Air-cooled heat exchangers are generally used where a process system generates heat which must be removed, but for which there is no local use. A good example is the radiator in your car. The engine components must be cooled to keep them from overheating due to friction and the combustion process. The excess heat is carried away by the water/glycol coolant mixture. A small amount of the excess heat may be used by the car's radiator to heat the interior. Most of the heat must be dissipated somehow. One of the simplest ways is to use the ambient air. Air-cooled heat exchangers (often simply called air-coolers) do not require any cooling water from a cooling tower. They are usually used when the outlet temperature is more than about 20 deg. F above the maximum expected ambient air temperature. They can be used with closer approach temperatures, but often become expensive compared to a combination of a cooling tower and a water-cooled exchanger.

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