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Guide to Understanding Different Types of Heat Exchangers

The importance types of heat exchangers in various industries

The  selection of an appropriate type of heat exchanger is critical for the process design engineer.  Heat exchanger is used in many industries for different applications and requirements like HVAC, oil and gas, petrochemical, power sector, and other manufacturing industrries.

In this article, we will share and discuss deep information, application, standards,  and types. This is very useful for working professionals, mechanical engineers and chemical engineers etc. Let’s get started!

Types of heat exchangers – overview

  • Plate Heat Exchanger
  • Spiral Heat Exchanger
  • Plate-fin Heat Exchanger
  • Air-cooled Heat Exchanger
  • Double Pipe Heat Exchanger
  • Finned Tube Heat Exchanger
  • Regenerative Heat Exchanger
  • Microchannel Heat Exchanger
  • Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger
  • Adiabatic Wheel Heat Exchanger

Plate Heat Exchanger (PHE)

Plate types heat exchangers are very useful for heat transfer, and this use for less viscuss fluid (liquid to liquid heat transfer). This is a combination of multiple corrugated metal sheets and the selection number of sheets within it is directly related to heat transfer requirement.

The sheets is also separate the fluid and act as berrier betweet both fluid. The part used in a plate heat exchanger is Plates, Gaskets, Frame, Connections, Guiding Bar and other. Ensures proper alignment of plates during assembly.

Plate Heat Exchanger (PHE)
Plate Heat Exchanger (PHE)

Application of Plate Heat Exchanger:

There are many applications of plate types heat exchangers for industries like HVAC, chemical industries, food processing and beverage, and refrigeration. This is also used for heating, cooling, and heat recovery in the process industries.

Benefits and Advantages:

There are advantages and disadvantages for PHE, these are compact size and shape, good heat transfer efficiency, flexibility in operation, easy maintenance, and suitability for mid range-pressure and temperature applications. 


Maintenance frequency is more due to fouling of liquid that reduces the efficiency of PHE.


The heat transfer rate (Q) in a plate heat exchanger can be calculated using the formulas

Q=U∗A∗ΔT (lm) 

Where: Q = Heat transfer rate (in watts or BTU/hr), U = Overall heat transfer coefficient, A = Heat transfer area, ΔT  = Logarithmic mean temperature difference 

Spiral Heat Exchanger

This is a specialized type of heat exchanger and available with a spiral configuration of 02 or more metal sheets. These both or more sheets are joined together with the help of weld joints to create spiral combinations to create a good heat efficency.

The parts of the spiral type heat exchanger are spiralchannels, shell, connections, baffles and support structure.


Spiral Heat Exchanger
Spiral Heat Exchanger


Application of Spiral Heat Exchanger:

This is used for special applications requiring high-efficiency heat transfer like chemical processing, pharmaceuticals, HVAC systems, and food processing. 

Benefits and Advantages:
  • Versatility
  • Compact Size
  • Reduced Fouling
  • High Heat Transfer Efficiency
  • Higher Manufacturing Cost
  • Limited Pressure Capability

Plate-fin Heat Exchanger (PFHE)

Plate-fin heat exchangers are compact types, use many plates and fins to complete the assembly. Generally used for gas application. The layer of fins anf plate joint by the brazing in the furnace allows for enhanced heat transfer through conduction and convection.

The each layes fins is separated by a metal plate, these metals plate primary function separate the fluid and heat transfer to each other. This can be used for vaporizing and condensing both single and mixed component service fluid. Parts of Plate-fin – Plates, Fins, Manifolds, Headers, Seals

Applications of Plate-fin

There are several applications that are aerospace, automotive, HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), and oil and gas.

Benefits and Advantages Plate-fin

High Thermal Efficienc, Compact Design, Versatility, Lightweight, Customizable and Configurations.

Disadvantages Plate-fin

More Costly, Susceptibility to Fouling and Complex Maintenance.

Air-cooled Heat Exchanger (ACHE):

An Air-cooled Heat Exchanger (ACHE) is used in heavy duty applications to cool the fluid or gas without contamination of the other fluid. Generally it is used for gas applications. 

