13
December
2016

Here's What You Need to Know About Cluster Mailboxes

Cluster Mailboxes: What You Need to Know

Cluster mailboxes - they may be where the future is moving, and you need to know what to expect with yours. No worries. This guide has you covered.

You may never have heard of a cluster mailbox or be sure of what that is exactly, but you’ve definitely seen them around… and you should get used to them.

Since door-to-door mail delivery is likely coming to an end in the United States, cluster mailboxes are becoming more and more popular.

These kiosks holding a cluster of individual mailboxes are not only cutting costs for mail carriers, but they’re convenient for users as well.

Keep reading to learn why this type of mailbox is a win-win for everyone:

What Is A Cluster Mailbox?

A cluster mailbox, or a cluster box unit (CBU), is a form of centralized, communal mail delivery equipment.

These types of mailboxes are freestanding and pedestal-mounted. They contain 8, 12, 13, or 16 individually locked mailboxes and parcel compartments.

Installations of cluster mailboxes can be customized, and there are different modified options available to blend in with any community décor. 

Whether it was located in subdivisions, streets, neighborhoods, or apartment buildings or complexes, you’ve probably passed a number of cluster mailboxes in your day.

The most popular form of any “clustered” style of mailboxes is the U.S. Postal Service (USPS) Approved Cluster Box Unit.

5 Things To Know About Cluster Mailboxes Before They Show Up In Your Community

#1: How They Work

How cluster mailboxes work is that the postal carrier will have a master key to it.

That key opens all the boxes or will be able to access all of the boxes at once by popping open the entire front or back of the cluster box.

Each individual mailbox owner will get their own key to his or her own box and be able to access their mail at any time.

#2: The Safety & Security

Don’t sweat about this new mail equipment that may be setting up shop near you—cluster mailboxes are safe! 

If you're worried about the security of making the switch to a cluster mailbox, don’t be.

Your mail will be just as safe in a cluster mailbox as it would in a mailbox on your own curbside or front porch.

In fact, using a cluster mailbox can be considered safer than residential mailboxes, since the curbside pedestal type residential mailbox option doesn’t have a lock and is, therefore, much more vulnerable to thieves and vandals.

Because the individual boxes on cluster mailboxes are always locked, it’s also a safer option than having your mail deposited in a front door through a wall mount type residential mailbox.

Overall, this is a good option to protect your mail from identity theft.

#3: The Ease Of Receiving Packages And Sending Mail

So getting your mail seems easy enough…but what about larger packages? And how are you supposed to send mail out?

You’ll probably be pleased to learn that all are equally as quick and painless!

How To Receive A Larger Package

You’ll still be able to receive larger packages at your or cluster mailbox, even ones that don’t fit in your own small individual mail compartment.

These mailboxes include a package box large enough to accommodate most parcels. 

If you receive a package too big for your individual mailbox, the postal carrier will leave a key for the parcel box there in your individual mail compartment.

The key will allow you to open the package compartment and retrieve your package.

After getting your goods from the package compartment, leave the key in the compartment for the postal carrier to retrieve when he or she returns. When you shut the door to the package compartment, it’ll automatically lock itself.

In other cases, once you insert the key to the package compartment and turn it, you won’t be able to remove the key and it will stay there until your postal carrier returns next to retrieve it.

How To Send Outgoing Mail

Just as easily as receiving mail at your cluster mailbox, you can also send your stuff. 

For outgoing mail, there may be a special slot or compartment on the communal mailbox. 

Some cluster mailboxes will instead have a place for your outgoing letters to go in your individual mailbox.

Additionally, you can always send outgoing mail by dropping it in any public mail receptacle, sending it from your place of employment, or dropping it off at your local Post Office.

#4: Winter Weather Use

The USPS recommends clearing snow and ice from the mailbox in severe weather. (This can include any mailbox, no matter where it’s located or what its form). 

One advantage of a cluster mailbox is that you share this responsibility of keeping it clear in the winter.

While you can use a shovel and bag of salt to clear a path to your cluster mailbox, many users of cluster mailboxes say that they never have to take care of this task, however, as the area is usually already cleared by the foot traffic or another user of the mailbox by the time they arrive. 

Although many cluster mailbox users never run into any problem with ice in the locks, on the rare occasion that you have an issue with ice making a lock difficult to open, a can of lock deicer can quickly take care of it.

#5: Why Will We Be Seeing More Cluster Mailboxes In The Future

The USPS is under pressure to cut costs wherever possible.

Because of this, they are now requiring builders and developers to purchase and install cluster mailboxes. 

By delivering mail to these kiosks rather than door-to-door or individual street-side mailboxes, the postal service is saving money by reducing gas costs and that of wear-and-tear on USPS vehicles. 

Additionally, because letter carriers can deliver to more mailboxes when the individual boxes are in such clusters, USPS is cutting costs in this way too by saving on mail carriers’ salaries.

Coming in at about a $30 billion price tag annually, according to the USPS, delivering mail is the largest single fixed-cost the service faces.

So, while door-to-door delivery runs about $353 a year per each address, and curbside delivery costs about $224, cluster mailboxes are much cheaper.

Cluster boxes cut the cost, coming in at about $160 per address annually. 

Do you have a cluster mailbox in your neighborhood or housing vicinity? Tell us about your experiences sending and receiving mail and/or packages with this system in the comments! 

If you’ve lived in locations with other mailing systems other than cluster mailboxes, tell us which you prefer!

Categories: National Mailboxes Blog, Industry