodwind instruments like clarinets, oboes, and flutes need to be mindful of humidity levels that exceed 55% as well. “[Too much] humidity can cause the pads of the instrument to swell and expand. In extreme cases, mold can begin to build up inside of the instrument because of the moisture.”
Whether it’s fine frescoes or a Pinterest-inspired craft, climate-controlled storage is a good idea for artwork and art supplies.
Storing ArtworkAccording to Vanessa Amor, Business Manager of Museo Vault Fine Art Storage in Miami, Fla., even if you’re keeping artwork in file cabinets or diameter tubes (which you should) in your unit, it’s important to maintain the unit’s temperature. The best environment, she says, is about 50% humidity and a temperature between 70-75°F.
Craft supplies also need climate control. Take it from craft blogger extraordinaire, Susan Yates, of Crafterhours. “All fabric needs to be protected from UV exposure and moisture,” she says, which makes a climate-controlled unit the perfect fit for storing extra fabric or finished sewing projects. Yates also suggests clear plastic bins to seal out dust and moisture in storage.
Crafting equipment, like sewing machines, can use a little TLC (that is, tender loving climate control) as well. “Sewing machines have belts inside that can shrink and expand with extreme [temperatures], so a relatively even temp is helpful,” Yates says.
Wood. Leather. Special Collections. Keep them safe.
When you’re swapping out summer dresses for sweaters or storing a wedding gown, climate-controlled storage can keep your clothes in good shape. After you’ve cleaned everything thoroughly—a step in clothing storage that Jeff Ley, Sales Manager at STORExpress in Pittsburgh, Pa., says shouldn’t be skipped—it’s important to maintain the humidity levels inside your unit.
The last thing you want is mold and mildew finding their way to your clothing in storage, especially if they’ll be sitting unattended for several months. Using plastic storage bins over cardboard boxes also prevents moisture from reaching your clothing, but Ley says that climate control is the best option for keeping fabrics dry.
8) BUSINESS DOCUMENTS & INVENTORY
Nora Ashcraft Muccino, manager at Ashcraft Self Storage & Truck Rental in Monongahela, Penn., recommends storage units for businesses that have a lot of documents to file and store, like real estate agencies.
With file storage, it doesn’t matter whether you’re storing files in boxes or file cabinets. Muccino says a climate-controlled unit is the only thing standing between humidity and documents, which will fade, discolor, or dissolve with exposure to moisture.
Muccino says climate control is good for any business storing inventory as well. That’s because it’s crucial to uphold the quality of the items your business intends to sell, and the easiest way to do that is to utilize a climate-controlled unit.
When storing photos, climate control is a must. Lenorah Durel, owner of Elmwood Self Storage in Harahan, La., stresses using climate control, saying “a climate-controlled storage facility and the use of boxes or albums that have passed the Photographic Activity Test (PAT) will help to ensure your memories are preserved.”
Also, if temperatures get too high in an area where photos are stacked on top of one another, the prints can blend together and deteriorate. That’s why Michelle Schmidt, owner of Michelle’s Portrait Design Studio in Plymouth, Minn., says to store photos facing away from each other, even in albums.
Storing electronics from TVs and computers to recording equipment, you might be filling your storage unit with some expensive items. With climate control, you can reduce the chance of damage to your electronics while they sit in storage.
Blake Hall, manager of Cherry Hills Storage in Omaha, Neb., recommends climate control for TVs, especially when they’re being stored in areas prone to major temperature shifts. The screens and internal components of plasma TVs in particular don’t do well with temperatures on the extreme ends of the thermometer.
But it’s not just drastic temperature changes that can damage electronics. Taylor Morken, Marketing Director for UniqueSquared, calls humidity “the enemy of any piece of professional audio gear,” which makes a good case for climate control.
Choosing to store electronics in a standard storage unit may work for a short time, but over time, the moisture that accumulates as a result of rising humidity levels can have the same effect as a direct water spill. Internal parts can rust, and wiring can break completely.
While these are only ten groups of items that need climate control, the truth is that climate-controlled storage is beneficial for almost all self-storage ventures. Though more necessary in some cases than others, a quick chat with a storage facility operator will help you determine exactly what kind of storage is right for you.