Heat Exchangers Explained

Many people in the HVAC industry know that heat exchangers are crucial components in furnaces, and that proper maintenance, monitoring, and issue prevention are key to keeping furnaces working and homeowners healthy. Few know, however, that heat exchangers are far more common than that, and are used in a great many systems to preserve energy. As your nationwide experts in heat exchanger training, we know a thing or two about heat exchangers of all sorts; here is a little more about how heat exchangers work and why we use them at all:

Heat Exchangers: Why & How

Energy Conservation

Think of it this way: Almost anything that uses heat in part of its functionality wastes that heat. Heat exchangers were created to reduce and capitalize on the heat that was once expunged into the air out of factory smokestacks, essentially as a way to conserve energy consumption and recycle a used material’s heat, without actually reusing the material. A great example of this can be found in modern energy efficient showers; these use a heat exchanger to run waste water from the shower through a heat exchanger, which effectively warms the water on its way to the shower, therefore greatly reducing the amount of energy necessary to achieve the desired temperature. It is crucial to note that in no exchanger system do the two substances mix, meaning that, in the former example, the waste and wash water never come into contact, instead transferring heat unilaterally through intermediary coils that absorb and transfer waste water warmth through the pipes.

The Metaphorical How

Metaphorically, we can think of a heat exchanger as a party in a room with two entrances and two exits. Guests filter in through one set of doors excited, upbeat, and ready to party; meanwhile, a different group of guests steadily flow in the opposite entrance, but these guests are a little more melancholy, and not quite in the mood to dance the night away. As these guests flow throughout the room and the party commences, the group that begin with plenty of energy filters out of one exit, slightly less enthused than they were before entering, while the group that started a little off-sorts becomes somewhat energized before using the final door to make their exit.

Practical Application

While basic, the above metaphor serves to illuminate the essential structure of the heat exchanger: As two elements flow through the exchanger, one charges the other with a transfer of energy, yet the elements do not intermingle. In most furnaces, the basic principle is that heat is generated by the burning of natural gas, which in turn heats air or water flowing through the heat exchanger; obviously, we don’t want natural gas, or the carbon monoxide created when it is burned, intermingling with the heat that will be dispersed throughout the home.

That is why Heat Exchanger Experts was formed, and the reason why we continue to provide HVAC technicians across the country with hands-on heat exchanger training.