In this study, the heat transfer performance and friction characteristics of a novel concentric tube heat exchanger with different pitches of helical turbulators were investigated experimentally and numerically for a Reynolds number range from 3000 to 14 000. An experimental system was established to obtain experimental data. The numerical simulations were performed by using a three dimensional numerical computation technique, a commercial CFD computer code. Then, the heat transfer performance and friction characteristics of several helical turbulators were compared. The experimental, numerical and empirical correlation results were in a good agreement with each others. As a result, the heat transfer enhancements using turbulators were 2.91, 2.41, 2.18 and 1.99 times better than the smooth tube for pitch distances of p = 20, 40, 60 and 80 mm, respectively. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.