Ball Valve vs Gate Valve: What's the Difference?

When you need to block the flow of gas or water, you might be looking to choose between a ball valve vs gate valve. While these are popular choices, there are important differences to consider before installing them in your system.

They’re both generally used to control the flow of liquids and gasses, but their unique constructions determine when and where each type is an appropriate choice. Let’s walk through these two types and how to choose between them.

What Is a Ball Valve?

Ball valves are prized for their durability, working perfectly even after they haven’t been used for years. They operate by using a sphere attached to a lever that can make a quarter turn. When you move the lever, it turns the ball to align with the flow or block it.

Metal seated ball valves allow for quick shut-off since they only turn a short distance. They should only be operated in the fully open or closed position, though, as being partially open can deform the seats on either end of the ball due to uneven pressure. For this reason, they’re only appropriate as shut-off valves and not for controlling flow.

The different types of ball valves are usually defined by the size or shape of the ball, which affects how it blocks the flow.

What Is a Gate Valve?

Gate valves operate with an internal gate or wedge that is moved up and down by turning a knob. When the gate is down, it blocks the water, and the reverse when the gate is up. Some come with rising stems that allow you to see if the gate is open or closed.

This type of valve allows you to control the flow of water or other fluid so you can have a slow trickle or a full flow. Because it takes time for the gate to drop, it doesn’t provide an immediate stop for the water. If you need fine control over the flow, that’s when to use a gate valve.

Ball Valve vs Gate Valve

The key difference between the two types of valves is in how they operate and block flow. That difference alone impacts the types of applications appropriate for each type.

Gate valves are ideal when you’re working with slurries or have large flow rates, while ball valves are best when you need a dependable shut-off valve like with natural gas.

With a gate valve, you can have fine control of the flow, use bigger pipes, and operate in a smaller space thanks to the round knob handle. However, it’s harder to tell if the valve is open, and it is prone to leaks if not operated often.

With a ball valve, you can have immediate shut-off capabilities, easily see if the valve is open, and count on a tight seal even after a long time. However, these valves are more expensive and need more installation space to accommodate the handle.

Get the Right Valve

Choosing a ball valve vs gate valve comes down to how you plan to use them and what is flowing through your pipes. Different fluids required different control and shut-off needs. Carefully considering the pros and cons will help you pick the appropriate valve for your situation.

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