Energy process

The final countdown- what to check before saying yes to a heat exchanger

<span id="hs_cos_wrapper_name" class="hs_cos_wrapper hs_cos_wrapper_meta_field hs_cos_wrapper_type_text" style="" data-hs-cos-general-type="meta_field" data-hs-cos-type="text" >The final countdown- what to check before saying yes to a heat exchanger</span>
Each process is unique, demanding a specific type of heat exchanger to match. Just as you wouldn't buy a shirt without considering the size, material, or style that best fits you, selecting the right heat exchanger involves deeply understanding your process's needs. This comprehensive guide and checklist, drawn from 90+years of experience, will help you select a heat exchanger that fits and enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of your process.

Checklists - Table of contents

  • Performance
  • Sustainability
  • Maintenance 
  • Long-term operational costs 
  • How to use 


Performance checklist

Selecting the right heat exchanger significantly impacts the performance of your plant's processes. With the myriad of factors to consider, pinpointing the optimal solution requires a nuanced understanding of your specific needs. This ‘Performance checklist’ streamlines your decision-making process, focusing on the key performance attributes essential for optimizing your operations.

  • Temperature tolerance

Consider welded heat exchangers for operations above 180 degrees Celsius. They're engineered to handle extreme temperatures, ensuring your process remains stable and efficient. For operations under 180 degrees, plate and frame heat exchangers are a better choice as their ease of maintenance comes into play.

  • Pressure capacity

High-pressure conditions necessitate a robust design. If your process operates above 30 bars, a welded structure is critical for enduring such pressures.

  • Operational dynamics

Opt for plate and frame exchangers if your process involves frequent starts and stops. Their gasketed connections offer resilience against thermal and pressure cycles, minimizing the risk of premature failures.

  • Material compatibility

Do you know how crucial the right material selection is for your heat exchanger's compatibility with your process media? For systems exposed to saltwater, opting for corrosion-resistant materials is essential to prevent premature wear. Likewise, when handling oils or aggressive chemicals, ensuring that gaskets and plates are made from compatible materials is key to avoiding breakdowns. 

  • Pressure drop and self-cleaning

Consider the available pressure drop in your process. A higher drop can aid in self-cleaning, which is crucial for processes prone to fouling. A higher-pressure drop will result in a smaller heat exchanger and, thus, also a more economically sound solution. 

  • Consultation with your supplier

Engaging in a dialogue with your supplier significantly enhances the decision-making process. Their expertise is at your disposal to navigate the specifics of your application, ensuring you select a heat exchanger that not only meets but exceeds your operational requirements.


Sustainability checklist

Focusing on sustainability when selecting a heat exchanger can significantly impact your plant's energy efficiency and environmental footprint. Here are tailored tips to guide your decision:

  • Optimize heat recovery

Choose exchangers that excel in capturing and repurposing waste heat, such as gasketed plate heat exchangers. This benefits your bottom line by reducing energy costs and contributes positively to environmental conservation.

  • Energy efficiency

Seek out exchangers known for their energy-efficient performance. The goal is to minimize heat loss, which accounts for a substantial portion of energy inefficiencies globally.

  • Maintenance and longevity

Prioritize exchangers that are easy to maintain and have longer lifespans, and make sure you service your unit when needed. Efficiently serviced and durable units prevent unnecessary replacements and waste. 


Maintenance checklist

Understanding the maintenance requirements of a heat exchanger is essential for ensuring its long-term efficiency and reliability. The following checklist guides you through the critical considerations that influence your choice:

  • Pressure drop

A higher pressure drop helps the exchanger stay cleaner for longer periods, reducing the frequency of maintenance. This is crucial for maintaining operational efficiency and minimizing downtime due to cleaning.

  • Fluid cleanliness

Fluids with particulate matter can significantly increase the need for maintenance, especially if you're using heat exchangers that cannot be easily opened for cleaning. 

On the other hand, processing cleaner fluids typically enjoys lower maintenance demands, contributing to greater operational uptime. That’s why you need to make sure to match your heat exchanger design with the characteristics of the fluid it will handle.

