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The Benefits of Climate-Controlled Storage Units and When You Need Them


If you’re looking to keep valuable or temperature-sensitive items safe, whether it’s furniture or important documents, climate-controlled storage is a great option. Unlike a garage or basement, climate-controlled units protect your belongings against fluctuating temperatures and humidity levels, preventing shrinkage, mold growth and other types of damage. In this article, we’ll walk you through the benefits of climate-controlled storage and how to know if it’s best suited to your storage needs.

In This Article:
  1. What Is Climate-Controlled Storage?
  2. What Are the Benefits of Climate-Controlled Storage Units?
  3. When Do You Need Climate-Controlled Storage?

1. What Is Climate-Controlled Storage?

In self-storage facilities, climate-controlled units are specialized spaces designed to maintain a stable storage environment. This means keeping the temperature within a set range (usually 55°F and 85°F) and regulating humidity levels to minimize moisture. To achieve this, climate-controlled units are outfitted with advanced HVAC systems, dehumidifiers and insulation technologies.

Climate-Controlled vs. Air-Cooled

It’s a common misconception that climate-controlled units simply mean air-conditioned or air-cooled. While air-cooled units can protect your items from outside heat, they won’t do much when it comes to humidity. If you live in an area with relatively stable humidity year-round, you may be able to get away with air-cooled storage. That said, climate control will give you better peace of mind since it covers all your bases.

2. What Are the Benefits of Climate-Controlled Storage Units?

Protection Against Extreme Temperatures

Climate-controlled storage keeps your items safe from both heat and cold. This includes seasonal highs and lows as well as rapid changes in temperature from daytime to nighttime. Fluctuating temperatures can make materials expand and contract repeatedly, potentially cracking items made from wood and melting or warping certain kinds of plastic. They can also make some chemicals deteriorate more quickly, which is why you may notice that photographs and documents that aren’t stored properly turn yellow and brittle over time.

Moisture Control

Humidity is another important factor in keeping your stored items in pristine condition. High humidity levels provide the perfect environment for mold and mildew, which can quickly spread to every item in your storage unit and lead to irreversible staining, odors and even structural damage. Fabrics, upholstery, paper goods and wood are especially susceptible to mold and mildew.

Humidity can also corrode and oxidize metals (which is particularly bad for household electronics, specialty equipment and any metal parts of indoor furniture) and cause items made from wood or paper to swell (leading to doors jamming, drawers not closing properly, archival materials and books turning wavy and sticking together, and musical instruments becoming unplayable).

Extra Protection Against Pests

Unlike home storage areas, climate-controlled units provide an extra layer of protection against rodents, roaches and other critters. Not only are storage facilities designed to minimize potential entry points for pests, but the stable temperature and humidity levels in climate-controlled units create an environment that is actually less inviting to them. On top of that, storage facilities are regularly cleaned and maintained. Tenants are also forbidden from storing perishable items like food that can increase the risk of an infestation.

Long-Term Preservation

For anything precious that requires long-term storage, climate control is the most reliable way to preserve the integrity and value of your stored items over time. This especially applies to antique furniture, collectibles, important documents and sentimental keepsakes. While you may be tempted to keep these kinds of items close at hand, remember that storage areas in your home, like your garage or attic, may experience major fluctuations in temperature and humidity. Climate-controlled storage, on the other hand, offers a stable environment and state-of-the-art security to ensure your items are safe.

3. When Do You Need Climate-Controlled Storage?

Whether or not you need climate control depends on two key factors: the items you’re storing and where you live.

Items That Require Climate Control

Most items you own can benefit from climate-controlled storage, but some require it for optimal preservation. The following list isn’t exhaustive, but if you’re planning on storing something that falls into one of these categories, don’t risk putting it in an air-cooled or non-climate-controlled unit.

  • Household Electronics (computers, TVs, monitors, phones, tablets, stereos)
  • Media (DVDs, vinyl, CDs)
  • Artwork (paintings, sculptures, prints, photographs)
  • Musical Instruments (wooden instruments, xylophones, cymbals, drums)
  • Photographic Equipment (cameras, film, memory cards, chargers, lighting)
  • Leather Goods (furniture, clothing, accessories)
  • Wooden Furniture (antiques, heirlooms)
  • Fabrics and Textiles (vintage clothing, quilts, lace, flags)
  • Books and Important Documents (archives, manuscripts, certificates, diplomas)
  • Collectibles (stamps, coins, comic books)
  • Wine (see our guide to wine storage)
  • Medications (prescription or OTC — temperature can change the chemical composition of medications and make them dangerous to take)
  • Cosmetics and Beauty Products (especially powders)
  • Candles (to prevent warping or melting)
  • Sports Equipment (especially if made of sensitive materials)

Items That Don’t Require Climate Control

Not everything needs to be stored in a climate-controlled unit, especially things that are designed to withstand outdoor conditions. For example:

  • Outdoor Furniture
  • Garden Tools and Lawn Equipment
  • Camping Gear
  • Vehicles and Bicycles
  • Weather-Resistant Plastic Bins
  • Tools and Hardware
  • Patio Stones, Bricks and Construction Materials

Geographic Considerations

The year-round climate where you live can help dictate whether you need a climate-controlled unit or not. If you live in the U.S., the humid and hot climates of the Southeast (e.g., Florida, Louisiana and Georgia) make climate control essential to prevent mold damage. Similarly, the desert Southwest (e.g., Arizona and Nevada) experiences intense heat during the summer that can warp and damage sensitive items. In contrast, northern states that face harsh winters, like Minnesota and North Dakota, require climate control to protect your belongings from the cold. 

In Canada, climate control is important in areas like British Columbia, which experiences high humidity, and the Prairie provinces, which are known for their extreme temperatures.

Find a Climate-Controlled Unit Near You

Ready to reserve a climate-controlled storage unit? Use SmartStop’s Storage Locator to narrow down the list of facilities in your area. When you click on a facility, you’ll be taken to a page that shows you all the available units and whether or not they are climate-controlled or air-cooled, as well as other features such as first floor, elevator access, drive-up access, inside unit, etc. For more tips on properly storing your belongings, head to our blog.

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