A Beginner's Guide: Valves - Types, Applications, Sizing & More

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A Beginner’s Guide to Valves: Understanding Types, Applications, and How They Work


Valves are integral components in various industries that facilitate the control and regulation of fluid flow within systems. From controlling the flow of water in household plumbing to managing the movement of hazardous chemicals in industrial processes, the types of valves that get used play a crucial role in ensuring efficiency and safety. In this beginner’s guide to valves, we’ll cover:

The fundamentals of valves, exploring their:
(Click to jump to section)

  1. Operation

  2. Types of Valves

  3. Types of Valves – Listed by Function

  4. Applications

  5. End Types

  6. Sizing

  7. Materials

  8. Standards and Regulations

  9. Common Manufacturers

And if you stick around we’ll even share some free tools for you to use along the way.

1. How Do Valves Operate?

Valves operate by controlling the flow of fluids (liquids, gases, or slurries) through pipes or ducts. They achieve this by opening, closing, or partially obstructing the flow path. The method by which valves open and close varies depending on their design and application. Below we will go over the different types of valves and how they operate

2. Types of Valves

Butterfly valve

Butterfly Valves: These valves feature a disc mounted on a central spindle, which rotates to control flow. Commonly used for large-scale applications, such as in water distribution systems and HVAC (Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning) systems.



Gate Valve

Gate Valves: Gate valves utilize a sliding gate mechanism to regulate flow. They provide a straight-through flow path when fully open and are often used in applications requiring full flow or shutoff, such as in pipelines and industrial processes.



Ball Valves: Ball valves employ a spherical closure element (the ball) to control flow. By rotating the ball 90 degrees, flow can be fully opened or shut off swiftly. Ball valves are widely used in various industries due to their reliability and ease of operation.



Check Valves: Check valves, also known as non-return valves, allow flow in one direction while preventing back-flow, or flow in the opposite direction. They are essential for preventing reverse flow and maintaining system integrity in applications such as pumping systems and water treatment plants.



Knife Gate Valve: A knife gate valve (or knife valve) is a type of valve with a sharp-edged gate to cut through and control the flow of thick fluids with high solid content, such as slurries or powders. It operates by raising and lowering the gate to allow or restrict flow, making it suitable for applications where a tight shutoff is required.



Plug Valve: A plug valve consists of a cylindrical or conical plug with a through-hole, which rotates within the valve body to control flow. By turning the plug perpendicular or parallel to the flow direction, the valve can open or close. Plug valves are versatile and find applications in various industries, including petrochemical, wastewater treatment, and food processing.



Pressure Relief Valve: A pressure relief valve (PRV) is designed to protect equipment or systems from over-pressure conditions by automatically opening to release excess pressure. It typically consists of a spring-loaded disc or piston that opens when the pressure exceeds a predetermined set point, allowing fluid to escape and reduce pressure to safe levels. Pressure relief valves are essential for preventing equipment damage and ensuring operational safety in various industries, including oil and gas, chemical processing, and power generation.



Pinch Valve: A pinch valve (or squeeze valve) uses a flexible tube (or sleeve) is opened or closed by compressing an internal mechanism to control flow. By squeezing the tube shut, the valve closes off flow, while releasing the pressure allows flow to resume. This can be operated manually by a screw, by pneumatic (air) compression, or by an electric actuator. Pinch valves are ideal for handling granular, abrasive or corrosive fluids, as the flow path is isolated from the valve body, reducing the risk of contamination or damage to the valve components.


Globe Valve: A globe valve features a spherical or cylindrical body with an internal baffle or disc that regulates flow. The disc moves perpendicular to the flow direction, controlling the flow rate by adjusting the size of the flow opening. Globe valves offer precise throttling capabilities and are commonly used in applications requiring fine flow control, such as steam systems, boiler feed water control, and hydraulic systems.



Needle Valve: A needle valve is a type of valve with a slender, tapered needle-like stem that fits into a conical seat to control flow. By turning the stem, the distance between the needle and the seat can be adjusted, allowing for precise flow regulation. Needle valves are often used in applications where accurate and gradual flow control is required, such as in instrumentation systems, laboratory equipment, and high-pressure hydraulic systems.

