Using and Repairing Heat Exchangers


Heat, and sometimes the absence of it, is a major component of factory machinery, vehicle engines, and appliances found in the modern home. Heat can be much more powerful, or more dangerous, than burning logs in a fireplace or boiling a pot of water; heat exchanger devices exist to transfer heat between different solids, liquids, and gases as needed, sometimes to prevent something from overheating, other times to allow a device to use heat to carry out its job. Steam condensers, tank coil heaters, circulation heaters, and much more make up the variety of heat exchange design, based on how the heat is being used, and whether it is being moved toward or away from something else. Repairing these different components is vital for keeping any factory part of home appliance in good shape, from tank coil heaters to the circulation heaters. Ordering replacement parts like tank coil heaters and more can keep a machine running for years to come.

Varieties of Heat Exchangers Explained

What is a simple definition of a heat exchanger? According to Explain That Stuff, a heat exchanger is any device that transfers heat energy from one gas or liquid to another, without the two gases or liquids coming into direct contact with each other. Even a simple boiler can carry out this task; natural gas is burned and jets of hot gas shoot up around pipes that are pumping water, and the hot natural gas heats up the water. This cools down the gas (since it loses that thermal energy) and the water gains that energy, heating up.

Even refrigerators and air conditioners area heat exchangers, although they work in different ways than heaters. They will absorb heat from air and pump it away, cooling the air while heating up their own components until the heat energy is transferred away. Power plants use metal fins with water running though them to catch the thermal energy of steam and smoke exiting a smoke stack, and the energy transfers to the fins’ water and is carried away, where it can be used elsewhere to save on energy costs. Even a car radiator does something like this; water that cools the engine flows into the radiator, where it spreads through the radiator’s fins and is exposed to cold air, cooling the water back down so it can do its job again.

In shell and tube heat exchangers, one type of fluid will flow through a set of metal tubes, and meanwhile, a second, different fluid passes along the outside of these tubes while inside a larger shell, meaning there is a series of tubes inside a single larger compartment, the shell. The fluids may go in the same direction, or parallel flow, or the opposite direction, making it counter flow, or even at right angles, being cross flow. Plate/fin heat exchangers, meanwhile, make use of many thin fins arranged together to maximize surface area, and heat exchangers in gas furnaces make use of this type. Either way, if a heat exchanger’s fluids pass each other more than one time, then the system is known as a multi-pass heat exchanger. If only one pass is needed, the system is a single-pass heat exchanger.

Maintenance of these systems may vary. Constant exposure to heat, even though the system is meant to endure it, may wear it out over time, and routine inspections will reveal when a system is worn down and new parts must be installed. The shell around a shell and tube system may rust or have small holes corroded into it over time, and these should be repaired. Fins may become dented or bent if debris ever hits them, and tank coil heaters may have to be replaced if they age enough and cannot transfer heat as well.


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