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Gate Vs. Ball Valve – Which is Better

Ball valve vs. gate valve difference in construction

The gate vs. ball valve debate rages on. Picture this: you must choose between a valve and a ball valve for your project. Which type would you go for? While both valves are viable options, one should be a better choice based on your type of application. Here’s our expert advice.

What is a Gate Valve?

A gate valve is a simple shutoff valve that opens and shuts using a lid fittingly called a gate. The gate holds onto a stem that you rotate using a handle.

By rotating the stem, the valve’s handle works with a screw that will either raise or lower the gate depending on the direction of rotation. These movements form the opening and closing mechanism of the valve.

What is a Ball Valve?

A ball valve, on the other hand, is a type of valve that opens and closes using the movement of a pivoted ball or globe. The ball has a hole in its middle. When aligned with the valve ports, it allows flow and vice versa.

The gate valve has been the go-to option for years; it’s affordable, offers more control to flow, and is usable with large-diameter pipes above 8 inches.

However, the ball valve presents many benefits: faster operation speeds, excellent sealing, durability, etc. In the next section, we examine the difference between a gate valve and a ball valve to help you choose between the two.

Gate vs. ball valve
Gate vs. ball valve
Resource: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V0Xj-_qH1AM

Gate vs. Ball Valve

A comparison of the gate valve vs. ball valve brings out a few differences; the two valves differ in their construction and working principles. But these are not their only differences. We compared the gate and ball valve on these other fronts in the section below.

  • Closing speed
  • Flow control
  • Sealing characteristics
  • Maximum pressure
  • Cost
  • Durability, and
  • Application or use

Opening and Closing Speed

Ball valves open and close faster than gate valves; they only need to make a quarter turn or a 90° angle. Compare that with the more than 360° angle that a gate valve has to turn, and you can see that ball valves present a quicker mechanism.

The fast speed of ball valves makes them suit applications that require urgent shutoffs, such as gas lines. On the other hand, the higher speed of ball valves can cause a buildup of pressure and result in what’s called a water hammer.

Flow Control

Due to its construction and working principle, a ball valve can restrict media flow. It’s thus suited for low flow rate or low-pressure applications.

Gate valves let more media through, offering a flow that’s straighter. You also get more control of medial flow when using a gate valve than a ball type.

Sealing

In terms of sealing properties, ball valves perform better than gate valves. They provide tighter seals for a long time since they’re less prone to damage.

The excellent sealing characteristics of ball valves make them the go-to option for applications that require higher reliability of the fittings over time, such as gas lines and similar uses.

Ball Valve: Pressure

You can use either a gate or ball valve in a low-pressure application. In higher-pressure lines, ball valves may not be suitable. Due to their fast closing speeds, they can cause water hammer.

Gate valves open slowly. In high-pressure systems, this helps prevent water hammer. Gate valves also fit uses that require large amounts of water or other medium to pass through and are available in large sizes.

Cost

Comparing a gate vs. ball valve in terms of cost, here’s what you need to know: a gate valve typically costs less than a ball of similar features or specifications.

That said, ball valves last longer than gate valves. The longer lifespan of ball valves means more savings in the long run. You’ll likely need to fix a gate valve more frequently in its lifetime than a ball valve.

Durability

Unlike gate valves, ball valves do not contain easily damaged parts, such as the packing material of gate valves or their stem. As a result, ball valves last longer than gate valves.

Note that gate valves are more demanding to maintain than the ball valves but easier to clean. In comparison, ball valves are almost maintenance-free.

Application

Given their different operating mechanisms and other characteristics, the two valves have applications that suit them best. Here, we compared gate valve vs. ball valve applications in the real world.

Gate Valve Applications:

  • Waste water lines
  • Industrial process plants
  • Large diameter plumbing lines
  • Mining industry
  • The plumbing systems of older homes

Ball Valve Applications

  • The plumbing lines of newer homes
  • Irrigation systems
  • Chemical plants
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Automotive applications

Are Ball Valves Better than Gate Valves?

They are, generally. As we have seen, ball valves score higher on many fronts. For example, they operate more quickly, provide a better seal, and can last longer.

These attributes make it popular today in residential, commercial, or industrial settings and applications.

The gate valve still has its place in the plumbing world, though. It’s inexpensive, used in high-temperature and high-pressure systems, and doesn’t suffer the water hammer problem of the ball valve.

Gate Valve or Ball Valve for Water Line?

It depends. The difference between gate and ball valve working principles and construction makes them fit varying uses. These should inform your decision.

A ball valve is your best choice if a line requires frequent opening and shutoff. Its fast operation is one of the reasons why it’s quickly replacing the gate valves in most modern plumbing systems.

You may want to go for a gate valve for high-pressure installations or large-diameter plumbing lines (above 2″). It supports a higher media pressure and restricts flow less than the ball valves.

Gate Valve Ball Valve for Main Line Shutoff?

For the main shutoff valve, you want a type that can hold the seal for a long time or remain operational over a long time when left unused. The ball valve is your best bet.

Here, we are considering less dense materials with low pressure for the ball valve mechanism. You want a gate valve for a line with larger diameters (above 8″); it will safely handle the application requirements.

Conclusion

In this gate vs. ball valve comparison, we have seen the ups and downsides of each valve type. The ball valve offered more benefits than the traditional gate valve. However, the gate type suits some applications more than the ball valve.

When choosing between the two, therefore, approach each application individually. A ball valve is your best option if it involves a small pipe, low pressure, and a fluid that can easily leak. On the other hand, you may choose a gate valve for large-diameter and high-pressure lines.

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