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Gate Valves vs. Ball Valves

Apr. 12, 2023


Both gate valves and ball valves are on/off valves that are available in various sizes and materials, as well as different temperature and pressure ratings. Although these types of valves can be used in similar environments, there are significant structural and operational differences between the two.


Read on to learn the differences and how to pick the right one for your application.


ㆍWhat is a Gate Valve?

ㆍWhat is a Ball Valve?

ㆍGate Valves vs. Ball Valves

ㆍShould You Use a Gate Valve or a Ball Valve?


What is a Gate Valve?

Gate Valve


Gate valves are used to completely stop or start the flow of fluid through a pipeline by lifting or lowering a solid, rectangular gate. These valves consist of a valve body, seat, disc, spindle, gland and actuator.


Gate valves are not used to regulate flow - they are designed to be fully open or fully closed. These valves are slower than quarter-turn valves (like ball valves) because they require more than a 360°turn to change the position of the gate, whereas a ball valve requires only a 90°turn to cycle from open to closed or vice-versa. Because of this, gate valves may not be the best choice for applications that require frequent operation or fast cycle times. Gate valves are most commonly controlled by a manual handwheel, but electric and pneumatic actuation options are also available.


What Is a Ball Valve

API Floating Ball Valve


While a solid rectangular gate controls the flow of media through a gate valve, a ball valve relies on a pivoting ball to control the flow of liquid or gas. The ball has a bore (or hole) in it that the media passes through, and its position indicates whether the valve is open or closed.


Ball valves can be designed with multiple openings, also known as ports. Two-way ball valves have two ports and are used for basic on/off control. There are also multi-port valves that are used in applications that need to divert media in different directions or that may require more than one source of media.


Since ball valves only require a 90°turn to control the position of the ball, they are a faster option for on/off control than gate valves. Ball valves are available with manual or automated actuation.


Gate Valves vs. Ball Valves


As we mentioned, ball valves operate by rotating a ball 90°while gate valves are controlled by moving a gate up or down. Because of their design, ball valves can perform an almost immediate shutoff, whereas gate valves are not able to act as quickly. This makes ball valves a better choice for applications where fast cycle speed is desired.


The 90°operation of ball valves makes them faster to cycle, both manually and with an actuator. This is a benefit in most instances but can potentially cause water hammer in high-pressure applications. If the pressure is high enough, the pipe could weaken or even break, which is why users of manual ball valves should turn the levers slowly to avoid water hammer.


Should You Use a Gate Valve or a Ball Valve?


Ultimately, the choice between a gate valve and a ball valve will depend on the application. Gate valves are best suited for applications that require infrequent operation and small installation space. Ball valves are ideal for applications that require fast cycle times, multiple ports, reliable, tight seals and/or frequent operation. If you have questions about whether a ball valve or gate valve is right for your application, contact us here for more information or to speak with a specialist.

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