Are heat exchangers environmentally friendly? - Our Daily Green

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Are heat exchangers environmentally friendly?

By Elliot DeLaney

Heat exchangers are some of the most important engine and household mechanical components used today. Not only do they allow heat to safely and efficiently escape from engines and other mechanical items, but they also conserve energy in some very specific items. Of course, heat exchangers come in a large variety of shapes and sizes. Shell and tube, plate, and waste heat recovery units are the most environmentally friendly models of heat exchangers.

Shell and tube heat exchangers are basically a series or tubes that transfer hot liquid or gas and cooling agents back and forth from the mechanical unit they are part of. In the case of a refrigerator, the heating tubes are used to carry any wasteful heating gasses away from the cooling mechanisms of the units. At the same time, cooling liquids are pumped through the cooling tubes, allowing the refrigerator unit to remain cold. This whole process conserves energy by quickly and efficiently removing heat from a cooling system, reducing the overall energy required to keep the refrigerator running. Unfortunately, shell and tube heat exchangers are quite bulky, and can only be used for static, large mechanical items.

Plate heat exchangers are the most common type of heat exchanger available today. They are used primarily in automobile and plane engines. Plate exchangers are typically made out of high quality aluminum alloys, due to their higher heat transfer efficiency. They also have a larger heat transfer area, weigh much less than other heat exchangers and can withstand much higher internal and external pressures.

Plate heat exchangers save energy in several ways.

  • First, they do not weigh much, and can fit in almost any type of engine quite easily. A lighter engine compartment means that the automobile or plane needs to use less gas to move, ultimately saving the environment in gasoline use and carbon dioxide emissions. 
  • Second, the heat transfer efficiency of plate heat exchangers is good. This allows the heat produced by the engine to dissipate quickly, causing the engine to run cooler and faster, ultimately reducing waste.

Waste heat recovery units are the most environmentally friendly heat exchangers on the market today. They take heat waste from power plants and use that to heat water or other liquids and gasses. These heated elements are then used to create energy or other mechanical products. This saves energy by reusing heat caused by a prior mechanical reaction.

Elliot Delany is a writer for, a leading manufacturer and retailer of heat exchangers.
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