Heat exchangers are usually categorized according to different types of construction and flow arrangement. The most basic heat exchanger involves the movement of hot and cold fluids in opposite directions, between two concentric pipes of varying diameters. In the parallel-flow arrangement, the separate hot and cold fluids both enter the system from the same entrance in the same direction and exit the system from the same pipe end. Conversely, for the counter-flow arrangement, the hot and cold fluids enter the system at opposite ends. They flow in opposite directions, leaving the system also in the opposite pipe ends. Here is more about the two types of heat exchanger flows.


Parallel-flow Heat Exchanger

A double pipe heat exchanger or a shell and tube heat exchanger can operate in the parallel-flow arrangement. In parallel flow, the difference in temperature between the hot and cold fluids is significantly large at the entrance but becomes small at the end of the exit when the two fluids meet one another. The log mean temperature difference is the driving force of the overall measure of heat transfer. It is greater in the case of counter flow, of which the surface area requirement for the heat exchange will be greater than that of the counter-flow arrangement, with the same fluid temperatures at the inlet and outlet.

Counter-flow Heat Exchanger

Counter-flow is the most common form of heat exchanger involving the liquid-to-liquid heat transfer as it has the highest efficiency compared to others. One type of heat exchanger operating in a counter-flow arrangement is the double pipe heat exchanger. In the shell and tube heat exchanger consisting of a single tube pass, the flow pattern is approximated to move in a counterflow direction when the tube is sufficiently long as compared to its diameter. Due to the need to distribute the fluid from its shell side to the shell’s cross-section, the flow becomes not close enough to the counterflow within the tube and shell heat exchanger.

Comparison Between Parallel-flow and Counter-flow Heat Exchangers

When compared under similar conditions, heat transfer is larger in the counter-flow arrangement than that of the parallel-flow as the temperature profiles of the heat exchangers point towards significant disadvantages in the parallel-flow arrangement. However, the parallel-flow design is advantageous when the two different fluids need to be brought to approximately similar temperatures.

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