Your home is a safe environment protected from the elements by a solid roof, insulated walls, and a powerful central air conditioner. While it’s easy to forget that most of the items in your house need that kind of protection, the damage caused to your belongings are moved outside of your home—say, while you’re moving them into a new home or storage unit can be a costly reminder of the dangers of the elements. One of the least obvious environmental dangers is humidity: the silent destroyer of your belongings.
High levels of humidity can damage a variety of household goods in different ways. It can wear down electronic circuits, thus shortening the lifespan of your computer, DVD player, or television. High humidity encourages mold and mildew from growing on anything made out of organic material, such as papers, textiles, or furs—which would include everything from important documents to furniture to clothing. Mold and mildew spores begin to reproduce and spread at 55 RH (or relative humidity, a measure of how much moisture is in the air relative to the total amount of moisture air can hold at that temperature). If left to proliferate, mold and mildew can utterly destroy these organic materials. But even a relatively short period spent in high humidity can allow mold and mildew a chance to grow, and though you might not be able to see it, you will certainly be able to smell it, even once the items have been returned to your climate-controlled home. Additionally, even small levels of mold and mildew spores can excite you allergies.
One final danger is condensation: moving rapidly been two environments with different levels of humidity (say, from inside a cool, air conditioned home out into the hot and humid weather) condensation can quickly accumulate. Such water droplets can damage nearly every sort of household good, from electronics to leather furniture.
Protecting Against Humidity Damage during a Move
The first step is to figure out what the humidity is going to be like where you’re moving. Checking the weather forecast can help, but keep in mind that you’ll likely be planning at least a few days ahead of time and that humidity changes as frequently as the weather. Because of this, you might be better to plan according to trends: the Wikipedia pages for most major cities include monthly humidity averages, so these might be your most important reference. Remember, the number we’re looking for is 55 RH, the point at which mold and mildew begin to grow. If you’re moving to or from a place with an average humidity above 55 RH, you’ll want to take precautions.
Some of the most basic precautions you can take involve making sure your belongings are exposed to as much air as possible. When packing your truck or storage unit, remember to keep as much space between items as possible, ensuring that as much surface area is exposed to the air as possible. This should also allow air to flow more easily through the space. To protect framed paintings and pictures, use spacers or felt pads behind the glass to prevent sticking. Don’t seal things away in plastic bags, as these can trap moisture inside.
If you’re moving to an area with very high levels of humidity, you may opt for a climate controlled truck or storage unit. While the definition of ‘climate control’ varies upon the company, most of the time the term implies the use of some kind of combination of heating units, air conditioning, and/or humidifiers/dehumidifiers to keep the temperature between 50-80 degrees Fahrenheit and the humidity below 55 RH. You’ll want to confirm with the moving or storage company what climate control measures they employ and what temperatures and humidity levels they can guarantee to keep your items at.
Finally, even though you’ve secured a climate controlled truck or storage unit, you’re still at danger from condensation due to quick humidity changes. The best way to plan for this is to make sure that your items will be moved from the climate controlled truck or storage unit and into a home or building that’s kept at as close a temperature or RH as possible.
Brian Shreckengast is a writer at SelfStorageDeals.com, a price-focused search engine for finding cheap storage units. Learn more about storing, moving, real estate and living frugally from his regular columns on the Self Storage Deals blog.