Plate & frame heat exchanger advantages & disadvantages

Written by liz tomas
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A plate-and-frame heat exchanger transfers heat from one fluid to another. The set-up of the exchanger has hot fluid channels flowing alternatively through cold fluid channels. Gaskets are used as seals to prevent leaking. There are advantages and disadvantages to using a plate-and-frame heat exchanger. How you plan on using the heat exchanger will dictate if this type of heat exchanger is best for your needs.

Heat Coefficient

The heat transfer coefficient is much higher for this type of heat exchanger than a spiral or tube heat exchanger. Therefore, you achieve more heat exchange each time you use it. Plate-and-frame heat exchangers have a high coefficient because of the surface area produced by having different channels in the plates. Each plate has many different channels over the surface. Plate-and-frame systems have some of the largest surface areas used in heat exchangers. This large surface area and the ability to remove and add plates, which changes the surface area, make sit possible to tailor heat exchange for each pair of liquids.


Plate-and-frame exchangers are easy to clean as they can be taken apart, cleaned, repaired and then easily put back together. If you need to expand or decrease the number of plates, simply remove or add one to the exchanger.


The design of the plate-and-frame heat exchanger works well for transferring small temperature differences between the two fluids. This is achieved by the alternating hot and cold fluid channels in the plates. However, this type of exchanger does not work well for very large temperature differences. A shell and tube exchanger contains the heat better. A plate-and-frame exchanger lets a lot of heat escape when being used for large temperature differences.


The gaskets between the plates are used to maintain a seal but they do have more potential for leakage than other heat exchanger designs. If the plates are not firmly clamped together then the fluid will leak out.


The fluid channels are very narrow and, while this produces a high heat transfer coefficient, it also decreases the pressure. To keep the pressure constant, more pumping is needed. This increases the energy needed to run the pump which increases the cost of running the plate-and-frame heat exchanger.

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