Choosing where and how to store much-loved items in self-storage units means making a lot of hard decisions. You must first determine exactly what you plan on storing and then figure out the conditions under which those items are most likely to survive until you’re able to bring them back into circulation or sell them to a new family.
Once the size of your potential storage unit is determined, the next most important factor is whether or not the storage unit you’re pursuing should be climate controlled. Climate-controlled storage units can offer a myriad of advantages for certain types of belongings.
What Is Climate-Controlled Storage?
When many people think of self-storage, what they imagine are traditional drive-up units. These are often built with little or no insulation, making them problematic for more delicate items you’re packing away over the long run. This is where climate-controlled storage comes in.
“Climate-controlled storage maintains the humidity and temperature of the storage unit. A non-climate-controlled storage unit is subject to the temperature and humidity of its surroundings,” explains Melanie Hartmann, owner of Creo Home Buyers in Baltimore, Maryland, which invests in storage facilities. “You may be fine storing a delicate item in a non-climate-controlled storage unit if it is only for a short period of time and you are not expecting extreme temperatures.”
Companies like Public Storage, CubeSmart Self-Storage and Extra Space Storage have extensive climate-controlled storage offerings in most metropolitan areas. If you’re looking for a climate-controlled storage unit in a smaller location, they still may be available from independent storage facilities.
What Does Climate-Controlled Storage Cost?
You might imagine that because of the increased costs of doing business, that a climate-controlled storage unit would cost substantially more than a nonclimate-controlled unit, but according to Move.org, that’s generally not the case.
After analyzing over 2,500 quotes in 2021, the website found that nationally, a standard storage unit, on average, cost $190. A climate-controlled storage unit, by comparison, cost $180. Often, these units came with substantial discounts for renters, especially when secured online.
Drilling down a little deeper to compare the cost of storage units in specific metro areas across the nation, with the help of listings on Storage.com, shows that even now, it really doesn’t have to cost more to rent a climate-controlled storage unit.
When comparing the costs of 10-foot-by-10-foot units, climate controlled or not, prices are often in similar ranges, although they come from different providers. For example, in the New York City metro area, before any discounts are applied, you can rent a climate-controlled unit anywhere from $214 to $450, as opposed to $268 to $320 for traditional units.
It’s similar in San Diego, where the limited climate-controlled units are going for about $285, as opposed to nonclimate-controlled units that come in at $265 to $348. And, again, it’s the case in Houston, where climate-controlled units range from $113 to $128, as opposed to traditional units that cost $115 to $151.
What Should I Store in a Climate-Controlled Storage Unit?
Anything can be stored in a climate-controlled storage unit, and if your pricing is the same as a traditional unit, it’s certainly fine to use your climate-controlled space for any and all items you wish to store for the long term. However, if you must make a choice, move these items into climate-controlled storage first:
— Antiques and family heirlooms. Old and precious objects that you want to preserve for another generation, be they needlecraft, newspaper clippings, photographs or large objects like vintage furniture, need to go straight to climate-controlled storage. Exposing these items to fluctuating temperatures and unchecked humidity will encourage incurable damage and risk mold contamination.
— Anything made of paper. Whether you want to put some of your favorite books into storage for now, or just stash boxes of documents your business is required to keep, paper of all sorts is more delicate than most people imagine. If you choose to store vital documents like birth certificates and personal financial records, they should also go into climate-controlled storage. Not only will this help keep them preserved, but because most facilities are generally more secure than drive-up traditional storage, it will help keep them safe.
— Plastic, wax and vinyl. There’s little that’s as much the enemy of plastic, wax, vinyl and other soft materials than heat. Storing these materials, or things made of these materials, like DVDs, CDs, records or candles, in traditional storage facilities is a great way to ensure they don’t survive their time there.
— Furniture and electronics. Most furniture is a collection of wood and metal, with some fabric thrown in for good measure. All of these materials are subject to serious damage if exposed to constant temperature and humidity fluctuation over time. Electronics are even more sensitive, with the potential for much more damage, even over the short term.
— Art and musical instruments. Although made of very different materials, both original art and musical instruments share a need for precision. When left in a hot, humid storage unit, oil paints, for example, may start to run, and instruments may warp.
— Medical supplies and cosmetics. Also requiring a great deal of precision to work properly, medical supplies should never be stored where there are dramatic environmental changes. Cosmetics are also delicate, with too much heat or humidity rendering them unusable.
— Fabrics, clothing and linens. Fabrics may weather changes in temperatures better than many other items, but they’re prone to molding when the humidity is too high. Specific adornments on clothing or curtains may even warp when exposed to extreme heat.
Should You Choose Climate-Controlled Storage?
If your belongings will be in storage over the long term and you can find a climate-controlled storage unit that’s within your budget, climate-controlled storage may ultimately be your best choice for most household items. Because climate-controlled storage is so affordable, it’s certainly a choice worth considering if your storage stay will be a long one.
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Update 09/20/22: This story was published at an earlier date and has been updated with new information.