Although heat exchangers are either shell and tube or plate types, the individual designs can greatly vary.
Along with the construction, the methods to keep heat exchangers clean will also vary. All equipment in a factory will need to be cleaned regularly, even if they are labeled “self-cleaning”.
A machine can never give itself a bath, so it is silly to assume that it will be clean no matter how hard you work it. No. Like every piece of machinery, heat exchangers will also need to be cleaned often to keep it in good stead. However, every heat exchanger cannot be cleaned the same way.
Why is cleaning important?
Most factories periodically clean heat exchangers for higher turnaround. Generally, heat exchangers are cleaned every one to three years, depending on the size, type, and level of service.
Cleaning is important to ensure proper functioning of the heat exchange equipment, no matter how old it is. Over the course of the lifespan of a heat exchanger, it will handle several types of liquids and chemicals.
When liquids are passed through the equipment on a daily basis, it leads to buildup on the inside walls of the tubes. When this residue builds up, it undermines operational tempo and functionality, and also affects output and makes operations risky.
To avoid residue buildup, the equipment must be cleaned to remove the chemicals and residue that coat the tubes. The process of cleaning the tubes of the residue is called descaling.
How to clean heat exchangers
There are two kinds of cleaning methods: onsite cleaning and off-site cleaning. Both the methods have their own advantages and downsides. Before choosing a cleaning method, the plant must carefully analyze which is the best for their situation.
Onsite cleaning involves cleaning of the heat exchanger at the site itself by the factory personnel. The equipment needs to be dismantled and taken apart for the parts to be cleaned thoroughly. The personnel performing the cleaning must know which parts to remove and how to safely clean them without causing damage.
The downside of this method is that it takes a long time and the personnel often aren’t trained enough to handle the process. Onsite cleaning also increases the risk of accidents and injuries.
No disassembly required
Off site cleaning involves handing over the task to professional heat exchanger cleaners, who take the equipment to their service center. There is no disassembly required as the entire equipment is taken to the center, where it is cleaned with the means of high-pressure water.
The cleaning is done with overhead cranes and running hydraulic equipment instead of a manual high-pressure hose. Once done, the equipment is put together and sent back to the site.