Batteries are everywhere as more and more electronic devices are manufactured, and then there are the heavyweight versions used in cars and so on. You may have come to appreciate the benefits of self-storage, but can you simply throw anything that uses a battery into your storage unit? As with many aspects of self-storage, there are some rules and words of advice you should be aware of.

While large batteries for vehicles and machinery do look potentially toxic, other batteries tend to look rather neat—small and harmless. However, all these items can cause problems when stored for some time. A contract at a self-storage facility will list the things you can’t put in there, and dangerous chemicals will certainly be one of them. Some storage managers adhere to the motto that batteries and storage don’t mix and will explicitly ask you not to put any in there. Others may leave things more up to you and your common sense and will hope that you don’t store anything which might cause problems. Here we look at the potential dangers caused by batteries in storage.

Time Is Not on Your Side

Things get put in self-storage units for lengths of time ranging from a month to many years. It could be that the items were once considered worth keeping with the view to taking them out and using them again at some time. But electronic equipment in particular gets outdated very quickly, so newer gear may be purchased and the old stuff left in storage because nobody can be bothered to take it out. Sometimes people even forget what they’ve put in their units.

Time is not a battery’s friend. The metal that many of them are made of will eventually corrode, depending on how they are stored. Ordinary, single-use batteries can burst if left for a period of time, and while ‘integrated batteries’—i.e. those in devices such as laptops and digital cameras—look like they should be safer, you shouldn’t be so sure.

Chemicals Are a Bad Idea in Storage Units

All batteries contain chemicals but we’re not particularly aware of them unless they leak. When they do, they can destroy things they come in contact with—if they mix with another chemical there’s even the danger of explosion! This potential problem can increase the bigger the battery is and the less carefully it is stored.

Batteries for use in cars and other vehicles contain fluids and so corrosion or any disturbance in the unit could cause them to escape and go to work. Many people will want to store rechargeable batteries as their initial cost was greater than for regular ones and a lot of use is expected from them, but these can contain very toxic materials indeed.

A Place for Everything

When putting things in storage, the best place for batteries is NOT in the devices they were bought for. They can be kept in your home, or perhaps in a separate and safe place in the storage unit, assuming this will not infringe any contract agreements. You can keep batteries in their original packing if they have not yet been used, or you can put them in a sturdy plastic box—special battery boxes can even be purchased for this purpose. It is advisable not to mix up different types of battery, neither in the equipment where they provide power nor in a storage container.

If batteries are not going to be required ever again, they should be disposed of carefully. Firstly, before you are able to get rid of them, put them in a non-metallic container ensuring that their terminals don’t touch—you could even put tape over the ends to make sure of this. Then find out what your local community provides by way of recycling facilities and take them to the relevant depot or leave them in a special container provided so they can be collected by the garbage men.

Maintaining Batteries in Self-Storage

If by any chance you do end up keeping both your vehicle and its battery in self-storage, you will want to know that the battery is in good shape when you finally come to reclaim your stuff, so you should visit regularly and recharge it. Preferably remove the battery entirely. If your unit has an electrical outlet, you can charge it in situ with a ‘tender,’ also called a ‘trickle charger.’ If this option is not available, take the battery home and charge it there. If you do leave the battery in the vehicle, disconnect the negative cable, then reconnect it when you visit and run the engine to top up the charge.

Many people also leave integrated batteries in devices, e.g. laptops. But even a device that is switched off will use its battery’s electricity and, although this can take some time, the battery will eventually die, and that’s not a good idea. So, take all such batteries out and throw them away or store them separately. If a laptop is stored for years you should also take out the small battery that keeps the BIOS going as this too will eventually expire and may corrode inside the device.

Keep Them Cool and Dry

If you are planning to store batteries in a storage unit, temperature is one thing you should definitely be aware of. This will of course be an even greater danger in the warmer parts of the country. While you may think that you can get away with storing batteries, perhaps because you don’t plan to rent the unit through summer, be aware that things don’t always go as planned and belongings often get left in storage way longer than anticipated—and even the smallest over-heated battery can make an explosion!

Temperatures in the range of 40-70°F are considered suitable for storing batteries, with 60°F often said to be ideal. Climate-conditioned self-storage lockers can be kept at anything between 55°F and 85°F, but lower temperatures are utilized for specialty items such as wine and valuable books.

In addition, keeping batteries dry is important to prevent corrosion and leakage, and this also means that the air around them should not be too humid. Climate control usually means maintaining a relative humidity of not more than 55%. Note that there are also ‘temperature-controlled’ storage facilities but these don’t address the humidity problem. So, for storing batteries, it’s advisable to get a climate-controlled unit that has a guaranteed maximum humidity and is kept at the lower end of the possible temperature range.

A car battery in situ

All in all, putting batteries in self-storage is not generally recommended, even when a storage facility might in theory allow it. Dangers exist, and the cost and/or inconvenience of alleviating those dangers can be more than it’s worth. Also, people are often not in an alert frame of mind when they start to rent a locker, being in the middle of moving, downsizing, or perhaps facing some other difficulty, so they may not address the potential problems of storing batteries. Also, folk often store things for longer than they planned, so a laptop or even a car—complete with battery—gets left until corrosion sets in. In most cases it’s better to take your batteries home or dispose of them and buy new ones when you retrieve your stuff from storage. Failing that, please obey the rules, and please be careful!


Francis Chantree is a writer and editor for Yardi, focusing on real estate and lifestyle content. He is a former programmer and researcher who exchanged computer language for his greatest passion, human language! When not writing and proofreading text, he can be found gardening and reading.

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