Applicable in multiple industries, heat exchangers, are devices used in multiple processes to transfer heat between two or more fluids. These devices make use of conduction, which is made possible with the materials used to make different exchangers, to avoid direct contact between the fluids. You may not realize it, but your home, workplace, and the vehicles you ride all make use of heat exchangers for different purposes. Air conditioners and refrigerators, for instance, work by pumping heat out to keep the surroundings at a cool temperature.
Though these devices generally perform the same function, heat exchangers also vary significantly in design, operational features, and performance. Take a look at the product selection of a heat exchanger manufacturer, and you will find a range of options that each work differently to suit particular applications. Regardless of the industry you work for, your goal will be to find an exchanger that can perform its job in the most efficient way possible. However, the answer to what the right exchanger is may vary due to specific performance features that your application needs may require.
Several heat exchanger designs exist in the market today, but you are likely to encounter some of the most common types used in many industries. Below, you will find more information on the features of each design to understand, which will be right for you.
Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger
Shell and tube exchangers have been in the market since the 1900s but continue to be the standard choice for many industries. Its design includes multiple small-diameter tubes enclosed by a large shell, easily making it one of the largest types of heat exchangers. The main selling point of the shell and tube design is its capability of withstanding high pressures and temperatures, which makes it suitable for several applications. Despite being one of the most basic configurations, this type of exchanger is also versatile in terms of serviceability, especially since it can be subject to harsher physical environments.
Plate Heat Exchanger
Plate exchangers work similarly as shell and tube exchangers, but instead, use stacks of parallel corrugated plates to create a series of channels for the liquid to flow. This design allows the unit to be much smaller than the shell and tube design, thus requiring less fluid input and cost. Plate exchangers are also known to provide highly efficient heat transfers, although they tend to be more suitable for low to medium pressure fluids.
While exploring your options with a heat exchanger manufacturer, you may come across a hybrid type called the plate and shell design. This hybrid design aims to combine the advantages of the two types: the high temperature and pressure capability of a shell and tube design, as well as the efficiency of plate design.
Compact Heat Exchanger
Compact heat exchangers are an excellent alternative to the shell and tube design, which is normally considered as the default option by engineers. This type comes at a lower initial cost and features a transfer coefficient that is three or more times higher than that of a shell and tube exchanger. The latter allows you to use smaller heat-transfer areas, thereby resulting in significant cost savings. That said, compact heat exchangers have lower pressure and temperature thresholds and are prone to fouling due to their narrow flow channel, so they are not as versatile as shell and tube exchangers.