3. Types of Valves – Listed by Function

Valves can also be categorized based on their intended purpose rather than their internal design.

  • Isolation Valves: Isolation valves are designed to completely stop or allow fluid flow within a system. They are commonly used to isolate sections of piping for maintenance, repairs, or shutdown procedures. Gate valves, ball valves, and butterfly valves are often used as isolation valves due to their ability to provide a tight shutoff.
  • Non-Return Valves: Non-return valves, also known as check valves or one-way valves, allow fluid flow in one direction while preventing back-flow in the opposite direction. They are essential for maintaining system integrity, preventing reverse flow, and protecting equipment from damage. Swing check valves, lift check valves, and ball check valves are common types of non-return valves.
  • Regulating Valves: Regulating valves, also known as control valves, are used to regulate the flow rate, pressure, or temperature of a fluid within a system. They can modulate the flow by adjusting the position of a closure element based on external signals or control inputs. Globe valves, needle valves, and diaphragm valves are examples of regulating valves.
  • Safety Relief Valves: Safety relief valves are designed to automatically relieve excess pressure from a system to prevent equipment damage or catastrophic failure. They operate by opening when the pressure exceeds a preset threshold, allowing the fluid to be safely discharged. Pressure relief valves, pressure safety valves (PSVs), and safety relief valves (SRVs) are all types of safety relief valves.
  • Special Purpose Valves: Special purpose valves are designed for specific applications or operating conditions that require unique features or performance characteristics. These valves may include cryogenic valves for low-temperature applications, high-pressure valves for extreme pressure conditions, and vacuum valves for vacuum systems. Other examples of special purpose valves include sanitary valves for food and pharmaceutical industries, fire-safe valves for fire protection systems, and control valves for specialized process control applications. We won’t cover special purpose valves in this introductory article.

4. Applications of Valves

This system shows how intricate isolating flow can be when testing a system, and why valves are so important in accomplishing this.

Valves find extensive use across diverse industries because of their crucial ability to control the flow in different types of systems. Because of their capabilities, often they are more expensive than other components in the system. Regardless, they provide a wealth of long term control and overall performance. Here are some common applications:

  • Oil and Gas Industry: Valves are crucial for controlling the flow of crude oil, natural gas, and refined products in extraction, refining, and distribution processes.
  • Water Treatment and Distribution: Valves play a vital role in regulating water flow, controlling pressure, and directing water to various treatment and distribution points.
  • Chemical Processing: Valves are utilized in chemical plants for controlling the flow of chemicals, ensuring accurate dosing, and maintaining process safety.
  • HVAC Systems: Valves help regulate the flow of air and water in heating, cooling, and ventilation systems, optimizing comfort and energy efficiency.
  • Manufacturing and Industrial Processes: Valves are integral to controlling the flow of fluids in manufacturing processes, ensuring precise operation and product quality.

5. End Types

Valves often feature different end connections, including:

  • Flanged – Valves with flanged ends require bolting the flange to a system, ultimately providing a secure valve connection under low to high pressures. If you are looking to figure out what bolt size you might need, consider downloading a free bolt chart app to your phone. Here’s one to try:
  • Threaded – Threaded connections require rotating the (typically female) threads of the valve onto the (typically male) threads of the piping system for a secure fit.
  • Welded – Some valves require you weld them to the system. Check out this one from DIXON. Weld ends are often designed to stay. Some allow access for maintenance, and some don’t.
  • Socket welded – Like the name implies, the end of this type of valve has a socket that you slide over the pipe system and then weld to it to affix the valve. Again, it’s there to stay and maintenance will vary by valve design.
  • Compression – Compression valves are more commonly meant for lower pressures, residential applications, and allow you to “push to connect” to the piping system.
  • Grooved connections – Grooved valves have grooved ends that are sealed with a gasket, and then clamped to the system. Check out this video that shows you how to connect grooved valves.

The choice of end connection depends on factors such as system pressure, material compatibility, and installation requirements. Selecting the appropriate end connection is crucial for ensuring leak-free operation and system integrity.

