Whether you’re used to constant snowfall every year or the occasional ice storm, freezing temperatures can damage some belongings without the right care and storage. Certain items are more sensitive to extreme temperatures and changes in humidity, such as electronics, wood furniture, and anything with a battery. In these cases, climate-controlled storage can be one way to protect items during the winter. But since climate control adds to the cost of storage, you want to make sure you really need it. Read on for tips to help you decide on winter storage options, as well as how to prep your items for storage.

Winter Storage Options

First, decide what you need to keep on hand during the winter months ahead, versus what you won’t need again until summer rolls around. Are there items like lawn furniture and equipment that shouldn’t be kept outside in the winter elements? Don’t forget about any items that may currently be stored in an outdoor shed. Once you decide what may need to be stored, you have a few storage spots to choose from, depending on the severity of your climate and sensitivity of your items to extreme temperatures. Here’s a quick breakdown of where to store your items and how to do it:

Garage or attic: If you live in a more temperate climate with only a few dips below freezing, consider making room in your garage or attic for winter storage. Most homes have enough insulation near these spaces that they won’t quite reach freezing. However, if your attic has an air sealing issue, it may be at risk of developing frost, which can melt and cause water damage. See this guide for how to seal your attic space.

Traditional self-storage units: You can choose between indoor or outdoor storage units. Typically the least expensive storage option, an outdoor facility where you can drive right up to the door of your unit can be convenient if you frequently need to load and unload large items. These units provide protection from the basic elements, but are more susceptible to dust, debris, and extreme temperatures. If you live in an area with harsh winters and you expect to need access to your belongings during this time, consider your own comfort in addition to whether your items are sensitive to below freezing temperatures. Indoor self-storage housed inside a large building can provide somewhat more protection, but your items may still be vulnerable to temperature extremes if the unit doesn’t offer climate control.

Portable storage units: While the construction quality and weather resistance of portable storage containers depend on the provider, portable storage units generally aren’t designed to be kept outdoors for months at a time, especially in harsh winter climates with lots of snow and ice. However, a portable storage company such as PODS can keep your container in a secure Storage Center. One advantage of portable storage is the container is delivered to your home and then picked up after you load it, so you don’t need to worry about driving a truck on icy winter roads. If you live in a cold climate and are interested in portable storage, call the provider and ask about what type of climate control is available in your area.

Climate-controlled storage units: These storage units are usually inside a facility where they generally maintain a temperature between 55 and 78 degrees, along with humidity levels around 55 percent. Temperature-controlled facilities, such as heated storage units, only provide a consistent temperature with no humidity control. Since there are no standards for climate-controlled storage, it’s important to ask the facility for their specific temperature and climate ranges, as well as what they do to ensure the units stay within those guidelines. If possible, get this information in writing.

What Items Need Climate-Controlled Storage for Winter?

From electronics to fluid-filled engines and batteries, some items are more susceptible to damage from extreme cold and moisture. See our list below to get an idea of what items may require climate-controlled storage:

  • Electronics and batteries
  • Musical instruments
  • Wood, wicker, and leather furniture
  • Antiques
  • DVDs, CDs, and vinyl records
  • Photographs and artwork
  • Wine
  • Medical supplies

How to Prepare Your Belongings for Winter Storage

Whether you’ll be storing your stuff at home or off-site, it’s important to get your items ready for storage to avoid damage. Start by cleaning each item to remove dirt and debris, which will help maintain your belongings over time and make your life easier when you pull stuff out again in the summer.

To prevent mold and mildew damage, inspect all items for moisture and existing mold or mildew before putting them into storage. Avoid loading items when it’s raining or snowing. Everything should be 100% dry, as one single damp item can spread mold to other things throughout the space, making a small problem much bigger. As another safeguard place items in plastic storage bins with lids and wrap larger items in moving blankets or plastic. This can help prevent the spread of mold in case one of your items is damp or carries mold spores. For added protection, consider using desiccants or moisture absorbers.

Here are a few quick tips on how to prep specific types of summer items for winter storage.

Lawn mowers and landscaping equipment: Either drain the gas or add fuel stabilizer, change the oil, and remove debris or dirty fluids, which can be corrosive if left to sit for months. Check your storage provider’s guidelines, because some require that all gas be drained. If your mower has a battery, remove it. Check your manufacturer’s user guide online or visit Mowers Direct for more details.  

Gas and charcoal grills: If you’re going to keep your grill outside, clean it and remove any grease or residue, which can attract wildlife and corrode the metal. Once it’s clean, make sure your grill is protected with a weatherproof cover. You can leave the propane tank outside, but ensure the gas valve is closed. If you’re storing your grill indoors or in a storage facility, you’ll have to remove the propane tank and store it outdoors due to its flammability.

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Recreational gear: Keep everything in top condition by cleaning all equipment before storing for the winter. For bikes, inflate the tires and lubricate the cables. Hanging your bike is the best option for storing long-term, so the weight of the frame doesn’t cause damage to slowly deflating tires. To save space, consider storing items like surfboards and kayaks up on wall racks or hanging from the ceiling.

Patio furniture: Unless it’s made from a metal that doesn’t rust, such as aluminum, your patio furniture will have a much longer shelf life if stored inside for the winter. This is especially true for wood or wicker outdoor furniture.

That first frost of the year can sneak up on you, so make sure your belongings will last through the season ahead with the right storage and maintenance. For more tips on getting your home ready for cold weather, see our Winter Home Maintenance Checklist. Need winter storage for your belongings, but don’t want to drive a truck through the snow and ice? Learn more about PODS portable storage.