ANNISTON ARMY DEPOT, Ala. -- The depot's boilers not only provide warmth to various buildings throughout the installation, they also supply the steam used to clean components and machinery.

Though most obvious in ANAD's industrial area, the 28 boilers served by the Directorate of Public Works are located in nearly every area of the depot.

In the Ammunition Limited Area, where open flames are forbidden, the boilers provide buildings with radiant heat each winter.

The boilers are used for humidity control in certain buildings, such as the Museum Support Center, where maintaining a constant humidity level is key to preserving artifacts.

Where steam is needed for heat or for cleaning in the various shops on the installation, a nearby boiler provides.

Working on the installation's boilers is a 24-hour-a-day, seven-day-a-week job and holidays are not excluded.

While much of the workforce enjoyed a holiday earlier this week, three shifts of employees kept the various plants running.

"It's nonstop," said Jody Caldwell, the leader for ANAD's boiler plants. "We work with a variety of different shops and people who are here at all hours."

Three of the boilers are located at the Main Boiler Plant. Because of the constant need for steam from that plant, one boiler is constantly running, one is constantly ready to go and the third is receiving preventative maintenance, each on a 45-day rotation.

There are 11 employees who work with the boilers - testing water, checking each piece of equipment daily and ensuring preventative maintenance and repairs are performed.

"We just took over preventative maintenance to replace seals and other items for the boilers," said Caldwell. "This should save the depot approximately $125,000 each year."

In order to perform their job duties, the boiler operators are licensed with the National Institute for the Uniform Licensing of Power Engineers.

The 25 boilers not located at the Main Boiler Plant are along "the route."

This equipment is checked twice each day to ensure it is in proper operating condition.

Some of these boilers only operate during the winter months, while others continue to run throughout the year.

With one operator per shift at the Main Boiler Plant and one checking or maintaining the other equipment, communication is key for the team.

"We maintain radio contact with the main boiler area at all times," said Caldwell.

The radio contact is both for the safety of each operator and enables them to call for assistance, when needed.

"These guys never complain," said Caldwell, adding the operators take pride in a job well done. "There are times when I will go to ask them to do something, only to find it's already been done."

Water testing is performed on each boiler. A lab located at the Main Boiler Plant tests the water for the three large boilers there, while a mobile kit travels with the operator who is serving the remaining equipment.

Each day, alkalinity, hardness, pH and dissolved solids are tested with these kits.

In 2017 and 2018, the three large boilers at the Main Boiler Plant were replaced as part of a $22 million Utility Energy Services Contract, which involved more than 230 buildings.

The contract reviewed energy usage throughout the installation and noted areas where replacement of equipment could save the installation money through increased efficiency.

At the time, the old units were capable of producing 210,000 pounds of steam per hour.

It was determined more modern and efficient boilers which produce 62,100 pounds of steam per hour would be more than adequate for the buildings served by the Main Boiler Plant.

The three new units are estimated to save the depot $900,000 each year in operating costs.

Where possible, and particularly in the ALA, the depot is moving away from large, central boilers which distribute steam through pipes and moving toward smaller water heaters which provide the needed radiant heat without requiring the energy needed to form steam.