What are Heat Exchangers?

What are Heat Exchangers?

Plate Heat Exchangers| Centromac

Heat exchanger services form the backbone of many applications across both the industrial sector and the commercial one.

There is a high need for effective, efficient and economical systems that allow businesses to enact fingertip control over internal temperatures; whether those be as part of a refrigeration system, a fluid control system, or even when looking to manage uniform temperatures throughout a facility.

Heat exchangers have become an important component in just about all systems that seek to achieve this type of control, which makes their widespread use no surprise, regardless of the industry it is servicing.

Because they form a crucial part of just about all applications in certain industries, we will explore them in more detail here. We will look at what they are, their different types, and how they benefit businesses.

So, let’s get started:

What are Heat Exchangers?

Heat exchangers come in a variety of types depending on your needs for them, each with their own unique functions, properties, advantages and setbacks.

However, even with these differences in types, heat exchangers always work to perform a similar function. In a nutshell, they form part of a system where temperatures need to be transferred from one point to another.

This is typically done through the use of two different fluids within the heat exchanger. These fluids might come into contact with one another to do this; however, there are also situations where these two fluids will not make contact with each other, in being separated by a wall within the system to prevent them from making direct contact during the process of exchange.

These fluids are generally either water or oil thanks to their thermal conductivity which makes the process all the more effective.

Wherever a fluid is being used in heat exchangers, they need to have a fairly low viscosity to ensure that the fluids flow uninterrupted, while also having the exceptional thermal capacity to ensure that heat is adequately transferred through the liquid.

How do Heat Exchangers Work?

Heat exchangers are an excellent approach to conserving energy in a factory or plant thanks to allowing the facility to make the most out of the heat that it produces, it also allows for effective cooling by eliminating heat from a system where necessary.

Of course, they aren’t only used for these processes, having their places in everything from in our homes to being used in cars and planes.

A heat exchanger will transfer heat from one fluid to another without having them come into direct contact. Quite simply, hot fluid will flow through a coiled tube within the device.

Another, much colder fluid runs through the device in the opposite direction allowing for the heat exchange to take place without creating any points of direct contact.

This way, the fluid that entered into the shell at a high temperature will exit the other end cooler than before, while the cool liquid will exit the other end at a higher temperature.

This, of course, is a very basic description that accounts for just about all types of heat exchangers. Different types will provide functionality through slightly different processes, however. But we will explore these in more detail a little later on.

Why are Heat Exchangers Used?

There are a number of reasons to use heat exchangers, and these reasons span across a number of industries and settings.

From right here in our own homes, to our offices and factories, right through to the vehicles we use to travel between them; heat exchangers form a crucial part of almost all aspects of our lives.

Their two major purposes include heating and cooling.

Imagine for a second, you need to heat an entire building through the use of a boiler system. Using a heat exchanger service, you can ensure that this heat is distributed effectively through the fluids within a piping system; whereby the water or oil can be heated by the burner and sent to each part of the structure.

Heat exchangers also work for cooling, such as in refrigeration, air conditioning or climate control inside of facilities and homes; even your air conditioner uses a heat exchanger to ensure that it can effectively cool and heat the air that it provides.

Of course, heating and cooling are fairly simplistic terms in this regard. The way that heating and cooling are conducted by a heat exchanger, and for what purposes, will be dependant on the type of environment it is being used in.

Which Industries Require Heat Exchangers?

As you can imagine, heat exchangers are used across a multiverse of industries. These components are essential, even if often overlooked in their capacity to enhance productivity and enact exact control over certain environments.

While they are also used in various domestic applications (such as in air conditioners and fridges), here we will explore their use in the industries that have a strong reliance on heat-exchanger services that meet their exact needs.

Waste-Water Treatment

Heat exchangers are used extensively in waste-water treatment. The process of treatment releases a lot of energy in the form of heat. Without the use of heat exchangers, this energy goes to waste, accounting for a rise in costs and also contributing significantly to the destruction of the local environment.

Using heat exchangers in such situations allows this heat to be reintroduced into the facility from where it can be used for a range of heating and cooling activities.

Food & Beverage Industries

The food and beverage industries are wholly reliant on methods used to keep perishables (whether they are finished products or ingredients) fresh.

This need for cooling is not limited only to production, there is also the matter of keeping produce fresh during storage, as well as during transport.

This calls for a need for specialised airconditioning and refrigeration systems that are designed to protect the condition of produce during every step; from production to take it to market.

