Fouling of HVAC Fin and Tube Heat Exchangers

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Fin and tube heat exchangers are used widely in residential, commercial and industrial HVAC applications. Invariably, indoor and outdoor air contaminants foul these heat exchangers. This fouling can cause decreased capacity and efficiency of the HVAC equipment as well as indoor air quality problems related to microbiological growth. This paper describes laboratory studies to investigate the mechanisms that cause fouling. The laboratory experiments involve subjecting a 4.7 fins/cm (12 fins/inch) fin and tube heat exchanger to an air stream that contains monodisperse particles. Air velocities ranging from 1.5 – 5.2 m/s (295 ft/min– 1024 ft/min) and particle sizes from 1 – 8.6 µm are used. The measured fraction of particles that deposit as well as information about the location of the deposited material indicate that particles greater than about 1 µm contribute to fouling. These experimental results are used to validate a model that describes the relative importance of several deposition mechanisms including impaction, Brownian diffusion, turbophoresis and gravitational settling. The analysis is extended to apply to different fin spacings and particle sizes typical of those found in indoor air.

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