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Issues With New Replaceable Fin Heater Systems, Part 1

April 14, 2020

While the industrial heating industry is always happy to learn about potential new developments in technology that impact our industry, such innovations must also be approached with care and caution. It’s possible for there to be issues with a given heating method or product that haven’t been entirely identified yet during its early stages, and a great example here is a new finned tank heating system making the rounds.

At Gordo Sales, we’re happy to offer a variety of tank and immersion heaters, from our over-the-side immersion heaters to flanged immersion and others. In this two-part blog series, we’ll go over some of the basics of these new replaceable finned tank heater systems, plus why some of the claims being made about them are likely untrue and the reasons you should be extremely cautious considering the purchase of any such equipment.

issues replaceable fin heater systems

Basics on Finned Systems

The primary feature of this new system, as we noted above, is replaceable fins. These are aluminum fins that are bolted to the CS pipe on the heater, held together by metal bands. The goal here is to increase heating surface on the bare pipe, which in turn increases heat transfer, plus to make replacement easy and simple.

Claims Made

Some of the manufacturers of these bolt-on replaceable heating fin systems are making significant claims about their benefits and what they bring to the table. These include:

  • Such systems are more efficient than traditional heating coils in tank heating systems.
  • Such systems are less prone to coking concerns.
  • Such systems offer an improved heat transfer coefficient compared with traditional coils.
  • Such systems can reduce heating times significantly.

Claims Vs. Reality

Sadly, practical research in the time since these systems have hit the market has generally shown that the claims above are not accurate. Here are a few distinct negatives that have been identified to this point:

  • Inefficiency: For one, while manufacturers may claim improved efficiency with replaceable fins, the opposite has been observed. Replaceable fins are made of aluminum, which generally does not match the material for pipes they are attached to – this makes heat transfer far less efficient, actually. In fact, due to the fact that fins and their corresponding pipes have two separate thermal expansions, a gap forms between them during heating and heat transfer is limited.
  • Low heat transfer coefficient: Claims have also been made about higher heat transfer coefficients, but these appear to be false. Longitudinally finned pipe is about half as efficient as helically wound fins, and this system uses the former – it will take about twice as long to provide the same amount of heat.
  • Coking potential: In direct opposition to claims, bolt-on fins appear more prone to coking, not less prone. Those looking for reductions in coking should be looking elsewhere.

For more on the issues with new replaceable finned tank heater systems, or to learn about any of our process heating systems, speak to the staff at Gordo Sales today.

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