Solar thermal energy is currently used for low temperature heating applications using flat plate collectors. The absorbed solar energy is transferred to the working fluid flowing in the pipe. The performance of the system is influenced by heat transfer from tube to working fluid, with minimum convective losses, which has to be considered as one of the primary design factor. In tube and channel flows, to enhance the rate of heat transfer to the working fluid, passive augmentation techniques such as twisted tapes and swirl generators are used in the fluid flow path. In this paper, convective heat transfer analysis for a horizontal circular pipe with fluid in mixed laminar flow range is performed using experimental simulation under constant heat flux boundary condition. The variation of heat transfer coefficient and pressure drop in the pipe flow for water and water based Al2O3 nanofluids at different volume concentrations and twisted tapes are studied. The dependence of particle concentration and Reynolds number for enhancement in heat transfer and increase in the pumping power due to pressure drop is analysed in the range of parameters considered. © 2013 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Ltd.