Best Techniques for Cleaning a Plate Heat Exchanger

gloved hands power washing a plate heat exchanger

A plate heat exchanger uses metal plates to conduct heat between two liquids. The plate heat exchanger accomplishes this task without the two liquids ever touching. You can use it in many different ways. A good example is a car radiator. The heat exchanger in a radiator takes in a hot coolant and passes it through aluminum pipes, which emerge much cooler.

Other places you will find these are air conditioners, heating units, refrigerators, and other household appliances. Now that you know what plate heat exchangers are, you can learn different cleaning techniques.

Different techniques require different tools and materials such as bristle brush, vinegar, water jet, citric, phosphoric, nitric, acid, white vinegar, and lemon or lime juice. However, for protection, you will require eye goggles and gloves.

Elbow Grease

Good old-fashioned hard work is one way to clean plate heat exchangers. First, you must disassemble them so you can get to all the parts that need to be free of debris. Take a bristle brush to really scrub the exchanger, being careful not to damage the gasket, and run water through it until the water runs clear. This method takes longer, but it saves you money on cleaning supplies and water jets. It may take several runs of water, but you will get it clean. Let it dry before you put it back together.

Water Jet

They make water pressure cleaning systems specifically for cleaning out heat exchange systems. You do not need to work as hard to clean the plate heat exchanger with the water jet. There are certain types of water jets sold at hardware stores that will work just as well. The steady stream of hard water will loosen all the debris for you. After running the jet through it the first time, you can pour vinegar down it for an added cleaning factor.

Acid Cleaning

Acid cleaning is only recommended if you have a lot of trouble getting the debris out of the plate heat exchanger. Some chemicals that you can use are nitric acid, citric acid, or phosphoric acid. Make sure you protect your eyes from splash-back when cleaning with any acid. Wear protective goggles and gloves to protect your hands.

Make sure that your children and pets stay away during the cleaning process. Do not use hydrochloric acid because it could damage the plates. If the buildup isn’t really severe, then lime or lemon juice mixed with a little water will work for cleaning. Just make sure you rinse it well to get all the juice out.

Ongoing Maintenance

Continue to do ongoing maintenance in between cleanings. Make sure you periodically check the plate heat exchanger to see if it needs cleaning. It is recommended to check it every month. After a while, you will know how long it takes before it needs a cleaning. Some companies specialize in cleaning heat exchangers if you don't want to do it yourself. You can quickly search cleaning plate heat exchangers on the Internet and get a list of companies in your area.