Housing feedback spurs change to residents’ quality of life: air conditioners approved

The possibility of the sweet respite of cold air on a hot summer night will be available Friday to residents in Baumholder’s Army Family Housing for the first time ever.

Col. Jason Edwards, U.S. Army Garrison Rheinland-Pfalz commander, signed Garrison Policy No. 33 last week, allowing housing residents to purchase portable air conditioners for use in family housing, effective Friday.

“This was one of the easiest decisions and policy letters to approve, once we got the technical specs back that our electrical grid could handle the added throughput,” said Edwards. “When we talked to our residents last year, both digitally and in person, this was without a doubt one of the biggest concerns our families voiced over and over. As we emphasized then, housing survey feedback is important to make changes and this allowed us to push that issue up the chain for higher headquarters approval and then find a way to implement it to address a major need for our housing residents.”

Army and Air Force Exchange Services (AAFES) is gearing up for a hot summer in Germany by having numerous portable air conditioners on sale at their main store at Ramstein Air Base and the store in the Baumholder Military Community. As of May those living in Baumholder Military Housing are allowed one air conditioner per housing unit.

“Last year was the hottest summer on record in Germany,” said George Brown, Directorate of Public Works Administrative and Operations Branch chief. “We have things, like adding rolladens, being added in the next few years, but we need a ‘right now’ action to help abate the heat. So, we spent all winter coming up with something.”

Brown said allowing tenants in family housing to have air conditioners seems like an easy decision. But, the buildings in Smith and Wetzel Housing were built in the 1950s and DPW had to make sure the electrical systems in the buildings could handle the extra load of the air conditioners.

“We ran a lot of numbers that would bore people,” laughed Brown. “But, we had to think about the differences between 1950s families and today’s families with TVs in every room, computers, microwaves and all those things that weren’t around back then that are modern conveniences today. We had to make sure the electrical system could take the load and not start fires.”

The policy allows only one air conditioner per apartment. Brown said that’s so the building doesn’t get overloaded. He said that’s also why the policy does not allow air conditioners in barracks.

“I know it doesn’t seem fair,” he explained. “But, in a barracks, you could be looking at 100 or so individual rooms with an air conditioner. And these barracks just can’t safely take that kind of electrical load right now. It would fry the system.”

Barracks residents aren’t the only ones not allowed air conditioning. Army families who live in Air Force-run housing in Kaiserslautern are not allowed to purchase air conditioners for their military homes at this time, per separate policy.

Baumholder residents who want to add a portable air conditioner should read the policy first, advised Brown. There are some restrictions on the size of unit allowed and requirements that need to be met. Then, they must fill out a request for and take/send it to the housing office. The fillable form is “extremely easy” according to housing officials.

“I am expecting at least two thirds, or approximately 500, of our on-post residents to utilize the new air conditioning policy,” said Charm Sutton, Baumholder Housing Services chief. “If last summer’s heat was any indication, the authorization to use portable air conditioning units is a welcomed change. A lot of our families are used to being able to control the climate in their homes and these warmer European summers have shown us why this policy is necessary.”

Garrison Policy No. 33 can be found at https://home.army.mil/rheinland-pfalz/index.php/about/policy