Convective Heat Transfer: How Do We Use It?

Vortex Tubes have been studied for decades, close to a century. These phenoms of physics and the theory behind them have been discussed on this blog before. Many customers gravitate toward Vortex Tubes when needing parts and processes cooled. The fact of the matter is there is still more to be discussed on how to correctly select the which product may be needed in your application. The reason being, area, temperatures, and air flow volumes play a large role in choosing the best product for cooling. The tendency is to say, well I need to cool this down as far as possible so I need the coldest air possible which leads to the assumption that a Vortex Tube will be the right solution. That isn’t always the best option and we are going to discuss how to best determine which will be needed for your application. The first step, is to call, chat, or email an Application Engineer so that we can learn about your application and assist with the implementation of the Vortex Tube or other cooling product for you. You may also want to try and take some initial readings of temperatures. The temperatures that would help to determine how much cooling is going to be needed are listed below:
  • Part temperature
  • Part dimensions
  • Part material
  • Ambient environment temperature
  • Compressed air temperature
  • Compressed air line size
  • Amount of time desired to cool the part: Lastly desired temperature

With these bits of information, we use cooling equations to help determine what temperature and volume of air will best suit your needs to generate the cooling required. One of the equations we will sometimes use is the Forced or Assisted Convective Heat Transfer. Why do we use convective heat transfer rather than Natural Heat Transfer? Well, the air from EXAIR’s Intelligent Compressed Air Products® is always moving so it is a forced or assisted movement to the surface of the part. Thus, the need for Convective Heat Transfer.
Calculation of convection is shown below: q = hc A dT Where: q = Heat transferred per unit of time. (Watts, BTU/hr) A = Heat transfer area of the surface (m2 , ft2) hc= Convective heat transfer coefficient of the process (W/(m2°C), BTU/(ft2 h °F) dT = Temperature difference between the surface and the bulk fluid (compressed air in this case) (°C, °F)

The convective heat transfer coefficient for air flow is able to be approximated down to hc = 10.45 – v + 10 v1/2

Where: hc = Heat transfer coefficient (kCal/m2 h °C) v = relative speed between the surface of the object and the air (m/s)

This example is limited to velocities and there are different heat transfer methods, so this will give a ballpark calculation that will tell us if we have a shot at a providing a solution.  The chart below is also useful to see the Convective Heat Transfer, it can be a little tricky to read as the units for each axis are just enough to make you think of TRON light cycles. Rather than stare at this and try to find the hidden picture, contact an Application Engineer, we’ve got this figured out. convective_heat_transfer_chart

1 – Convective Heat Transfer Chart
Again, you don’t have to figure any of this out on your own. The first step to approach a cooling application is to reach out to an Application Engineer, we deal with these types of applications and equations regularly and can help you determine what the best approach is going to be.
Brian Farno Application Engineer @EXAIR_BF
1 – Engineering ToolBox, (2003). Convective Heat Transfer. [online] Available at: [02/10/2021]

Battling Heat Transfer

If you haven’t read many of my blogs then this may be a surprise. I like to use videos to embellish the typed word. I find this is an effective way and often gives better understanding when available.  Today’s discussion is nothing short of benefiting from a video.

We’ve shared before that there are three types of heat transfer, more if you go into sub-categories of each. These types are Convection,  Conduction, and Radiation. If you want a better understanding of those, feel free to check out Russ Bowman’s blog here.  Thanks to the US Navy’s nuclear power school, he is definitely one of the heat transfer experts at EXAIR.  If you are a visual learner like myself, check out the video below.

The Application Engineering team at EXAIR handles any call where customers may not understand what EXAIR product is best suited for their application. A good number of these applications revolve around cooling down a part, area, electrical cabinet, or preventing heat from entering those areas.  Understanding what type of heat transfer we are going to be combating is often helpful for us to best select an engineered solution for your needs.

Other variables that are helpful to know are:

Part / cabinet dimensions
Material of construction
External ambient temperature
If a cabinet, the internal air temperature
Maximum ambient temperature
Desired temperature
Amount of time available
Area to work with / installation area

Understanding several of these variables will often help us determine if we need to look more towards a spot cooler that is based on the vortex tube or if we can use the entrained ambient air to help mitigate the heat transfer you are seeing.

If you would like to discuss cooling your part, electrical cabinet, or processes, EXAIR is available. Or if you want help trying to determine the best product for your process contact us.

Brian Farno
Application Engineer


Video Source: Heat Transfer: Crash Course Engineering #14, Aug 23, 2018 – via CrashCourse – Youtube –

Heat Transfer – 3 Types

When you have two objects and they are of different temperatures, we know from experience that the hotter object will warm up the cooler one, or conversely, the colder object will cool down the hotter one.  We see this everyday, such as ice cooling a drink, or a fan cooling a person on a hot day.

