Did You Know Your Home Has Several Valves?
Valves help to keep the fluid flowing in your home. From the kitchen to the bathroom, many rooms in your house would not be able to function without valves. We have created a list of the most common valves, what they are used for, and how to spot check for wear and tear. So, whether you are a little familiar with valves or not at all, this list can help you understand the parts that keep your house running.
What Is a Valve?
A valve is a device that regulates or directly controls the flow of fluid. It does this by closing off the flow using a ball, gate, or other blockage. The valve can be left open, partially open, or completely shut to control the speed of the liquid flow. In general, valves control the flow and pressure of fluid in a system or process. Valves can also be used to control gas.
Most valves that are in your home are a part of the water supply system. These valves control the flow of pressurized water coming from a private well or the water utility company. The design of a valve may determine if it is used for adjusting water flow or simply turning the water on or off.
Different Types of Valves
Fixture Shutoff Valve
If you have ever had to work on a faucet or toilet, you have likely used this valve before. Fixture shutoff valves are small so that they are less visible. They are used to control the flow of water to individual plumbing fixtures, such as toilets and faucets. Shutoff valves are designed to allow you to turn off the water flow to a specific fixture. This way, you do not have to shut off the water flow to the whole house just to fix a faucet or toilet.
Ball valves, as their name suggests, are valves that use a ball to control water flow. A ball valve is operated by a lever-type handle. One reason for the lever-type handle is so that, at a quick glance, you can determine if the valve is open or closed. When the ball valve lever is perpendicular, the valve is closed. When the lever is parallel, the valve is open allowing water to flow through it. Ball valves should always be either completely open or closed. They should never be just partially opened.
Gate valves control water flow by raising or lowering an internal gate. Typically, there is a knob at the top of the valve that would turn to lower or raise the gate. Using a gate valve to reduce water flow can wear out the valve. Like ball valves, they should always be completely open or closed. Gate valves are commonly used as shutoff valves on main or branch water supply lines due to their high reliability.
If you need to regulate the flow of water, using a butterfly valve is a good choice. This is because it can be adjusted with precision. There is a disc at the center of the valve that can be rotated to regulate the flow of water. While these are not found in many households, understanding how a butterfly valve works is important. If someone suggests using a butterfly valve in your home, question their opinion and ask for a detailed explanation.
Check valves are often used in water tanks, water storage applications, and anywhere that backflow in the piping system needs to be prevented. A check valve only allows water to travel in one direction. Water passing through the pipeline opens the valve, while water that tries to reverse the flow will close the valve. A similar device called a back-flow preventer is used on outdoor faucets.
Not All Valves Are Created Equal
Each type of valve can be made from different materials. The types of materials range from brass to PVC to stainless steel, and more. Each type of material impacts the valves in a unique way. Below, we have listed common materials used for each valve type.
PVC Ball Valve
Creating a watertight seal, PVC ball valves allow you to turn the flow of liquids on and off very quickly. If you are installing an irrigation system for your lawn, consider using a PVC ball valve. This type of valve is also commonly used in pools and for other landscaping purposes.
PVC Butterfly Valves
If you are updating your irrigation system due to a worn-out butterfly valve, consider a PVC butterfly valve as a replacement. Since precise flow pressure is not required, PVC butterfly valves are great for irrigation systems as well as home plumbing systems.
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PVC Gate Valves
PVC is considered the preferred material for gate valve applications that include indoor plumbing, spas, septic systems, landscaping, irrigation, and aquaculture. They are designed to withstand the elements. PVC gate valves are not damaged by freezing temperatures and can withstand heat up to 120 degrees.
Brass Ball Valves
Brass ball valves are strong, reliable, and withstand years of use or disuse. The lever handle contains a grip surface to make turning the valve on and off much easier. Brass ball valves are stronger than PVC but are not FDA approved. This type of ball valve is not to be used to control drinking water unless the brass is certified lead-free.
Brass Check Valves (Swing)
Brass Swing Check Valves prevent reverse fluid flow. A metal to metal use allows for a strong and reliable construction.
Brass Gate Valves
Tougher than PVC, brass gate valves may be just what you need to block the flow of water. The brass gate valve has a disc inside that acts as a gate inside the housing, controlled by a wheel that can be turned on or off to open and close the valve. Brass valves can withstand higher pressure than PVC parts. In applications where PVC would burst, brass valves hold strong.
Stainless Steel Valves
Stainless Steel Valves are designed to not take damage and last longer than PVC and Brass valves. They also have a wider working temperature range. Ultimately they have a longer life cycle than brass but they do cost more.
When it comes to your home, it is important to understand what makes it work. While it can be easy to forget about the important role valves play in your daily life, they can make a big difference in the success or failure of your fixtures. By reading and learning from the list of valves above, you can make the decisions that will best impact your systems. There is a wide selection of brass ball valves and other valves. Do not hesitate to contact a professional if you cannot decide which valve is the best one for you.
Mark Ligon is the Marketing Manager at PVC Fittings Online, an online store that features valves, pipe, fittings, and additional building supplies. Mark loves providing home improvement tips for home improvement enthusiast and completing DIY projects in his free time.