The thermal performance and phase change stability of stearic acid as a latent heat energy storage material has been studied experimentally. The thermal performance and heat transfer characteristics of the stearic acid were tested and compared with other studies given in the literature. In the present study, parameters such as transition times, temperature range and propagation of the solid-liquid interface as well as the effect of the heat flow rate on the phase change stability of stearic acid as a phase change material (PCM) were studied. The experimental results showed that the melting stability of the PCM is better in the radial direction than in the axial direction. The variation in the melting and solidification parameters of the PCM with the change of inlet water temperature is also studied. We observed that while the heat exchanger tube is in the horizontal position, the PCM has more effective and steady phase change characteristics than in the vertical position. The heat storage capacity of the container (PCM tube) is not as good as we expected in this study and the average heat storage efficiency (or heat exchanger effectiveness) is 50.3%. This indicates that 49.7% of the heat is actually lost somewhere. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.