The recent call for energy efficiency in individual building and District Cooling applications has led to a demand for products that are energy efficient. Given that the performance of heat exchangers influences a building’s ability to be energy efficient, they have always been the subject of intense focus. “The market size of the heat exchanger sub-industry [in the Middle East] can be estimated to be AED 50 million,” says Sudeep Sethi, General Manager, SPC Heat Pipes. The overall market worth, he adds, has gone up over the past one year at the rate of 15-20%, annually. The recent call for Green Buildings, he further adds, has contributed to the demand for more units.
Reny George, General Manager, Gulf Sondex, has a similar understanding of the heat exchanger market. Echoing Sethi, George says that the market demand has reflected an upward graph. “Projects are available, and today the market has money,” he says. “There are no issues with regard to cash flow in the sub-industry.” End-users, George adds, are steered towards being energy efficient and seek to reduce carbon emissions. “The year 2019 seems to be looking good for the heat exchanger market,” he said. Pointing to a few regions that might experience a slowdown in demand for heat exchangers, he says, “Turkey might see a drop in demand; however, the market in Dubai looks good, with a growth rate of 7-8%, annually.”
Moiz Nooruddin, Director, Dolphin Radiators and Cooling Systems, however, has a different opinion. He believes that the demand for heat exchangers in the Middle East has seen a slight decrease. “When compared to the past few years,” he says, “there are fewer projects in the region.” Pointing to the factors leading to the decrease, he says VAT is one, along with decreasing oil prices. However, with reference to the availability of projects, George believes that the District Cooling sector in the region is presently seeing an uptake in projects, leading to a rise in demand for heat exchangers, with a focus on energy efficiency.
Elaborating on demand, Sethi says the plate heat exchanger market is on a strong footing. End-users, he adds, are also opting for heat wheels, which “help to conserve energy and, as a thumb rule, save 15% of the energy bill on a yearly basis”. This is in comparison to heat pipes, which help save around 13% on a yearly basis. “Heat wheels,” Sethi adds, “rotate in an airstream and need skilled technicians to maintain them.” Elaborating, he says, heat wheels have a gear motor with a special desiccant coating, which requires maintenance. “If the heat wheel is not maintained well, the desiccant coating will most likely get choked with dust particles, which will influence performance,” he says.
Speaking further on performance, Majed Abu Al Hassan, Senior Project and Development Manager at Dubai-based District Cooling utility provider, Emicool, points to an important aspect with regard to end-user demand. “Clients today are looking for the most efficient heat exchanger,” he says. This is not only with regard to performance but also with reference to space. “The price of land and space continues to rise,” he says. “This pushes end-users to want heat exchangers, which are not only easy to maintain but compact in nature.”
Technological advancements and refrigerant use
A recent development in the sub-industry is the arrival of 3D-printed heat exchangers, though still largely in the R&D stage. The University of Maryland, in the United State, is at the forefront of the interesting development. Elaborating on technology, Nooruddin says that though 3D printing might be used in other markets across the world, it has not affected the market in the region. In a way predicting the future, he says, “It is unlikely 3D printing will influence the market in the region.”
When it comes to technology, the focus is still on the basics. As Sethi says, today, every manufacturer is looking at designing a good plate with the aim of increasing energy efficiency, while reducing turbulence. “The challenges from a manufacturer’s perspective,” he adds, “vary from client to client.” Pointing to one specific challenge, he says, “Projects tend to move at a fast pace, and if there is a lack of coordination and proper communication among the contractor, consultant and the supplier, the order for products might be placed late, which can not only delay a project but also influence the way installations are carried out.”
Identifying the measuring of the performance of heat exchangers as another challenge, Sethi says, “It is not easy to measure how a heat exchanger is performing on site.” To get a correct reading, he adds, “Typically, a grid of sensors would be required, as it collects the readings from 16 places across the face of a heat exchanger.” So far, he says, third-party testing is the best option. Echoing Sethi, George says: “When it comes to testing and measuring performance, there are two solutions. One where a standard AHRI test is carried out, which most end-users opt for, and the other is a third-party test.”
Elaborating on the maintenance of heat exchangers, Nooruddin highlights that the issues come in when seawater is used in heat exchanger applications. “Some of the problems are related to scaling and tube blocking,” he says. “Periodic cleaning and servicing, and chemical cleaning are required for the smooth functioning of heat exchangers. We advise customers to do frequent cleaning and servicing by using an eco-friendly chemical, which is designed to remove unwanted debris.” Echoing him, George says: “Maintenance comes into question when in operation. The better the water quality, the better the lifespan of the heat exchanger.”