Types of Heat Exchangers

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Types of Heat Exchangers
Because heat exchangers come in so many shapes, sizes, makes, and models, they are categorized according to common characteristics. One common characteristic that can be used to categorize them is the direction of flow the two fluids have relative to each other. The three categories are parallel flow, counter flow and cross flow.

Parallel flow, as illustrated in Figure below, exists when both the tube side fluid and the shell side fluid flow in the same direction. In this case, the two fluids enter the heat exchanger from the same end with a large temperature difference. As the fluids transfer heat, hotter to cooler, the temperatures of the two fluids approach each other. Note that the hottest cold-fluid temperature is always less than the coldest hot-fluid temperature.

Counter flow, as illustrated in Figure below, exists when the two fluids flow in opposite directions. Each of the fluids enters the heat exchanger at opposite ends. Because the cooler fluid exits the counter flow heat exchanger at the end where the hot fluid enters the heat exchanger, the cooler fluid will approach the inlet temperature of the hot fluid.
Counter flow heat exchangers are the most efficient of the three types. In contrast to the parallel flow heat exchanger, the counter flow heat exchanger can have the hottest cold-fluid temperature greater than the coldest hot-fluid temperature.

Cross flow, as illustrated in Figure 5, exists when one fluid flows perpendicular to the second fluid; that is, one fluid flows through tubes and the second fluid passes around the tubes at 90° angle. Cross flow heat exchangers are usually found in applications where one of the fluids changes state (2-phase flow). An example is a steam system's condenser, in which the steam exiting the turbine enters the condenser shell side, and the cool water flowing in the tubes absorbs the heat from the steam, condensing it into water. Large volumes of vapor may be condensed using this type of heat exchanger flow.