Explore Heat Exchanger Types: Shell & Tube, Hairpin, and More

Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

Explore Heat Exchanger Types: Shell & Tube, Hairpin, and More

Heat exchangers are a fixture in many industries for heating, cooling, and power generation processes. By allowing heat transfer from one fluid to another (without mixing them), these devices are critical in energy and process industries. Let’s explore the different types of heat exchangers, primarily focusing on shell and tube heat exchangers.

Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

These are the big guns of the heat exchanger world. Shell and tube exchangers are built tough to handle high pressures and temperatures. They consist of a shell with a bundle of tubes inside. One fluid runs through the tubes, and the other around them within the shell. They come in many sizes and variations, making them versatile for use in chemical processing, power plants, and oil refineries.

U-Tube Heat Exchangers

Picture a hairpin — that’s what a U-tube heat exchanger bundle looks like. This design allows tubes to freely expand and contract, reducing stress from thermal expansion. The U shape also makes shell-side cleaning a breeze since you can easily remove the tube bundle. However, they’re not a one-size-fits-all solution; these exchangers are best for applications where tube-side fouling is light or easily removed with chemical or ultrasonic cleaning.    

Straight Tube Heat Exchangers

Straight-tube heat exchangers keep things simple. As the name implies, the tubes are straight and fixed at each end to tubesheets. Straight tube bundles can be removable when configured as floating head TEMA types (like AES, BET, etc), or non-removable as fixed-bundle TEMA types (like NEN, AEL, BEM, etc).  Straight tubes are generally more expensive than U-type type designs as they require an additional tubesheet and related complexity, but they do permit a simple counterflow configuration.  Additionally, tube-side cleaning by mechanical methods (eg, grit blasting) is easier.  A downside of straight tubes in a fixed-bundle configuration is that thermal expansion is greatly constrained unless expansion joints are used (added cost and complexity).      

Hairpin Heat Exchangers

Hairpin heat exchangers are a cousin of U-tube type shell & tube exchangers. They function like two shell & tube exchangers in series but with reduced cost and complexity.  Hairpin exchangers are ideal when pure-counterflow is required due to tight temperature differentials between fluids. 

Benefits of Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

Why pick a shell and tube heat exchanger? They are customizable, durable, and handle high heat loads. They work in a wide range of pressures and temperatures, which is why they’re the go-to choice for heavy-duty industrial processes. Their design also means they can be tailored to specific processes, with different materials and configurations available.

The Importance of Maintenance for Shell and Tube Heat Exchangers

All that toughness doesn’t mean you can ignore maintenance. Regular check-ups and cleaning are crucial to keep shell and tube exchangers running efficiently. Without proper maintenance, you could face excessive fouling, corrosion, and eventual failure. That’s bad news for any operation, leading to downtime, costly repairs, or worse.

Contact Altex Industries for Shell and Tube Heat Exchanger Manufacturing, Design, and Turnaround Services

If you’re in the market for a shell and tube heat exchanger or need to give yours some maintenance, contact Altex Industries. We don’t just manufacture heat exchangers; We are Canada’s Trusted Partner for Industrial Lifecycle Solutions.