The Second Law of Thermodynamics says that heat (energy) transfers from an object of a higher temperature to an object of a lower temperature. The higher temperature object has atoms with higher energy levels and they will move toward the lower energy atoms in order to establish an equilibrium. This movement of heat and energy is called heat transfer. There are three common types of heat transfer.13580963114_f222b3cdd9_z

Heat Transfer by Conduction

When two materials are in direct contact, heat transfers by means of conduction. The atoms of higher energy vibrate against the adjacent atoms of lower energy, which transfers energy to the lower energy atoms, cooling the hotter object and warming the cooler object. Fluids and gases are less heat conductive than solids (metals are the best heat conductors) because there are larger distances between atoms.  Solids have atoms that are closer together.

Heat Transfer by Convection

Convection describes heat transfer between a surface and a liquid or gas in motion. The faster the fluid or gas travels, the more convective heat transfer that occurs. There are two types of convection:  natural convection and forced convection. In natural convection, the motion of the fluid results from the hot atoms in the fluid moving upwards and the cooler atoms in the air flowing down to replace it, with the fluid moving under the influence of gravity. Example, a radiator puts out warm air from the top, drawing in cool air through the bottom. In forced convection, the fluid, air or a liquid, is forced to travel over the surface by a fan or pump or some other external source. Larger amounts of heat transfer are possible utilizing forced convection.

Heat Transfer by Radiation

Radiation refers to the transfer of heat through empty space. This form of heat transfer does not require a material or even air to be between the two objects; radiation heat transfer works inside of and through a vacuum, such as space. Example, the radiation energy from the sun travels through the great distance through the vacuum of space until the transfer of heat warms the Earth.

EXAIR‘s engineered compressed air products are used every day to force air over hot surfaces to cool, as well as dry and/or blow off hot materials. Let us help you to understand and solve your heat transfer situations.

To discuss your application and how an EXAIR Intelligent Compressed Air Product can improve your process, feel free to contact EXAIR, myself, or one of our other Application Engineers. We can help you determine the best solution!

Brian Bergmann
Application Engineer

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The picture “Energy Transfer – Heat” by Siyavula Education is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Methods Of Heat Transfer

“Nothing happens until something moves.”
-Albert Einstein

These five words are the foundation on which the science of physics is built upon. This statement not only applies to the things we can see, but to those we can’t…like heat transfer.

OK; technically, we CAN visually observe the EFFECTS of heat transfer…that’s called “reading a thermometer.” But the actual mechanism of heat transfer takes place at a molecular level, and concerns the rate of motion of those molecules: the higher the rate of molecular motion, the higher the heat of the material. Hence, the higher the rate of CHANGE of that molecular motion, the higher the heat transfer rate is.

All you need for heat transfer to occur is a difference in temperature between two materials. Contact, or even proximity, helps…but not always. More on that in a minute. And keeping at least one of the materials in motion can help maintain the temperature differential. We’ll unpack that a little more too.

Let’s start with the three ways that heat is transferred…what they are, and how they work:


What it is: The transfer of heat between materials that are in physical contact with each other.

How it works: If you’ve ever touched a hot burner on a stove, you’ve successfully participated in the process of conduction heat transfer.


What it is: The transfer of heat through a fluid medium, enhanced by the motion of the fluid.

How it works: If you’ve ever boiled water in a pan on a hot stove burner, you’ve successfully participated, again, in the process of conduction heat transfer (as the burner heats the pan) AND convection (as the heated water in the bottom of the pan both transfers heat through its volume, and moves to the surface.)


What it is: Remember what I said earlier about how you don’t always need contact or proximity for heat transfer? Well, this is it…the transfer of heat through empty space, via electromagnetic waves.

How it works: If you didn’t actually TOUCH the hot stove burner, but felt your hand getting hot as it hovered, then you’ve successfully participated in the process of radiation heat transfer. OK; it’s a little convection too, since the air between the burner and your hand was also transferring some of that heat. The best example of STRICTLY radiation heat transfer I can think of is the sun’s rays…they literally pass through 93 million miles of empty space, and make it quite warm on a nice sunny day here on Earth.

Regardless of how material, or an object, or a system receives heat, engineered compressed air products can be used to efficiently and effectively remove that heat.  For the record, they employ the principles of both conduction and convection.  If you’d like to discuss a heat transfer application, and the way(s) that an EXAIR product can work in it, give me a call.

Russ Bowman
Application Engineer
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