Storage Guide: Environment
Warehouses come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Many are all on one level and others are in multi-story buildings with freight elevators to move goods in to and out of the facility. It is not uncommon to be able to drive right up to the door of your storage unit, unload your goods, open up the door to the unit and load everything in to the storage unit.
This is very convenient especially if you will be adding items to the unit or removing items from the self-storage unit regularly. Warehouse operators usually offer several different unit size options and many are capable of creating a space pretty much to the size you need by moving temporary portable walls.
If you need a climate control space to protect your goods against damage, there are many warehouses that offer this option at a cost. Some facilities offer only non climate controlled units whereas others offer both climate and non climate controlled units. You may be able to use the climate controlled option for those items that need it and use the non climate controlled options for the remainder of your stuff. This can save you some money as you are not paying for climate control for items that do not require it.
When visiting a storage facility to inquire about their services, keep your eyes open. Take a close look at the cleanliness of the warehouse both inside an outside. Also take note of the people working there. Would you want them looking after your goods?
Here are some quick tips on what to look for when visiting a facility.
- Are the facility grounds well taken care of?
- Is there overgrown vegetation growing up against the facility walls? - Vermin love to hide out in vegetation and can burrow their way in to the building
- Is the security fence intact?
- Are the parking areas well maintained?
- Is the outside of the facility well lit?
- Are there bait boxes for pests outside? Are these well maintained and is the bait changed regularly?
- Is the inside well lit and maintained?
- Are their smoke alarms in the building?
- Are there fire extinguishers and ceiling sprinklers visible?
- Is smoking allowed in the facility? Some facilities allow smoking in the office area only, some allow no smoking, period.
- Are the staff courteous and presentable?
Many warehouses offer climate controlled spaces at a cost. This is a safer option to choose to help prevent damage if you have items that require storage in a climate controlled environment. Many of the items you plan on storing may require some type to climate control in order to remain in good condition. If you are inspecting a warehouse that offers controlled environmental storage ask them how they monitor the climate. Are the rooms alarmed to warn if the temperature or humidity levels are not at the correct levels? If there is a power outage, does the warehouse have back up generators?
Does the warehouse have temperature and humidity chart recorders or other devices such as PC interfaces to monitor the conditions in the units?
Many storage contracts exclude damage due to molds, high humidity or vermin as this is considered an inherent danger unless you have paid out for climate controlled storage.
So what items need controlled storage conditions and what ones do not? Here is a list of items you should consider storing in conditioned storage.
- Paper products such as files or important documents may rot due to high humidity
- Electronics such as computers
- Home furnishings especially antiques may get wood rot if stored in high humidity
- Furs - You may want to store in a cold environment during the summer months when not in use
- Mattresses - dampness can destroy mattresses with mold growth and rust in the metal springs
- Musical instruments such as pianos that may be sensitive to changes in environmental conditions especially humidity for rust and wood for rot.
What different environmental storage conditions are generally offered?
High humidity, high or low temperatures are the leading causes for damage for goods in storage. Some items such as paper products can be destroyed by high humidity. Furs, for example are better stored in a cold environment and some furniture is better stored in an environment at about 50-75 degrees.
Wood can rot and metal may rust due to high humidity also. You will often hear the term conditioned storage and this is generally looked at as less than 55%RH and between 50-75 degrees. Humidity control, temperature control, temperature and humidity control and no climate control are the four options generally available.
Items that are sensitive to high humidity are generally stored in rooms with humidity at levels that are below 55 RH (Relative Humidity). Molds and mildew can grow on most surfaces and can spread easily as the spores can become air borne however mold and mildew growth is inhibited at 55 RH.
You may have seen an old leather jacket after it was stored in the attic or basement for a period of time and it can smell musty and be covered in white spots and this is mildew. It is interesting to note that many antibiotics are grown from mold and food stuffs are often spoiled by molds, a common example is moldy bread. For the most part molds and mildew do not pose a threat to human health however there have been unsubstantiated allegations that certain molds can cause asthma to develop in people.
High humidity can also be a cause of objects made of iron to rust and the higher the humidity the more rapid the corrosion.
If your goods require storage in cold or conditions, temperature controlled storage is for you. Traditionally furs were stored in cold conditions in the summer months to prevent hardening of the leather due to oil loss from excessive heat and humidity. Shedding of fur coats is the result of this hardening. Damage from moths and insects can be extensive in furs so prevention is the key and cold storage is an excellent choice as the cold naturally kills off bugs.
Humidity and Temperature Control:
Again, if your belongings need both temperature and humidity control, this is the option you need to choose. Today furs are still stored in cold conditions generally in large vaults that are temperature and humidity controlled. Furs are often quite expensive and you will want to get as many years ware out of your fur as possible so storing it correctly will help prevent degradation.
Traditional storage offers no control over humidity and temperature. The space is basically maintained at whatever temperature and humidity levels as the remainder of the warehouse. Warehouses are generally maintained at a temperature a few degrees above the outside temperature in the winter and a few degrees below the outside temperature in the summer and the humidity level is dependent on outside humidity levels.
You may have decided to take the extra precaution against damage to your goods by choosing to pay extra for climate controlled storage. Your goods are still at risk of being damaged or destroyed however even if the environmental temperature and humidity levels are controlled as pests such as mice, rats or insects may be able to get to your goods.
This is why it is critical to check out the storage facilities pest control program. The warehouse operators are well used to getting requests from potential customer about their pest control programs. A documented program detailing location of bait boxes both inside and outside the facility, frequency of checks for findings and corrective action on any findings is critical to any effective pest control program. A facility map showing the location of all bait boxes including those for insects is a must see for any potential customer.
The grounds should be neat and clear of any overgrown vegetation as this attracts vermin. The perimeter of the building should have absolutely no vegetation up against the walls and ideally the perimeter should be either gravel or cement about eighteen inches out from the building. Discuss with the facility operator what they do if they find anything in the bait boxes insider or outside the building. If they do not talk about corrective action do on use this facility. Any effective pest control program is based on follow up and corrective action when an issue is noted.
The inside of the building should be sprayed for insects regularly and if infestation is found in any area there needs to be an investigation to understand how the insects are getting in to the building and how they are able to multiply. Most warehouses will have electrical zapper units to kill off insects that get inside the building.
Another important point to remember is the all outside lighting should not be directed at entrances and exits as light attracts insects. It is extremely important when storing clothing including fur coats to have the space regularly sprayed to prevent insect infestation. Insects are the single most destructive force in destroying clothing. Most insects however will dye in cold environments and this may be worth remembering if you are storing your fur in a cold vault for the summer months.
In order to help prevent insects or vermin becoming attracted to your stored goods, never put food items in the storage space. Vermin have a very acute sense of smell and will locate any food items and destroy your goods trying to get to the food. You may wonder how food manufacturers are able to store their product in storage for periods of time. Food warehouses have very specialized pest control programs including a strong focus on prevention of vermin or insects actually getting in to the warehouse.