Don't let decisions overwhelm you when buying equipment.

A few years ago, I had a new house built. What I liked best about the process was being able to tailor the home to my wants and needs. As long as I could afford what the change would add to the contract price, I could do whatever I wanted. What sometimes overwhelmed me was all of the decisions I had to make. For example, once I'd decided on hardwood floors in some of the rooms, you'd think my job was done. But no, I still had to select the stain color, gloss of the finish, and even the direction the boards were to be laid. Multiply myriad details by the myriad choices when building a home and you'd be overwhelmed, too. At times, the choice was easy. But, when all things were equal, I still had to make a choice. How could I be sure that what I chose would work with my other choices? At those moments, I longed for a Martha Stewart-like maven who could just make it all work for me.

Process heating applications often aren't much different than my decorating dilemmas. Process engineers don't buy ovens, dryers and other heat processing equipment every day -- and even if they have purchased similar equipment in the past, that's no guarantee that their knowledge will apply when they work with a different process.

Well, at least when it comes to heaters, we have something that will help. In "10 Tips on Selecting Open-Coil, Tubular or Finned-Tubular Elements," Doug Jones of Indeeco, St. Louis, outlines the 10 major factors to consider when deciding between open-coil, finned-tubular and tubular heaters.

In "A Breath of Fresh Air for Your Oxidizer System," Charles M. Martinson of CMM Group LLC, DePere, Wis., notes that as the full effects of the Clean Air Act amendments continue to impact the manufacturing industry, many processors will be required to install air pollution control equipment. Martinson offers guidelines to ensure that the catalytic oxidizer system you purchase will address your process needs.

For those applications where no single heating method alone can meet the myriad requirements, we offer "Improve Your Process with Combination Heating" by William Litzler of C.A. Litzler Co. Inc., Cleveland. Litzler explains how to use combination drying methods such as infrared and convection or radio frequency and convection to improve drying effectiveness.

Finally, in "Selecting the Proper Gas Valves," John Dauer and Jacques Van Heijningen of Siemens Building Technologies, Buffalo Grove, Ill., suggest that manufacturers take advantage of the silver lining in the slow economy and re-evaluate their combustion systems and, more specifically, the components selected in each gas train.

Perhaps Jones, Martinson, Litzler or Dauer and Van Heijningen will be your own Martha Stewart-like maven for process heating. I just hope their portfolios are in order.