Stenters are the dryers that are commonly used in textile finishing mills. The exhaust air of the stenters is of great potential of energy saving via heat recovery mainly using the latent heat of condensation of the water vapour involved. This study reveals the usage possibility of a packed bed column for the heat recovery from the exhaust air of the stenter. An experimental investigation was carried out with a laboratory-scale counter flow packed bed column. Additionally, an exergetic evaluation of the system was performed. Water inlet temperature and relative humidity ratio of the exhaust air are the main factors that affect the water outlet temperatures and efficiency of the system. It was observed that a decrease in the water inlet temperature increases the recovered exergy; however, water outlet temperature is not significantly affected by the inlet temperature of the water. The exergy efficiency of the system increases with the increase in the relative humidity ratio of the exhaust air. Copyright (C) 2007 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.