  • Suitable channel width

Opting for wider channels is a strategic choice, particularly when dealing with fluids that carry a lot of particulates. This design choice effectively minimizes the risk of clogging, facilitating smoother and more reliable operation. It also cuts down on the frequency of required cleanings.

  • Particle tolerance

Choosing a heat exchanger that matches the particle size of your process fluids lowers the likelihood of blockages. This ensures a steady flow throughout the system, contributing to consistent operational performance. Also, as the design inherently reduces the chances of clogging, it leads to fewer maintenance calls.

  • Self-cleaning features

Have you ever considered the self-cleaning efficiency of your heat exchanger? Plate heat exchangers are designed to offer remarkable self-cleaning capabilities compared to shell and tube models. This innovative design feature drastically lowers both the labor and costs associated with manual cleaning. 

  • Ease of cleaning

The design of plate heat exchangers facilitates not only easier and quicker cleaning processes but also requires significantly less space for maintenance. This feature is a game-changer for facilities with limited room, offering an efficient solution that keeps your operation running smoothly without spatial compromise.

  • Accessibility for inspection and cleaning

Exchangers that can be opened easily, such as those with gaskets, allow for regular inspection and cleaning, prolonging the equipment's lifespan and ensuring peak performance.

  • Global support

A supplier with a global footprint ensures that you receive timely maintenance and support, critical for minimizing downtime and ensuring consistent performance regardless of your operation's location.

  • Brand-agnostic service provider

A supplier willing to service exchangers from different manufacturers provides flexibility and peace of mind, ensuring you can receive expert maintenance without being tied to a single provider.


Long-term operational costs checklist

Quantifying costs involves assessing the direct and indirect financial impacts over the lifecycle of your heat exchanger, including maintenance, component replacement, operational efficiency, and potential downtime costs. Consider the following elements to accurately manage and project the financial aspects:

  • Maintenance frequency and costs

Regular maintenance (recommended every 3-5 years) is more cost-effective than extensive overhauls after decades of neglect. Factor in the costs of periodic maintenance versus emergency repairs.

  • Temperature impact on component lifespan

Operating at high temperatures can shorten the lifespan of components like gaskets, necessitating replacements every six months. Quantify the additional costs of these replacements over the expected lifecycle.

  • Minimizing downtime

Operational stops can incur significant financial losses, especially in critical applications like oil platforms. Evaluate the cost benefits of more reliable (but possibly higher initial cost) solutions for your specific process that offer minimized downtime.

  • Backup units

Having a backup heat exchanger can prevent costly interruptions. Consider the long-term savings of reduced downtime against the initial expense of purchasing additional equipment.

  • Type and material of heat exchanger

Exotic materials may offer better longevity and efficiency but at a higher upfront cost. Evaluate the total cost of ownership, including the efficiency and maintenance requirements, of plate vs. shell and tube exchangers. Remember, the larger your heat exchanger is, the more material you require.

  • Supplier insight and support

Choose a supplier offering genuine insights and support for both welded and non-welded options, ensuring you get a solution best suited to your process needs.



Ever wondered if the very materials chosen for your heat exchanger could dictate its success or downfall in your specific process? It's a crucial yet often overlooked detail. In certain processes, elements like salts or hydrogen sulfide can severely damage gaskets and components; something not always front of mind. 

That’s why it’s important to consider material selection to combat these silent adversaries effectively. Ensuring compatibility with your process media is not just a detail; it's a cornerstone for long-term efficiency and reliability.


How to use this checklist effectively during your decision-making 

To leverage this checklist effectively in your decision-making:

  1. Before contacting suppliers: Review the checklist to gather all necessary information about your requirements. This preparation allows you to provide detailed info right from the start, leading to more accurate initial responses and a smoother process.
  2. After receiving quotes: Revisit the checklist to ensure the proposals cover all critical aspects, such as compatibility with corrosive substances like saltwater and the use of appropriate materials like stainless steel.


Using the checklist both before and after engaging with suppliers helps you evaluate their expertise and responsiveness, ensuring you partner with a provider that truly understands your needs.