These systems, as you may have guessed, are reliant on effective heat exchangers for their functionality.

Petrochemical Plants

Petrochemical plants have a dire need for exact environmental control, particularly where temperatures are concerned. They work with highly volatile substances, as well as those that need to adhere to strict quality control conditions which need to be carefully managed at all stages of production.

On top of this, much like in water treatment, petrochemical processing generates a staggering amount of heat, heat which can be considered wasted energy if not properly harnessed through heat exchangers.

Wholesale & Retail

Walk into any supermarket and one of the first things you notice is the staggering dip in temperature as you enter the door.

Then there are the large-scale needs for specialised refrigeration to keep everything from dairy to meat products fresh.

Each of these systems needs to manage temperatures effectively and economically through the use of heat exchangers; providing outlets with a solution for consistent temperature control at less of a cost.

Types of Heat Exchangers Available

It is plain to see that heat exchanger services have a crucial role to play in many different aspects of our personal and professional lives. Since their use and application is so varied, it stands to reason that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all product that meets the needs of every conceivable industry.

There are, rather, a range of different types, each with their own unique properties, applications, benefits and drawbacks.

Let’s explore a few of them here:

Plate Heat Exchangers

Plate heat exchangers use metallic plates to create a much larger surface area to facilitate more effective heat transfer between them.

They allow their operators an additional level of flexibility since their rate of heat exchange can be altered by adding or removing plates from the system individually.

This also makes them fairly easy to clean and maintain, since they can be disassembled without too much effort.


Plate heat exchangers offer a number of unique advantages wherever they are used. They are exceptionally efficient, compact and scalable.

They are also fairly easy and affordable in terms of maintenance, making them a great investment for long-term cost saving.


Of course, plate heat exchangers also come with a few disadvantages that you might want to be aware of before sourcing any.

For starters, they are not the most effective solution where sealing is concerned; which leads to quite a bit of leaking, especially when maintenance is overlooked.

They are also fairly limited in terms of their operational pressure and temperature thresholds, which are dependent on the materials used in the plates themselves.

Shell & Tube Heat Exchangers

Shell and tube heat exchangers operate exactly according to the description given near the beginning of this article.

A cold fluid enters one end of the shell through a tube that separates it from a hot fluid in the shell. As it does this, heat is exchanged from the hot to the cold fluid.

This makes the cold fluid come out hotter when it exits, while the hotter fluid loses temperature as it does the same.


Shell and tube heat exchangers come with a number of advantages.

They are able to withstand remarkably high operational pressures. They are very robust but also offer flexibility in terms of design.

Their temperature threshold also works on a fairly wide spectrum, being well suited to extremely high or low temperatures.


Like any other exchanger, shell and tube heat exchangers have one or two drawbacks to consider.

For instance, they do not distribute heat as effectively as plate heat exchangers, their tube cooler capacity cannot be expanded, and they take up quite a bit more floor-space than other solutions.

Tube to Fin Heat Exchangers

These types of heat exchangers use fin-type chambers and plates to allow for the transfer of heat between two different fluids.

This allows them to make the most out of the surface area when it comes to effectively transfer heat between them through a solution that is not only very effective but also compact and well suited to high volume transfer ratios.


These types of heat exchangers offer an impressive increase in the outer surface area of the tubes, which in turn improves the rate of heat transfer offered by the system.

This is the single most beneficial feature of the tube to fin heat exchangers and marks them as the ideal solution for specialised applications.


Of course, like any of the abovementioned solutions for heat exchange, these tubes to fin heat exchangers do come with one or two disadvantages that you should be aware of when mulling over candidate solutions for your temperature control needs.

Cleaning and maintenance represent the biggest drawback of this technology since it isn’t particularly straightforward or simple.

This is because of the mechanical fins which may hold on to debris a little more stalwartly than you may like. This means that when it comes time for maintenance to be conducted, it is best handled by a provider of heat exchange services if it is to be done effectively.

Contact Centromact Refrigeration for Details

With all of this in mind, it is relatively easy to see why it is important to find a heat exchanger service that you can rely on to provide quality, effectiveness, reliability and cost-effectiveness.

With a service that meets your exact requirements, you will be able to enact seamless and effective heat management within your facility; whether that be a large-scale industrial plant or simply a restaurant or kitchen.

If you would like to know more about getting unbeatable services from a trusted air conditioning company in Johannesburg, be sure to get into contact with a representative from Centromac Refrigerationtoday, or visit and browse our website for in-depth information on each of our offers and services.

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