The service fluid pass within the fin tubes and ambient air flow throught fins. The air is force supplied by external sources like fans and the fins increase the contact surface area for better heat transfer.

Parts use in ACHE’s is Finned Tubes, Fan Assembly, Support Structure, Inlet and Outlet Connections, Housing or Casing

Benefits and Advantages of ACHE’s

No water consumption, Low maintenanc, Versatility, Cost-effective

Disadvantages  of ACHE’s

Limited cooling capacity, Air quality dependency, Larger footprint

Double Pipe Heat Exchanger Difinitions (DPHE)

A double pipe heat exchanger (DPHE), also known as a hairpin type heat exchanger. This is a compact equipment which is used to transfer heat between 02 fluids. The 02 concentric pipes are used to manufacture or fabricate the DPHE one within the other. 

The inside pipes carry hot or cold fluids and cooling liquid flow in the outer side pipe in opposite directions. 

Applications of (DPHE)

DPHE has a wide range of applications in various industries including chemical industries, pharmaceuticals, Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning, food and beverage, and renewable energy systems.

Benefits and Advantages of (DPHE)

Easy design and construction, Compact size, Easy to install, Suitable for high-pressure and temperature, Cost-effective 

Disadvantages of (DPHE)

Limited heat transfer surface area, Not suitable for heavy heat duty and fouling reduced efficiency.

Finned Tube Heat Exchanger (FTHE)

Finned tube heat exchangers, FTHE, are the same work as fin fan coolers. But there are no external sources of air. That  is the best equipement used to transfer heat between two fluids. A series of tubes connected to each other through welding and header and fins attached to increase the surface area for heat transfer. 

Applications of FTHE are HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning), refrigeration, chemical industries, power plants, and oil and gas, and refinery.

Parts of FTHE are tubes, fins, headers, and support structures. Tubes carry the fluids, fins increase surface area, headers distribute fluids, and support structures maintain the assembly.

Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger (STHE)

STHE are the most common and simple types of heat exchanger, used for industrial purposes for  heat transfer of two fluids. The sape of the STHE is cylindrical and the tubes are also cylindrical. This type of heat exchanger is used for high and medium pressure andtemperature application. 

There are several types of STHE or SHE used in the industries such as following U-Tube Heat Exchangers: Multi-Pass Heat Exchangers: Floating Head Heat Exchangers Fixed Tube Sheet Heat Exchangers Double Tube Sheet Heat Exchangers.

Application of SHE is in power plants, chemical processing, oil refineries, HVAC systems, and other industrial applications, and refrigeration and air conditioning systems.

Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers parts tubes sheet cover
Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers parts tubes sheet cover

Benefits and Advantages of SHE is Versatility, Efficient Heat Transfer, Durability and Easy Maintenance.

Disadvantages  of SHE
  • Long life and less maintenance 
  • Less Space Requirement
  • Fouling is low
Parts  of SHE

Shell, Tubes, Tube Sheets, Tube Bundle, Baffles, Nozzles, Shell Side and Tube Side, Passes

Adiabatic Wheel Heat Exchanger (AWHE)

Adiabatic Wheel Heat Exchanger (AWHE) is an innovative device used for efficient heat exchange between two fluid streams without mixing them. It employs a rotating wheel coated with a desiccant material, facilitating heat transfer through adsorption and desorption processes.

Choosing the Right Heat Exchanger for Your Application

Selecting the right heat exchanger is a more critical part of the design as per specific application. Following factors need to be considered during selection and designs, 

  • Compatibility.
  • Space Constraints
  • Cost Considerations
  • Operating Conditions
  • Heat Transfer Efficiency
  • Maintenance and Cleaning

Heat Exchanger Design download sheet Click the link


Heat exchangers are essential components in various industries, facilitating efficient heat transfer and temperature control. Understanding the different types of heat exchangers, such as shell and tube, plate, finned tube, spiral, and regenerative heat exchangers, allows you to make informed decisions when selecting the most suitable option for your specific application.

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