Hairpin heat exchanger

Sometimes, a hairpin heat exchanger can be more thermally efficient than a standard shell and tube. Providing true counter-current flow, the hairpin heat exchanger is suited for high thermal and pressure applications.

Find out more!

What are hairpins?

There are moments when a heat transfer process requires the increase in flow rates of utility fluids to avoid temperature cross. By using counter-current flow, the flow rate of the utility fluid can be reduced, saving pumping costs and utility fluid.

A hairpin is a shell and tube heat exchanger that has been folded in half. However, what makes a hairpin different from a shell and tube is its closure. Hairpin heat exchanger closures can accommodate thermal expansion without the need of packed joints or requiring expansion.

As it turns out, hairpin heat exchangers can often be more efficient than a standard shell and tube design. Providing true counter-current flow, hairpin exchangers are able to achieve closer temperature approaches and accommodate a temperature cross using a single hairpin section.

Available in various styles, hairpins are designed to meet customers’ individual needs. Some of the most popular types of hairpins are single tube (also known as double pipe), multi tubes, and bare tubes, finned tubes, with removable bundles or non-removable bundles.

When to use hairpins

Hairpins heat exchangers provide true counter-current flow, which make them suitable for applications where high temperatures and a compact footprint are required. However, any of these following applications require the use of hairpins

  • When the heat transfer process uses a temperature cross;
  • When tube-side high pressure exists;
  • Cyclic service;
  • When the allowable shell-side pressure drop is low;
  • Whenever there is a high temperature difference of 300 °F or greater;
  • When there is a flow rate ratio between shell-side and tube-side fluids;
  • Processes involving heating or cooling vapors;
  • Whenever complete vaporization is required.


Process advantages

Every application comes with its own demands and challenges, and for each one, there is a heat transfer apparatus designed to meet those particular requirements. Mechanical engineers will be concerned with the reliability and mechanical integrity of their equipment, while process engineers care more about the thermal performance and efficiency.

The great thing about hairpin heat exchangers is that they can work with each of these needs. They can offer both the thermal efficiency and the reliability and suitability wanted by mechanical and process engineers.

Hairpins advantages include:

  • Well suited for applications where extreme temperature cross are required;
  • Economically adaptable to service differentials;
  • Ideal for wide temperatures range of differentials;
  • Ease of maintenance;
  • Able to provide shorter delivery than shell & tube due to standardization of design and construction;
  • Available in a wide range of styles and sizes
  • They can meet most process requirements.


At Mahan’s Thermal Products, you can find a wide array of hairpin heat exchangers to meet your individual needs. Our hairpins are available in single tube (double pipe) and come from leading names in the industry, including the RW Holland.

Check our selection of hairpin heat exchangers today. If you can’t find what you are looking for, don’t hesitate to contact us. Our team of experts will help you find the solution you are looking for.