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Brass Vs. Bronze Ball Valves:9 Major Differences

Brass ball valve

How do brass vs. bronze ball valves compare? Despite their similar appearance, several features make bronze and brass ball valves different. These differences, and their impact on valve applications, are highlighted and explained in this article, starting with the ball valve definition.

What are Ball Valves?

As their names suggest, ball valves use a rotating ball to regulate or control media flow. An opening in the middle of the ball lets media in or out. In contrast, a stem just above the ball allows you to rotate it, typically using a lever.
Ball valves are made from different materials today. Among them, two of the most common are brass and bronze. These offer different characteristics; more about bronze and brass ball valves is below.

Brass Ball Valves

Brass ball valves are made using an alloy of copper (57% to 63%) and zinc (35% to 40%), which gives them the characteristic pale yellow or gold color.

Brass ball valves and fittings offer various features, some of which can be an advantage. For example, you can use it in very high temperatures, as its melting point is commendably high at 1710°C.

Brass ball valves will also stand up to corrosive materials to last a long time. In some cases, these valves are plated. A nickel plate brass valve, for example, will resist being corroded better than when exposed to materials.

Bronze Ball Valves

A common material throughout the history of mankind, bronze is an alloy that’s mainly made by mixing copper and tin. Other materials, such as nickel and manganese, may also be added.

Like brass, bronze ball valves have their pros and cons. Most notably, the material has a good ability to stand up to corrosive materials. These valves also withstand high levels of chlorine and can be used with a variety of media.

Brass Vs. Bronze Ball Valves

The section below compares the two types of valves by pointing out how they differ in nine main ways. These differences range from material composition and the manufacturing process to heat and corrosion resistance.

1. Material Composition

Brass and bronze ball valves are all made from alloy materials. However, the alloy compositions are different, and this is what gives each valve distinct characteristics. Brass is mostly zinc that’s been nixed with copper. On the other hand, bronze is a mix of tin and copper and—most often—smaller quantities of phosphorus, manganese, aluminum, or silicon.

2. Manufacturing Techniques

To make brass balls valves, different manufacturing technologies that range from casting and forging to extrusion and cold drawing may be used. Each method has its benefits and downsides. A brass ball valve manufacturer will thus decide on the technique to use based on the required outcome.

A brass forged ball valve, for example, offers the advantages of high strength and the ability to withstand pressure. This makes it a better fit for high-pressure applications. For bronze valves, only casting can be used.

3. Ductility

The brass ball valve specification for ductility is higher than that of bronze. That makes it easier to shape by forging or machining, in addition to the ability to resist cracking. Bronze is also ductile but lower than brass. That makes the material less workable during valve manufacturing.

4. Corrosion Resistance

Brass ball valve corrosion resistance characteristics are better than those of bronze valves, which makes it an excellent choice in many environments. But high levels of chlorine can be a problem for brass valves. In such situations, a special coating of the brass surface helps prevent that.

5. Heat Resistance

Both valves offer high heat resistance. That means you can safely use them in hot environments. However, brass ball valves resist heat better than bronze, given the higher melting point of the material, which reaches 1710°C compared to 1590°C of bronze. A brass valve will hold better in hot conditions than a bronze one.

6. Lead Levels

Brass contains lower levels of lead than bronze, which makes it a safer valve to use in residential plumbing applications. Using brass valves for potable water is, therefore, more recommended as it reduces the risk of lead leaching into the water and posing a health risk.

7. Durability

When compared for durability, the two types of valves will generally last a long time. Depending on the manufacturing method, a brass valve will hold for years and outlast bronze, especially if used in the right conditions. Bronze valves, on the other hand, are made from a hard-wearing material that can withstand a broad range of usage conditions and media.

8. Machinability

Due to its soft nature, brass is easier to machine or cut. That means reduced costs and timelines to make them, among other benefits.Bronze material, with its rough surface, can take longer to polish. Overall then, brass valves are easier to work with and can be formed using several different techniques. This gives manufacturers a range of options to suit application needs.

9. Cost

The brass ball valve price is generally lower than that of bronze types. But that isn’t the only factor when it comes to cost. Other factors, such as manufacturer prices and valve quality, also apply, so different bronze and brass valve brands will cost different amounts, just like any other product would do.

Brass or Bronze Valves?

The question of whether to use brass or bronze valves can be answered based on the discussed properties of the materials and valve characteristics. As we have seen, brass has more advantages in various situations.

  • Brass ball valves and fittings can resist being corroded and last a long time plus other advantages such as low lead levels. When forged, these valves suit high pressure applications. However, brass shows degradation in elevated chlorine levels, and may not fit such conditions unless specially coated.
  • Bronze ball valves, on the other hand, can excellently resist being corroded or degraded, even in chlorine-laden media. But these valves do not offer the same level pressure or heat resistance as brass, plus their higher lead content makes them unsuitable for potable water plumbing.

Generally, it’s recommended to use bronze and brass ball valves in these applications:

Brass Ball Valves

  • Potable water
  • Air flow control
  • Natural gas

Bronze Ball Valves

  • Marine applications
  • Petrochemical industry

Conclusion

Comparing brass vs. bronze ball valves, a lot can be seen in their listed differences. Brass ball valves offer more benefits in most situations, with their longer lifespans and lower lead levels. In applications where chlorine levels are high, bronze valves may be used, or brass valves that have been specially made to resist dezincification.

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