In 1923, Dr. Richard Sellingman invented the first plate heat exchanger, and forever revolutionised the process of indirect heat transfer. Now, these products can be found in many homes, commercial institutions and manufacturing plants of various industries. Their inherent design give them a distinct advantage over other types of heat exchangers, like shell and tube types, adiabatic wheel types, etc.
Let’s take a look at the different advantages of plate heat exchangers that make them arguably the best devices for many heat transfer applications.
Compactness. They use thin sheets of metal to transfer heat from one liquid to another. These metal plates are lined with corrugations that give them a large surface area for a very small volume. This gives them a very small form factor as compared to other types of heat exchangers, saving valuable floor space that can be used for other purposes. It is possible for it to have the same thermal coefficient as that of a tubular type up to five times its size. This is particularly helpful in small homes, offices, and manufacturing plants that need all the space they can get.
High Thermal Efficiency. They operate at higher thermal efficiency than other heat exchangers due to the large surface area of the plates. The cooling and heating liquid spread over the plates, giving them more contact for heat transfer. The narrow chambers between each plate also seek to maximise the volume of fluid in contact with the metal plates.
Economical. These exchangers are relatively simple and cheaper to produce than other types. Because of their size, they require less material to fabricate. They also give the highest thermal capacity for relatively low-cost. This makes them the most economic choice for heat transfer tasks.
Flexibility. They are very flexible in that they can be used in most applications with only minimal modifications. And if modifications are to be applied, they can be implemented with relative ease, negating the need to buy a new heat exchanger. They also work on a wide range of fluids and thus, make them compatible with a wide range of industrial applications.
Easy Installation and Maintenance. They look relatively similar on the outside; this makes installation of new devices relatively easy as one would not worry about incompatible gasket sizes, varying input and output valves and pipes, etc. Given the right tools, these robust machines are also easy to dismantle and take apart. This makes cleaning and other maintenance tasks easier to perform.
Leakage. Although the plates and gaskets in them are sealed tight, there is a greater potential for leakage than shell and tube types heat exchangers. But as long as you don’t run them outside of normal operating regions, one shouldn’t worry too much about this.
Temperature Difference.They work well with fluids with minimal to normal temperature differences. However, it does not work as well as a shell and tube type heat exchanger for fluids with huge differences in temperature.
In the end, the advantages of plate heat exchangers make them ideal for general heat transfer applications. The next time you need heat exchangers for your home, office, or industry plants, why not try getting a plate heat exchanger?