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What is Heat Exchanger, and How Does it Work?

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If you don’t know what a heat exchanger is, then look around! Heat exchanges are used all around! You will find them in your home’s central heating or electrical system. But just knowing the existence of a heat exchanger won’t help you understand its purpose. 

So, heat exchangers are devices that are meant to transfer heat within the fluids without blending or mixing them. These fluids undergo separation through a wall that has high thermal conductivity. 

Beyond this basic understanding, if you want to dive deeper into learning what a heat exchanger is and how it works, then read this article till the end.

What is the Purpose of a Heat Exchanger? How Does it Work?

Heat exchanger plays the role of either cooling down or heating up the fluids using heat energy obtained through conduction. The easiest example to relate is your car’s engine! A heat exchanger is used in cars to keep the engine cool over time. 

If you want to know what is the purpose of a heat exchanger, the simple answer to it is, obtaining optimal temperature control in multiple processes to improve operational efficiency. With this device, you can prevent potential overheating hazards and keep the machine safe for a seamless and prolonged run. 

Anytime there’s a process that is generating heat, the use of heat exchangers becomes practical. Alongside cooling down the operating components and keeping them safe, heat exchangers also make sure to use available heat energy in the most efficient manner.

How Do the Heat Exchangers Work?

There are several types of heat exchangers that work differently per the specific type. These devices use convection and conduction techniques for moving energy from one location to another. The operating temperature for the heat exchangers is often within the sensible range. 

For some of the types, heat exchangers might be heating one medium with the machine through the conduction of heat into it. But at the same time, the same heat exchanger might be cooling down another medium by transferring its heat from it and moving it to any other medium, such as water or air. 

So, if you ask what a heat exchanger does, the simple answer to it would be it follows the end goal of enhancing the safety and efficiency of the entire system.

 What are the Types of Heat Exchangers?

Now, you are already aware that heat exchangers have several applications. So, it becomes important for you to know what types of heat exchangers that are suitable for those varying applications. They are:

1) Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

The shell and tube heat exchangers consist of a single tube with a medium that will demand heat or cool from the setup. The entire setup is enclosed by a shell, which will have the fluid that will be heating or cooling the first medium. It is probably one of the most commonly preferred types of heat exchangers for various applications. 

There are three types of shell and tube heat exchangers, which includes cross flow, parallel flow, and counterflow exchangers. Depending on the medium that needs either heating or cooling, it can be decided on what sub-type would be the best for your setup. 

2) Air-Cooled Heat Exchanger

The air-cooled heat exchanger works with air as its coolant for the fluid. In such a device, there’s a fan that draws the required air into the system for the cooling process to begin. In some of the setups or applications, there are no fans used in this type of heat exchanger, and the entire process relies on the movement of the system. 

These types of heat exchangers are used in gas-treating plants, power plants, compressor stations, and petrochemical plants. Every system that requires either condensing or cooling due to its overheating problems upon consistent use is liable to use an air-cooled heat exchanger.

3) Finned Tube Heat Exchanger

The finned tube heat exchangers will maximize the surface area to enhance the speed & efficiency of heat transfer. Such a type of exchanger is very beneficial when the medium has lower thermal conductivity. 

These heat exchangers come with plates that are spaced evenly, termed the fins of this device. There are pre-cut holes within these fins where the tubes are placed. As the surface area is large, it is sometimes referred to as the heat exchanger with an extended surface. It is used in steam condensers, air conditioning, driers, hydrogen coolers, etc. 

4) Plate Heat Exchanger

Plate heat exchangers are suitable for either fluid-to-fluid or fluid-to-vapor applications. These devices work by passing the fluids across a whole series of plates fitted compactly side-by-side. 

All the direct heating units use plate heat exchangers, allowing specific houses to use a specific amount of heated water from some centralized source. Even the oils can be cooled down with this type of heat exchanger by using water. Beyond that, liquid-to-liquid applications also use this device. 

What is the Importance of Heat Exchanger For Industrial Use?

The importance of heat exchangers for industrial use is undeniable, as it supports various use cases in different industrial setups. Food manufacture & storage, power generation, marine transport, air transport, chemical engineering, and other such industries use heat exchangers to keep their systems operational. 

In some of the industrial applications, a specific working environment is required. Using a heat exchanger will either heat or cool up the space. When the industrial plant is old and the productivity rates are being hindered, you can consider adding multiple heat exchangers as supplements to enhance the unit rate production. 


Understanding the definition and working of heat exchangers must have made you aware of their necessity in your different applications. But, to ensure you get the optimal output as expected, you must look out for the best heat exchanger manufacturer in India

Quality product is what can ensure your productivity doesn’t get hampered in any operational circumstances. So, do connect with experts and get an insight into choosing the best quality and type of heat exchanger for you to count on.

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