Although used for different applications, industry insiders believe that the synergy between energy efficiency and value-engineered design is what drives the heat exchanger market in the region. Explaining the baseline for value-engineered design of heat exchangers, Hidenori Matsubara, General Manager, IAQ Department, Panasonic Marketing Middle East and Africa, says, “Owing to the lack of space in buildings, the market has observed that the demand for compact heat exchangers has started to grow.”
Elaborating further on compactly designed heat exchangers, Billy Yao, International Business Development, AMX Fan, explains: “When heat exchangers are compactly designed, they are easy to install and maintain. In a world of vertical construction development, consultants are motivated to specify compact heat exchangers, as they save space and are efficient enough.”
Sharing a similar view, Erwin Schwartz, President, DDI-Heat Exchangers, adds, “Considering that space is always a challenge in buildings, the rectangular channelled heat exchangers can be a viable solution, in comparison to the spiral, and shell and tube.”
Schwartz adds that a major benefit in the rectangular design is that while the height and gap of the channel can be controlled, there can be enough space for the smooth operations. “If we make it larger than the opening of the pump that facilitates the sewage or grey water with a high percentage of solids, then the heat exchangers will not get clogged,” he says.
Apart from the design principles that define the heat exchanger market, it is the materials used by manufacturers that play a key role in driving the market. As Yao puts it: “Selection of materials is fundamental to the manufacturing process, and adds value to critical market demands, such as energy efficiency and even machine efficiency.”
Adding to Yao’s views on material selection, Rajesh Shenoy, Managing Director, Finpower, Maxell Group, says: “There is a demand for various coatings on the heat exchanger units. These coatings protect the aluminium fins from corrosion and oxidation, and improve the efficiency of the machine.”
Driving up efficiency
In the quest to drive up the efficiency of heat exchanger units, manufacturers like Schwartz believe spiral or tube and shell heat exchangers can cause problems for countries in the Middle East, owing to the presence of particulate matter in the air. “In the spiral heat exchanger units, there is a one-inch gap; therefore, particles can obstruct the flow,” he says. “While in the tube and shell, sludge with some percentage of solids can get stuck in the middle, and it can be challenging to clean the entire system.”
Offering a solution to the problem, he adds that in the case of rectangular heat exchangers, if there is any sludge or particulate matter stuck in the unit, it can easily be removed and cleaned.
For manufacturers like Yao, the key component material is stainless steel in comparison to aluminium, owing to its non-corrosive properties. He says: “When manufacturers use stainless steel as their base material, the life of the heat exchanger is extended. As we all know, stainless steel does not corrode easily, as aluminium does, and stainless steel heat exchangers work well in a wide range of pH (potential of hydrogen), and it reduces the maintenances costs.”
From an energy-efficiency perspective, Yao believes that one factor that drives up energy efficiency is the proper maintenance of the heat exchanger units. He argues that after installation, maintenance of the system is crucial to enhance the energy efficiency. “Proper cleaning methods need to be employed, or else even the best-branded heat exchanger units will be rendered useless if they consume more energy,” he says.
In the heat exchanger segment, achieving a high exchange rate is one of the fundamental parameters. To accomplish this parameter, Matsubara says, Panasonic’s heat exchangers mainly use plastic moulding to enable optimum machining of the air path shape, thus achieving a high heat exchange rate. “The advantage of this material is that it is light in terms of weight and easy to maintain,” he says.
Like every segment, the heat exchanger market, faces a host of challenges, which range from pricing to technical hurdles.
Elaborating on the issue of pricing, Sanjiv Sachdeva, Managing Director, Gulf Engineering System Solutions, says: “Considering the fluctuation of oil prices, the market situation is becoming a challenge, which ultimately affects the pricing. But, we can cope up with the situation slowly and steadily.”
Sachdeva believes that another challenge is in the form of the prevailing mindset, when it comes to the selection of equipment. “All our heat exchangers are certified by Eurovent, but we still have to compete with low-quality products, as customers are not aware of the long-term repercussions,” he says.
For Chinese stakeholders like Yao, it is about countering the cliché of China selling substandard products. “People are always sceptical about using Chinese products,” he says, “but take a look at the iPhone that is assembled in China. The whole world is buying it, although it is assembled in China.”
Yao, however, admits that there are infamous companies in China, who manufacture and sell substandard products. Such companies, he says, portray a wrong picture, which affect genuine Chinese businesses that are committed to quality and excellence.
Industry insiders believe that there is enough room for the heat exchanger market to grow, but as Yao puts it, “The global industry of heat exchangers will grow when the mindset changes, and there is an acceptance of products manufactured from any part of the world.”