A Guide to Ball Valve Types for Industrial Hydraulic and Pneumatic Systems

Ball valves use a pivoting ball with a bore to control the flow of gas or liquid. Usually controlled with a lever, the valve is open when the hole lines up with the pipe (the lever is parallel with the pipe) and closed when it is rotated 90-degrees to block the flow inlet (the lever is perpendicular to the pipe). While most ball valves come with two ports, there are some units that feature three or even four ports. Ball valves are highly durable and resistant to contaminants, which makes them popular in a variety of industries such as gas, hydraulics, mining and agriculture. Ball valves with V-shaped bores are sometimes also used as control valves.

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Different types of ball valves

Brass ball valves

Made from an alloy of zinc and copper, brass ball valves are often used with gas, oil, water and air. They are not suitable for use with chloride solutions, such as seawater, as these may decrease their strength.

Carbon steel ball valves

Carbon steel ball valves are made from a metal alloy that is very similar to stainless steel. They have a matte texture and feature some chemical resistance. Carbon steel ball valves are utilized in a range of applications where flow needs to be either opened or closed. They are not suitable for use as control valves as the throttling of the ball can affect the seal.

Cast iron ball valves

Cast iron ball valves are not just affordable but also versatile enough to be used in a range of substances including steam, water, oil and gas services. They also can withstand certain types of chemicals, as well as paints and dyes. Cast iron ball valves can be used in temperatures of up to 220 degrees Celsius. Spheroidal graphite iron valves can be used in higher pressure environments than standard cast iron ball valves.

High pressure ball valves

High pressure ball valves have a working pressure of up to 700 bars. In addition, they can withstand temperatures between -20 degrees Celsius and +100 degrees Celsius if made from carbon steel and between -30 degrees Celsius and +100 degrees Celsius if made from stainless steel.

Plastic ball valves

Often used with plastic and copper pipes, plastic ball valves are a great push-fit connection option for domestic environments. Plastic ball valves let users restrict the flow of fluid by the turn of a lever if a fixture requires repair or in a case of an emergency. However, they are not suitable for hot temperatures of central heating systems.

Stainless steel ball valves

Stainless steel ball valves are a great choice for use with corrosive fluids including seawater, swimming pool water and various chemicals. They are also suitable for high temperature substances. Stainless steel ball valves need a higher operating torque than ball valves made from PVC or brass. This needs to be taken into consideration if the valve is operated by an actuator rather than a lever.

Hydraulic ball valves

Designed for flow management in hydraulic and heating systems, hydraulic ball valves can withstand high operating pressures of over 500 bar and temperatures of up to 80 degrees Celsius. They are also resistant to hydraulic oil. Made from steel or stainless steel, hydraulic ball valves come with polyoxymethylene seats.

Flanged ball valves

Just like their name suggests, flanged ball valves are connected to pipes with flanges. Made from steel, stainless steel or cast iron, they usually feature a full bore design for high flow rates. Flanged ball valves can withstand various pressures depending on their flange compression class.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) ball valves 

Affordable and often used in water supply, irrigation and drainage systems, PVC ball valves are resistant to the majority of acids, salts and organic solvents. They are not as durable as stainless steel or brass and as such have a lower pressure rating. PVC ball valves can withstand temperatures of up to 60 degrees Celsius.

Ball float valves

Ball float valves or ballcocks maintain a set water level by opening and closing the flow of liquid. They are often utilized in toilet cisterns and tanks. Ball float valves come with a round float connected to an arm. When the ballcock is lowered due to a low water level, the arm opens the valve until the cistern or tank fills with sufficient water. When the ballcock reaches a set water level the flow is shut off. 


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Ball valves are sturdy, durable and easy to maintain. They are also very reliable when it comes to completely shutting off the flow of water or other fluids or gases. If properly assembled, valve balls will not leak when the flow of gas or fluid is blocked.

Ball valves come with three housing types. The main difference is in how they are assembled. They can be either one piece, two piece and three piece. The cheapest option are one piece ball valves that are welded together. One piece ball valves cannot be opened for repair or cleaning. Two piece ball valves feature two parts that can be separated for inspection and cleaning once removed from a pipeline. Meanwhile, three piece ball valves come with three parts that are bolted together. Three piece ball valves can be cleaned or serviced while in the pipeline. 

Ball valves feature three different types of holes. These include:

  • Full bore valves where the hole in the ball is the same size as the pipe. Also sometimes referred to as full port ball valves, full bore valves tend to be more expensive and larger than other ball valve types. On the upside, they do not experience friction losses and are relatively easy to clean.
  • Reduced bore valves are the most common ball valve type on the market. They experience slight friction losses. Most one piece ball valves are reduced bore valves.
  • Unlike most other ball valves, V-shaped bore valves can be used for controlling flow rather than just opening or closing it completely. 

Some of the most common materials for ball valves include stainless steel, brass and PVC. Each ball valve type has both its pros and cons. Stainless steel ball valves are corrosion and abrasion resistant but they tend to be more expensive than other types of ball valves and require more torque to move the ball. While brass ball valves are sturdy and suitable for many applications, they are sensitive to dezincification. Meanwhile, ball valves made from PVC are affordable and corrosion-resistant but can only be used in limited temperatures and pressure. They are also not as durable as stainless steel ball valves and brass ball valves.

While ball valves are highly durable, they can experience wear and tear over time. Here are the basic steps you should take if you suspect that your ball valve might be leaking.

  • Shut off the fluid or gas supply.
  • Drain any remaining liquid from the ball valve.
  • Remove the ball valve from the system (you may need a spanner or a pipe wrench for this).
  • Disassemble the ball valve and inspect each component for possible problems. In particular, look for any splits, cracks or other physical damage. 
  • If only one component of the ball valve is damaged, find out if it can be replaced. If not, you may have to replace the entire ball valve.

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