By Rick Scavetta, U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart
U.S. Army Garrison Stuttgart’s public works staff has been troubleshooting Panzer Kaserne’s new heat and hot water system that caused some recent outages.
In September, engineers connected the Army Family Housing heat and hot water system to Stadtwerke Böblingen, a local utilities provider. This connection allowed for replacement of older, oil-burning furnaces with cleaner and more efficient energy.
Shortly after, problems began occurring, with the earliest related hot water impacts on Sept. 4. Maintenance personnel responded and later enlisted the help of engineers and manufacturer’s technicians to examine the system. They found the problem, identified needed repairs and scheduled the work for the coming weeks. The team identified that over pressurization caused damage to key components. Outages since then stem from that damage.
Maintenance personnel now check the system four times each day to ensure hot water remains online at the most critical hours of use, said Marisa Barrie, director of USAG Stuttgart’s public works directorate. During these checks, they verify the heating system’s readings and temperatures, she said. “If an issue is discovered, it can take up to three hours to restore heat and hot water,” Barrie said.
The problem came as cold weather arrived in Stuttgart. Residents not only noticed a lack of hot water, but also less heating from their radiators. During September, community members at Panzer Kaserne filed 38 priority maintenance requests. They also filed complaints with the garrison and shared the problem on various social media platforms.
Col. Jason Condrey, USAG Stuttgart’s commander, heard their concerns and directed garrison staff to take action. “Despite these unexpected issues, the new system is cleaner, efficient and will offer more reliable heat and hot water than we have experienced in the past,” Condrey said. “Because reliability has been placed in question, our garrison engineers, maintenance staff and host nation utilities providers will immediately intervene to correct any problems until the repairs are complete.”
Residents experiencing any heat or hot water loss should immediately call in a maintenance request at 0711-729-6200, which can be accessed through the USAG Stuttgart mobile app. Maintenance staff are required to address priority requests within two hours.
“We are making every effort to ensure hot water is maintained to our residents in the interim and long term,” Barrie said. “Communication from our residents on any issue is extremely helpful in both quick resolution and in compiling data to contribute to our larger understanding of any system issues.”
Clean and efficient new system
Once coal fed, Army housing furnaces at Panzer have been oil-fueled over the past two decades. Weekly
on-post oil deliveries kept them operational. The oil burning heat source was inefficient, foul smelling and not as environmentally friendly, said Patrick Vu, a garrison public works engineer familiar with the project.
In 2019, as cold weather set in, Panzer housing faced outages due to fuel consumption. Shifting to district heat eliminated the need for fuel deliveries this year. Public works partnered with Stadtwerke Böblingen, the city water provider, to connect Panzer’s family housing heat and hot water system to the city’s district heat network. Hot water is now piped from Stadtwerke Böblingen into the on-post distribution center, Vu said. “It’s a much cleaner and efficient source. It’s environmentally friendly and puts in a long-term partnership with our host nation supplier,” Vu said. “With any new system comes challenges. We have to troubleshoot and make sure the new system marries up with our own properly.”
In conjunction with Stadtwerke Böblingen, the Garrison has made system adjustments over the past several months to optimize system performance. Additionally, the city water provider actively participated in troubleshooting the most recent series of outages. Boilers, that store a larger capacity of hot water, last 10 to 20 years. At Panzer Kaserne, the garrison is now installing new water boilers, a $300,000 project that includes some immediate replacements. Others will be upgraded in 2021. “We have a fantastic system in place,” Barrie said. “It’s suffered some outages. But, we have pinpointed a specific problem and now have a path to resolution.”