Canned Heat

By Fiona Ingham

Heat Transfer Engineering warms up its customers with both residential and commercial water heaters and hot water storage tanks.



The company’s residential units range from 450ℓ to 1 000ℓ, and are generally used in large homes or group housing complexes using shared water facilities. The commercial units range from 1 000ℓ to 35 000ℓ and are typically used in high risers, gymnasiums, hotels, mines, hospitals and prisons, and any other buildings requiring large volumes of hot water. The largest vessel built thus far went into the recently upgraded Cape Town Convention Centre.

Heat Transfer Engineering was founded about 35 years ago. When it was first established, the focus was on constructing hot water heaters and storage tanks by using steam as primary heat source (steam calorifiers). The water was heated by passing steam through the patented Royles indented steam bundles located inside the water heater or storage tanks.

Although the steam calorifiers are still produced today, the demand for electrical heaters (using the traditional electrical element) replaced a large portion of the demand for steam over time. In recent years, given the soaring costs of electricity together with the supply constraints and move towards ‘green’ energy, there has been a migration towards alternative, more efficient heating sources, such as solar energy and air-sourced heat pumps. Over the years, the company has won a clutch of prestigious awards.

Heat Transfer Engineering’s CEO Stephen Schutz says that solar powered heating systems employing photovoltaic (PV) solutions and air-sourced heat pumps can provide electricity savings of between 70% and 85% when compared to the electricity consumption of electrical elements. 

“With the electricity constraints being what they are, many of the geysers we produce now are for the solar and heat pump industry,” says Schutz. “Although the alternative energy sources are fairly capital intensive (solar powered systems, more so than heat pumps), the significant savings in electricity costs results in a payback period of between three and five years. The tanks produced for heat pumps and for solar are the same as the electrical tanks — only the connections differ — and most tanks are constructed with electrical elements as backup to cater for heat pump failure or solar inefficiencies (at night),” he says.

“The company also produces in-line water heaters. These water heaters are external units using steam or electrical elements as heat source to boost the water temperature in a water system rapidly. These water heaters are produced in both mild steel and stainless steel, and are used across many different application requirements for hot water.”

Staying competitive

How does the company stay competitive? It uses the latest welding techniques, provides excellent training to its workers, and it aims to be aware of market trends, Schutz explains.

“We trade on our reputation of producing a quality product and offering excellent service levels both before and after delivery of products. Many of our customers are repeat customers replacing vessels acquired more than 20 years ago. We ensure that our products are manufactured strictly in accordance with the standards of the American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME).

“We produce vessels of up to 1 500kpa. Product failure on these high-pressure vessels could result in an explosion similar to a bomb explosion. The ASME was formed in 1880 and the ASME codes formulated in 1911, with the specific purpose of preventing the deaths caused from pressure vessels exploding. The codes were developed in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, and although these codes have been updated over time, the calculations applied by the codes to prevent vessel failure are still relevant today. All our vessels are designed and manufactured according to these codes,” says Schutz. 

In addition to compliance with the ASME IX code, we also comply with PD5500 for fusion welded pressure vessels and the AWS D1.1 Steel Structural Welding code. Our stringent in-process QA processes also ensure that all vessels are manufactured according to the required quality. The vessels can also be certified by an independent test authority, on request.

He says that times are difficult for the industry right now, just as they are elsewhere. The sector faces competition from dozens of entrants coming into the market from China; and the more their offerings improve, the greater the threat becomes. Schutz also believes that the South African government is not doing much to protect the local industry. He says that the industry has been affected, as a lot of the products were produced for the mining industry. However, there is always light on the horizon: the government is still investing in infrastructure and the country’s leisure market is still growing.


The design engineers build all the vessels to specification and each design is built according to the engineer’s design and plan. “It very seldom occurs that two tanks are built the same.”

The sheet metal is sourced from a local supplier and is then cut to the required size. The tank ends are spun according to the Torres (dome shape to give strength) and is then welded and assembled at the various workstations in the factory. 

Once the vessel is built, it is sent away for the interior to be sandblasted. Then, it is filled with a glass-flaked coating to improve the barrier with anti-corrosive and thermal properties. From there, all the electrical elements or steam bundles are attached. Each part of the process goes through rigorous in-line quality controls.

Heat Transfer Engineering also provides guarantees on their products: two to five years on all vessels with Hotline 75 and Phenoline 1205 (depending on customer requirements and water hardness), as well as five years on Polyglass VEF linings. All electrical components carry a 12-month warranty.


Completed projects

  • Cape Town Convention Centre;
  • The Hilton Sandton;
  • Holiday Inn Rivonia/Sandton;
  • Protea Hotel Balalaika Sandton;
  • Various City Lodges;
  • Sun City: The Palace, Cascades and Cabanas;
  • Large hotels, shopping centres, and golf clubs in Dubai and Saudi Arabia;
  • Most major hospitals throughout South Africa;
  • Gold, platinum and copper mines throughout South Africa and Zambia; and
  • Various prisons, as well as private and commercial installations.


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