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Processing & Handling :: Thermal & Energy Management :: Heat Transfer Media

December 1, 2011

Troubleshooting Heat-Transfer Fluid Systems

Real examples demonstrate how to analyze problems in heat transfer systems. The culprit is oftentimes not the thermal fluid

Jim Oetinger, Paratherm Corp.

Articles about thermal fluid systems often start with a variation of the statement that “thermal fluid systems typically require little ongoing maintenance for the first few years of operation” and then go on to extol the various advantages of indirect thermal-fluid process heating over competitive heating methods, such as direct heat, steam and so on. The corollary to that statement, however, is that by the time there is a problem, the operating personnel that were trained on the system have moved on, been excessed or promoted. As a result, when things do go wrong, the guessing begins. And, unless there is an obvious cause like a geyser from the expansion-tank vent or a pump that sounds like it’s moving ball bearings, someone will likely blame the thermal fluid for the problem.

There are several problems that seem to occur with some frequency. This article reviews a number of real examples and describes how the symptoms can be misinterpreted. The suspected fluid properties and the testing procedures necessary to determine which of the fluid properties (if any) is responsible for the problem are examined (Figure 1). Finally, recommended corrective actions are proposed.

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