Heat-ExchangerA lot of equipment in your home may be a veritable mystery to you. And yet for most of it, the basic concepts are quite easy to understand. So it is with heat exchangers. Simply put, heat exchangers move heated air from one place to another. Heat transfer is something that happens whenever you put warmer air on one side of an apparatus, and cooler air on the other. Heat exchangers facilitate heat transfer on command. Their use is widespread, and available in home appliances and equipment.

Air Coils

When you turn on your HVAC system at home, do you ever wonder what causes the air to be heated or cooled? The heat exchanger plays an important role. There is an air side and a liquid side to consider. On the air side, room-temperature air is pulled into the equipment, usually through an air handler.

How the air is managed depends on whether the heat exchanger is heating or cooling the air. If the air is cooled, it creates condensation. Your air conditioner has a condensate drain to collect and dispose of this condensation. You should monitor carefully to make sure it does not get clogged. In the case of heated air, condensation is not a problem on the air side.

On the liquid side of the heat exchanger, you have a lot of activity going on. For your air conditioner, the liquid is usually refrigerant, but could also be water. Refrigerant is delivered from the condenser outside your home to the evaporator coils inside your home. These are the two parts of a split-system air conditioning setup. The liquid chills the air, which is then delivered through your ducts and vents to the rooms of your home. For heating, the heat exchanger uses either steam or water to heat the air, whether you have a furnace or boiler system. If you have a steam-driven system, condensation again becomes a concern for you and your HVAC contractor, should your condensate line become clogged.

Other Appliances

Now that you understand the basic concepts and how a heat exchanger works for your HVAC equipment, you can see its other many applications in the home. Like your air conditioner, your refrigerator has condenser and evaporator coils, and uses refrigerant to keep the air inside your refrigerator and freezer to the ideal temperature. If you have a space heater, you can see how it functions as a heat exchanger. The heater is plugged into an electrical outlet. Then, when you turn it on, room-temperature air is pulled in from behind. The heater uses the electricity to heat plates (which warm the air surrounding them), and then push that heated air forward into the room.

The cutting edge of heat exchangers at the moment is in the clothes dryer. Your dryer is connected to an external vent that pushes the heated air out of your home. Some people believe that this is a fantastic waste of energy. They have made prototypes that would take the heat from the moist air and return it back to the dryer. In time, this may become a common addition to the typical home clothes dryer, as a means to further energy efficiency.

In the end, heat exchangers are not that complicated to understand, at least in terms of how they function. The heat exchangers in your home perform a vital service in keeping you warm, cool and dry, which is crucial for your overall comfort.

About the Author. Nicole writes about the latest in manufacturing. She enjoys teaching others about how basic everyday items are made, and how they work.