6. Valve Sizing

NPS – Nominal Pipe Size

Generally speaking, when people ask for a specific size of valve, they are often referring to the nominal pipe size (NPS), or the diameter, of the valve’s inlet and outlet ports. This size corresponds to the size of the pipe with which the valve will be used. For example, if someone requests a “2-inch valve,” they are indicating that they need a valve with inlet and outlet ports that match the dimensions of a 2-inch NPS pipe.

It’s important to note that the nominal pipe size (NPS) does not directly represent the actual dimensions of the valve body or internal components. Instead, it indicates the size of the pipe that the valve is intended to be installed on. Valves are manufactured to match standard pipe sizes to ensure compatibility with piping systems.

Looking for an easy way to find information on Nominal Pipe Size, dimensions, codes, and more? Consider downloading the Pipedata App:
Pipedata on Apple App Store
Pipedata on Google Play Store


In many cases, it’s important to distinguish sizing when you need to purchase the correct size, and for shipping information. Not only will you want to choose the right types of valves for the job, you’ll want to be sure of the overall size of the product (For instance, a 2-inch ball valve won’t measure 2″ x 2″ x 2″).

7. Materials Used in Valve Manufacturing

Valves are manufactured using a variety of materials to suit different operating conditions and fluid media. Common materials include stainless steel, cast iron, brass, and various alloys. Factors such as corrosion resistance, temperature tolerance, and mechanical strength influence material selection, ensuring optimal performance and longevity of valves in diverse applications. Depending on your context, valve materials may be set by organizations that regulate and set standards to ensure safety and compliance with laws.

8. Standards and Regulations

Valve manufacturing adheres to industry standards and regulations to ensure product quality, safety, and environmental compliance. These standards commonly come from organizations such as:

  1. CSA Group (CSA):

    • CSA Group is a global organization that develops standards and certification programs across various industries, including valves. Their standards cover areas such as materials, performance, and safety requirements for valves used in different applications.
  2. The American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME):

    • ASME develops codes and standards for mechanical engineering applications, including valves. ASME standards provide guidelines for valve design, materials, construction, testing, and performance to ensure safety and reliability in diverse industries.
  3. The American National Standards Institute (ANSI):

    • ANSI oversees the development of voluntary consensus standards for various industries, including valves. ANSI standards establish criteria for valve dimensions, materials, performance, and testing to promote interoperability and quality assurance.
  4. The American Society for Testing Materials International (ASTM International):

    • ASTM International develops and publishes standards for materials, products, systems, and services, including valves. ASTM standards address materials properties, manufacturing processes, testing methods, and performance requirements for valves used in different environments and applications.
  5. The Manufacturers Standardization Society (MSS):

    • MSS develops and publishes standards for valves, fittings, and related components in collaboration with industry stakeholders. MSS standards cover areas such as valve design, materials, dimensions, testing, and performance requirements to ensure safety and reliability in valve applications.
  6. The International Organization for Standardization (ISO):

    • ISO is an international standard-setting body that develops and publishes standards for various industries, including valves. ISO standards provide guidelines and specifications for valve design, materials, dimensions, and testing methods to ensure global compatibility and quality assurance.
  7. The Public Health and Safety Organization (NSF):

    • NSF International develops standards and certification programs for products related to public health and safety, including valves used in water treatment and distribution systems. NSF standards ensure that valves meet regulatory requirements and are safe for use in drinking water applications.
  8. NACE International/AMPP (NACE):

    • NACE International focuses on corrosion control and prevention in various industries, including oil and gas, chemical processing, and marine applications. NACE standards provide specifications and recommendations for materials, coatings, and corrosion protection measures for valves used in corrosive environments.
  9. The American Petroleum Institute (API):

    • API develops standards and recommended practices for the oil and gas industry, including valves used in upstream, midstream, and downstream operations. API standards cover areas such as design, materials, manufacturing, testing, and inspection of valves to ensure reliability and safety in petroleum applications.
  10. American Water Works Association (AWWA):

    • AWWA develops standards for water supply and distribution systems, including valves used in potable water treatment, distribution, and wastewater management applications. AWWA standards address valve design, materials, construction, testing, and performance requirements to ensure safe and reliable operation in water-related applications.

