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Alaqua 7004 Boulevard East, Suite 28A,Guttenberg, NJ USA 07093    +(00-1) 551 482 7568   

How to Troubleshoot a Plate Heat Exchanger

Date:26 March, 2022   |   No Comments   |   Posted By Team Alaquainc

You don’t need to be an expert technician to troubleshoot your plate heat exchanger (PHE). PHEs are long-lasting, however, they do occasionally have performance difficulties. Leakage outside the unit, leakage within the unit, and pressure drop are the three most common problems with PHEs. The majority of these problems are simple to identify and resolve.

This article will help you figure out what’s wrong with your plate heat exchanger and how to fix it. Plate fouling or gasket failure primarily causes almost all problems, but it’s crucial to determine whether it’s a one-time issue or a system defect. The first step is to determine what is causing your heat exchanger to malfunction.


plate heat exchanger

Identify the Symptoms:

The following are some of the most common symptoms:

  • Pressure drop from intake to exit is increased.
  • Heat transport efficiency is deteriorating.
  • Flow and performance are both affected.
  • Fluid leaking in the process

Plate fouling typically causes the first three symptoms, while the last one results from gasket failure. However, gasket failure or, rarely, plate cracks can cause any of the four symptoms. Therefore, it’s crucial to follow basic procedures to identify the issue.

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Differential Leaks and Gasket Failure:

When troubleshooting, it’s usually preferable to start with the most likely problem, as it has the simplest and cheapest solution. Gasket failure is the easiest thing to spot: if a gasket fails, the pressure will drive fluid through the leak, and you’ll see fluid dripping from the PHE. You’ll be able to easily detect the failure since the fluid will seep from the faulty gasket. Disassemble your PHE and remove the plate with the failing gasket as well as a plate adjacent to it. Then, if you have new parts on hand, just replace them, reassemble, and tighten your PHE to specifications before returning it to service.

If you don’t have the replacement components on hand and can’t wait for them to arrive, you may simply close your plate heat exchanger and put it back into service while you wait – the loss of two plates will have a little influence on performance. However, with two fewer plates, be sure you know how much to tighten the PHE. This information should be in your manual or available from the manufacturer.

A differential leak occurs when two fluids are in a PHE mix owing to device failure. Incompatible fluids and/or high pressure are the two most typical causes of a failed gasket. Verify that your pressures comply with specifications (and eliminate potential water hammer risks). Confirm your gaskets match the materials used. If holes form in the gaskets, replace them with ones suitable for your operation, as the fluid may be too hot or corrosive.

External Leakage-

Damage to the gaskets or a mistake in the assembly of the unit is the most common causes of liquid leakage. Begin by measuring the distance between the front plate and the pressure plate. The unit’s instructions should have provided you with this measurement. The unit should be tightened if this measurement is larger than usual; make sure all of the bolts are tightened uniformly. Mark which plates are leaking if this measurement is accurate if the unit continues to leak after being tightened. Check the plates after disassembling the heat exchanger. In the designated plates, replace the gaskets. Our Heat Exchanger Manual contains instructions on how to replace gaskets.

Leakage From Within The Unit (Liquids Mixing)

If the liquids inside the unit start to mix, it’s because the plates inside the device are leaking. A perforated plate is most likely to blame. A pressure test can be used to verify this. Fill the unit halfway with water and pressurize one side only. The unpressurized side of a perforated plate will overflow if one exists. Apply consistent water pressure to one side of the unit to begin (NEVER use compressed air with your PHE). Fill the other side of the unit with water, but do not apply pressure on the other side. If a plate perforates, it will allow the pressurized side to seep into the unpressurized side, leading to overflow. Test each segment independently for heat exchangers with two sections. Disassemble the machine if a plate perforates, and inspect the plates using crevice detection liquid, as outlined in our Heat Exchanger Manual.

Corrosion and Plate Fouling-

Plate fouling, the most common issue with PHEs, poses a challenge for fixing as it typically falls outside warranty coverage.If your PHE becomes fouled frequently due to the qualities of your process fluid, there isn’t much you can do except clean it regularly. You can talk to your manufacturer about adding plates with wider spacing, but that solution has performance and cost limitations, and it isn’t appropriate in all circumstances. In general, the best approach is to keep a regular cleaning plan. The most convenient method is to clean in place (CIP), however, disassembly and cleaning by hand is also an option.

Corrosion of the plates is a far more serious problem than simple fouling. A differential leak is also present in this case. You can re-use your plate heat exchanger in the same way, but a cracked or corroded plate indicates that one of your fluids is excessively corrosive, and you may encounter the same issue again. Make that your PHE is correctly specified for your application by checking with your manufacturer. If everything appears to be in order, the crack or rust is almost certainly a manufactured defect that will be covered by warranty.

Heat Transfer and/or Pressure Drop Performance of the PHE is Abnormal

There are a few tests you may run to figure out why your heat exchanger isn’t performing as well, as it should. Poor performance is the most common issue with heat exchangers, arising from factors such as plating errors, inadequate water flow, debris accumulation, or improper hookup.

Platage error: If the plates are joined incorrectly, a dead zone can form, leading the unit to bypass a portion of the plates. Examine the plates to make sure they’re in a honeycomb design. It can be difficult to spot the pattern change straight away, so keep an eye out for any backward plates. If a plate is misplaced, open the heat exchanger, referring to our PHE manual for disassembly and reassembly instructions, and reverse the plate. Close the device and test the pressure once more when all of the plates have been adjusted.

Insufficient water flows: The heat exchanger will lose productivity if the water flowing to the unit is insufficient. Check the water’s pressure and flow rate to make sure they’re within the set limits.

Debris in the unit: Debris in the unit will reduce performance. To clear out any extra debris, run a regular CIP cycle; if the debris does not go, manual cleaning may be required. Cleaning a heat exchanger by hand is pretty simple, and the Heat Exchanger Manual contains full instructions.

Faulty Connection: If the connection is incorrect, the unit will run at very low efficiency. Check the operating and setup instructions to make sure it’s working appropriately. Keep in mind that countercurrent flow is essential.

Thing to Remember-

Plate heat exchangers are notoriously difficult to assemble if you don’t know the plate configuration. Please do not remove your dishes from the table without first numbering them.


If your plate heat exchanger is still not working after doing all of these tests, please give us a call to Alaqua, we will do everything we can to get your system back on track! Whatever the problem, we have a solution and are always willing to assist. Contact us for further assistance!

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