MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif—Reducing total cost of ownership and energy bills are two of the top drivers behind recent improvements to heat exchangers, according to research firm Frost & Sullivan (Mountain View, Calif.).
Emissions regulations, and the pressure to cut production costs are also leading vendors to produce more efficient heat units, noted Laurel Donoho, a Frost & Sullivan research manager in San Antonio, Texas.
“We see this in adjacent markets as well, such as motors and pumps,” Donoho said.
Creating a more productive, longer-lasting heat exchanger means finding better ways to reduce corrosion and scaling, according to the firm.
Its recent report, “Trends in Heat Exchanger Technologies,” pointed to methods such as back flashing to reduce sediment deposits in tubes—extending the product’s lifespan.
Another innovation involves replacing aluminum tubes with copper, to shave costs from HVAC applications without affecting thermodynamic performance.
Air-cooled on the rise
Looking ahead, Frost & Sullivan expects rising demand for air-cooled units and cooling towers.
“Plate heat exchangers will overtake shell and tube, and all welded plate heat exchangers will increase in market share,” said Avinash Iyer, senior research analyst with Frost & Sullivan.
The popularity of plate heat exchangers can be chalked up to their transfer efficiency and lower installation costs. They’re also available in compact sizes and can be customized, Iyer added.
“[Welded heat exchangers] can bring better physical characteristics and reduce costs. Fabrication is easier, and from an OEM perspective, it gives you a shorter turnaround time.”
He outlined the main considerations driving recent purchases of heat exchangers:
1. Application: Where will the heat exchanger be used? “Stainless steel is used for deionized water, copper is for water, aluminum is ideal for light oils and chemicals like ethylene and glycol,” Iyer said.
2. Air or liquid pressure drop: Liquid moving from one end of the unit to the other will cause a reduction in pressure. If the pressure drop is overlooked, problems such as leakage and buckling can occur.
3. Thermal performance and temperature range: The oil and gas industry needs heat exchangers with high thermal performance and temperature range, whereas low thermal performance emperatures are fine for HVAC applications, he noted.
4. Fluid-flow capacity: How quickly does the fluid have to pass through the heat exchanger?
5. Ease of cleaning, maintenance and repair.
6. The ability to scale for future expansion.
Vendor reputation for reliability and service also rank highly in heat exchanger purchasing decisions, the firm reported.