A heat exchanger is a device used to transfer heat between two or more fluids. The fluids can be single or two phase and, depending on the exchanger type, may be separated or in direct contact. Devices involving energy sources such as nuclear fuel pins or fired heaters are not normally regarded as heat exchangers although many of the principles involved in their design are the same.
In order to discuss heat exchangers it is necessary to provide some form of categorization. There are two approaches that are normally taken. The first considers the flow configuration within the heat exchanger, while the second is based on the classification of equipment type primarily by construction. Both are considered here.