Energy costs continue to impact the bottom line at many industrial plants. Wherever possible, heat exchangers are used to capture waste heat for reuse in other areas. The capital cost of a heat exchanger is compensated by reduced fuel costs over the lifetime of the heat exchanger.
Corrosion and eventual leakage in heat exchangers can have several undesirable effects. A concentrated process stream may leak into cooling water that is discharged into a lake or river, causing pollution. Process water, used to condense steam to feed a large boiler, may leak into the condensate and severely damage the boiler. In non-critical applications, corrosion is a problem because a corroded heat exchanger is less efficient and energy is wasted.
Engineers use a heat balance to calculate the efficiency of a heat exchanger, but a small leak actually "appears" to improve heat transfer (although the process is then much less efficient).