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.
- What is a Gate Valve?
- What is a Ball Valve?
- Gate Valves vs. Ball Valves
- Should You Use a Gate Valve or a Ball Valve?
What is a 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
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.
Applications & Use Cases
|Gate Valve Uses||Ball Valve Uses|
|Shutoff and isolation service for:
Gate valves are commonly found in older home plumbing systems.
|On/off control for specialized industries including:
Ball valves are also found in newer home plumbing systems.
In the gate valve vs. ball valve debate, cost is a major differentiating factor. Up front, gate valves are less expensive than ball valves, but they can be more susceptible to corrosion which means they will need repairs and replacement more frequently. Ball valves have a higher initial cost, but they are the better choice for longevity since they are more durable and highly effective at forming tight seals.
As we just discussed, gate valves are, in general, less durable than ball valves. In moderate or high cycle applications, gate valves will require routine maintenance or replacement. Most ball valves are designed to be maintenance-free and should be replaced rather than repaired. Three-piece ball valves, however, are designed so that the valve seats and seals can be easily replaced without removing the valve from service. This is why 3-piece ball valves are often used in high cycle or high pressure applications where valve seal failure is likely to occur more quickly. However, 3-piece ball valves typically come with a higher up-front cost than the more popular 1-piece or 2-piece body constructions.
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.
Here is a recap of what we’ve covered in this article to further assist your decision:
Type of Media
Ball valves create a reliable, tight seal, so they can be used with both liquids and gases. Gate valves are better suited for thick liquids (like oil) since they are more prone to leaking.
Ball valves are smaller than gate valves, but they require more space for operation. A manual ball valve requires a lever that can turn 90° but a manual gate valve can operate with a small handwheel. Some ball valves are available with small form factor handle options, such as wing or round-style handles. These handles work well with smaller pipe sizes but often do not provide enough leverage for larger ball valves.
Gate valves are recommended for liquid media applications that require infrequent operation. Ball valves are used across a variety of industries that require active, quick control of the flow of media.
Unlike ball valves, gate valves are not widely available in multi-port configurations. If your application requires a multi-port flow pattern, a ball valve may be the right choice.
Gemini Valve designs, manufactures and distributes performance-engineered ball valves, including custom products. 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.