These institutions each govern valve design, materials, testing, and performance. Compliance with these standards, along with adherence to environmental and quality regulations, is essential for the reliable operation of valves and the protection of personnel and the environment. In many circumstances, valves are manufactured to adhere to standards set by these organizations. Often, you’ll find the organization’s code on the side of the valve to show the end user by which standard it adheres.


9. Valve Manufacturers

Disclaimer: Our sellers offer products from these common manufacturers. We are not affiliated with any of these manufacturers and earn no commissions from them.

We thought it would be helpful to include them in this guide. Hopefully this can give you some ideas of who to choose when looking for valves:

  1. PRATT: (also called “Pratt Industrial”, “Henry Pratt”, or “PRATT, A Mueller brand”)
  2. Emerson/Fisher: Emerson specializes in Valve automation. They have a large selection.
  3. CNC: (also “C&C”) Based in Houston, Texas, this company provides valves and fittings for many industries.
  4. ASC Engineered Solutions – ASC is a parent company, worldwide manufacturer and distributor of many popular branded products. Headquartered in Oak Brook, Illinois, ASC boasts brands such as:

  5. Apache –  Based in Manvel, Texas, Apache Pressure Products offer a wide range of valves and other products.
  6. Balon – Based in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, Balon offers Made in the USA products and is an industry trusted brand.
  7. Bonney – Bonney (or Bonney Forge) is headquartered in Mt. Union, Pennsylvania, Houston (Sister company, WFI), and Bonney forge Shainghai (BFS) They are known for manufacturing fittings and valves. They are also known to manufacture their products under strict procedures, with quality assurance testing and more.
  8. Didtek – Established in 1985, the Didtek Valve Group is a major Chinese manufacturer, making and supplying valves and other products.
  9. Evergreen Valve – Evergreen Midwest Co is based in Mentor, Ohio, and is known for supplying customers with products that adhere to strict quality standards. Their valves are manufactured by their “most well-known vendors – Sherwood Valve and Rego Products” – via evergreenmidwest.com
  10. KITZ – Based in Tokyo, Japan, KITZ is a global manufacturer of valves and fluid control products that is well known in the industry sector.
  11. NIBCO – Based in Elkhart, Indiana, NIBCO is another global valve manufacturer for many industries. They are parent company for other brands such as Webstone, Sure Seal and Chemtrol. “The NIBCO Brand family includes more than 36,000 flow control products for residential, commercial construction, industrial and irrigation markets worldwide.” – Nibco.com
  12. WATTS – Founded in 1874, Watts is a longtime manufacturer and worldwide name.
  13. Young –  Based in Tulsa, OK, Young Energy Products has an extensive selection of high quality check valves and more.


Valves are indispensable components in various systems across several industries, serving critical functions in flow control and regulation. As technology improves, new products are constantly being introduced into the world of valves. It’s important to keep up! Understanding the different types of valves, their applications, materials, and standards associated with valves is essential for selecting the right valve for specific needs and ensuring optimal performance and safety.

Whether in oil refineries, water treatment plants, or manufacturing facilities, valves play a vital role in maintaining operational efficiency and system integrity. For further exploration into the world of valves, consider consulting industry resources and experts to make informed decisions and maximize the benefits of valve technology.

At Branabee, we offer many products such as valves from different sellers. And if you need a hand figuring out which valve is right for you, we’ve got the expertise to help. So why wait? Check out our valve selection today and see for yourself!

Closing Disclaimer: The information provided in this article serves as a general guide to understanding valves and their various types, applications, materials, and standards. While we strive to ensure the accuracy and reliability of the information presented, we make no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, about the completeness, accuracy, reliability, suitability, or availability with respect to the content contained herein.

Furthermore, the information provided does not constitute professional advice or recommendations, and any reliance you place on such information is strictly at your own risk.

In no event will we be liable for any loss or damage including, without limitation, indirect or consequential loss or damage, or any loss or damage whatsoever arising from loss of data or profits arising out of, or in connection with, the use of this article.

Additionally, mention of specific valve manufacturers or products does not imply endorsement or affiliation with any particular company. Readers are encouraged to conduct their own research and seek professional advice before making any decisions regarding valve selection or procurement.

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