Finned Tube Air Heat Exchangers

Finned tube air heat exchangers are among the most popular types of commercial heat exchangers.

What Are Finned Tube Heat Exchangers?

A finned tube air heat exchanger is an appliance used to transfer heat from one fluid to another. What makes a finned tube air heat exchanger stand out is that it contains several tubes with fins attached to their outer part.

The purpose of these fins is to increase the surface area required for efficient heat transfer. This is because the fluid outside the tubes mostly has a lower heat transfer coefficient than the one inside the tubes. In simpler terms, the fluid outside the tubes requires a large surface area to transfer heat effectively since its capacity to transfer heat is generally lower.

As the name suggests, these heat exchangers mostly use air as the medium of heating or cooling fluids like liquids, air, or oils.

How Do they Work?

A fluid, such as water or air, passes through the tubes and conducts heat to the fins attached to the tubes. The fins then transfer the heat to air that passes outside the tubes. The fluid flow in most finned tube heat exchangers can be either cross-flow, counter-flow, or co-current flow.

The tubes in these heat exchangers can be molded into a variety of shapes and sizes. Some of the most common tube shapes include flat tubes, round tubes, or oval tubes. Similarly, the fins attached to the tubes come in different designs like longitudinal fins or transverse fins.

In most cases, the fins and tubes are made from thermally conductive materials to ensure effective heat transfer between the two fluids. For heavy-duty industrial processes, you can opt for finned tube air heat exchanger made from the following materials:

  • Carbon steel
  • Copper alloys
  • Stainless steel
  • Aluminum
  • Titanium
  • Nickel alloys

Applications of Finned Tube Heat Exchangers

They can be used in various industries, such as petroleum, wood, and chemical. Below are several applications that use these heat exchangers.

  • Paper works
  • Tanneries
  • Cooling turbine air intakes
  • Steam condensers
  • Printing machines
  • Textile production
  • Greenhouse heaters
  • Production of surface coatings
  • Waste heat recovery

Pros and Cons of Finned Tube Air Heat Exchangers

You can reap some benefits by using finned tube air heat exchangers. On the other hand, these heat exchangers can also have their downsides.


Increased heat transfer rate

The fins in finned tube air heat exchangers increase the surface area required for heat exchange between a fluid with a lower heat transfer coefficient and another with a higher coefficient. This results in an increased heat transfer rate which results in higher efficiency of this type of heat exchanger.

Compact Size

Finned tube air heat exchangers can be made to fit in a smaller space. Due to increased efficiency from the fins, your heat exchanger can be made into a compact size that can help cut installation costs. You can also use the extra space that remains for other industrial purposes. A professional can help you assess your space to determine the size of the ideal heat exchanger that suits your needs.  

Increased Durability

Most finned tube air heat exchangers are made of strong and durable materials, such as stainless steel. These materials can withstand harsh conditions and are corrosion-resistant.

Finned tube air heat exchangers can withstand harsh temperatures without getting deformed. They also have a long service life and require minimal repairs or replacements. You can seek the advice of an expert to help you select the best material for your heat exchanger.


Difficult to clean and maintain

The fins can make it difficult to easily clean and maintain your finned tube air heat exchanger. You might not adequately access all the areas that need to be cleaned manually. Fortunately, you can always opt for chemical cleaning.

Chemical cleaning can readily get rid of decontaminants in your heat exchanger to maintain sanitary standards in your industrial processes. The buildup of dirt and debris in your heat exchanger could cause decreased heat transfer efficiency.

Finned tube air heat exchangers are ideal for heating or cooling air in industrial processes. They can also be used in a variety of commercial applications. If you require more assistance, reach out to us today.