Why Heat Exchangers are Important in Cooling Systems for Industrial Processes

by Emily Newton

Industrial cooling systems are critical to ensuring equipment works properly. Consequently, choosing the optimal cooling method is crucial — especially for high-volume or sensitive facilities. Industrial heat exchangers are one of the most beneficial types to consider.

Heat exchangers come in many forms but all transfer heat between two or more fluids — liquid or gas. This transfer lets you move heat away from one surface to cool it or increase heat in another for the opposite effect.

The Importance of Industrial Heat Exchangers

Industrial heat exchangers are already a $16.6 billion industry and could be worth an additional $10 billion by 2029. Here’s why they’re important enough across enough use cases to drive that growth.

Optimize Cooling Processes

The most crucial advantage of heat exchangers in industrial cooling systems is they cool things more efficiently. There’s a reason air conditioners — which three-quarters of all U.S. homes use to cool their interiors — rely on this same technology. It lowers temperatures far faster than airflow can.

Fans and mechanical heatsinks may be sufficient for smaller equipment, but industrial machinery needs more. The coolants in heat exchangers absorb much more heat than the air and move it faster. Because heat exchangers use closed systems, they also lose less of these temperatures to radiation, ensuring they move more heat away from sensitive components.

You can use heat exchangers as an independent cooling system or to complement another method. In either case, they optimize the cooling process to ensure your equipment stays at ideal operating temperatures.

Reduce Energy Needs

Because industrial heat exchangers are so efficient, they help reduce your ongoing costs. Each pass will cool your system more, so these systems don’t have to run as heavily to reach optimal temperatures, resulting in less electricity to get the same result.

Unlike some other cooling systems, heat exchangers don’t require additional equipment. While you can use them with other cooling infrastructure, you don’t necessarily need to if you have a heat exchanger large enough. As a result, you can further reduce your power consumption.

Minimizing your energy intake has two essential advantages. First, it lowers your ongoing costs. Secondly, it helps your organization become more sustainable, which can help appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious market while protecting the planet.

Improve Equipment Maintenance

Heat exchangers in your industrial cooling systems can further reduce operating expenses by improving equipment maintenance. Because they work so efficiently, they prevent overheating and similar temperature-related issues. Avoiding these breakdowns saves you considerable time and money.

Industrial heat exchangers themselves are also relatively low-maintenance. Compared to other cooling methods, they have straightforward designs and few moving parts, making them less prone to failure. You can spend less on maintaining the equipment that ensures your other machinery stays operational.

This relative simplicity can also reduce downtime from preventive repairs and inspections. Even long-lasting equipment needs an annual maintenance schedule to avoid breakdowns — some need more, depending on usage. Ensuring these necessary stops are as short as possible boosts their cost efficiency compared to run-to-failure approaches to maintenance.

Are Versatile

Another reason why heat exchangers are important in cooling systems is they’re highly versatile. Every industrial process has unique needs, but this equipment can meet many with little to no modification.

Cooling is the most common reason to deploy a heat exchanger, but they also work the other way around. Because they move heat from one area to another, they can warm equipment or space the same way they can cool it. Food and beverage manufacturers often use them to heat fluids in the pasteurization process to extend products’ shelf life.

Even under the umbrella of cooling alone, heat exchangers can apply to multiple use cases. Manufacturers working with molten metal use them to cool the water that cools molds and presses. Supply chain organizations use them to refrigerate shipping containers holding sensitive goods. Because heat exchangers come in many sizes and form factors, they can adapt to all these situations.

Types of Industrial Heat Exchangers

To experience these benefits fully, you must select the correct type of heat exchanger for your unique situation. That begins with understanding the different kinds of industrial heat exchangers. The two broadest categories of heat exchangers are recuperative and regenerative systems.

Recuperative heat exchangers are the most common type across most industries and allow each fluid to flow through its own channel. You have direct contact systems — which transfer heat by allowing fluids to come into direct contact — and indirect ones — which move heat through thermally conductive plates or tubes. The former is often cheaper and simpler, but the latter is more efficient and flexible.

By contrast, regenerative heat exchangers flow warm and cool fluids through the same channel at different times. You can further divide these into static and dynamic systems. As the name implies, components remain stationary in a static heat exchanger for fewer maintenance concerns, while dynamic systems move some parts, increasing efficiency.

Choosing the Right Heat Exchanger for Your Needs

To choose the best solution for your industrial cooling system, start by outlining your needs. Consider your budget, operating expenses, energy goals, available space and any unique considerations, like contamination concerns.

Generally speaking, regenerative systems are more efficient but risk cross-contamination because the fluids use the same channels. Consequently, they’re not ideal for applications with high cleanliness or chemical concerns, and you must select your coolants more carefully. However, regenerative exchangers are often more efficient if this crossover isn’t a concern and you need to cool extremely hot equipment.

Once you decide on a specific type of heat exchanger, compare available options between multiple vendors. Remember that the same kind of system can come in many form factors and efficiency ratings. It’s also important to consider that a more expensive solution may yield more long-term energy and maintenance savings, making it more cost-effective.

Industrial Cooling Systems Need Heat Exchangers

Industrial cooling systems are essential for ensuring your equipment works properly. Consequently, you should take these decisions seriously, which begins with understanding heat exchangers and what they can offer.

When you know how each cooling system serves different needs, you can find the optimal one for your operation. This task-specific selection will yield better returns on investment and optimize your energy, maintenance, and environmental performance.

Emily Newton is the Editor-in-Chief of Revolutionized Magazine. She has over six years experience covering stories in the manufacturing, logistics and construction industries.