Needle valve vs. Ball Valve

In this blog post, you’ll read:Valves are integral components in various systems that manage the flow of fluids. Among the many types of valves, the needle and ball valves are commonly used in various applications, each offering its unique advantages and disadvantages. Let's dive into a comparison between these two types of valves:
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Valves are integral components in various systems that manage the flow of fluids. Among the many types of valves, the needle and ball valves are commonly used in multiple applications, each offering its unique advantages and disadvantages. Let’s dive into a comparison between these two types of valves:

Needle Valve

Description: A needle valve gets its name from the sharp-pointed conical disc and a matching seat. The “needle” or stem precisely fits into the seat, allowing for precise flow regulation.


  1. Precision Flow Control: Due to the design, needle valves allow for fine flow adjustments. This makes them particularly useful in applications where accurate flow regulation is essential.
  2. Consistent Flow: Once set, needle valves can maintain a consistent flow, making them suitable for systems requiring steady flow rates.
  3. Compact Design: Generally, needle valves are close, which can benefit applications with limited space.


  1. Limited Flow Capacity: Due to their design, needle valves aren’t suitable for systems requiring high flow rates.
  2. Potential Clogging: The intricate design means they are more susceptible to clogging, especially in systems with impurities.

Typical Applications: Hydraulic systems, precise flow control tasks, systems with low flow rates, calibration equipment.

Ball Valve

Description: Ball valves utilize a rotating ball with a hole through it, which acts as a disc to manage flow. When the valve is open, the hole aligns with the direction of the flow, allowing the fluid to pass through. When closed, the ball is rotated so the hole is perpendicular to the flow, shutting off the flow.


  1. Quick Operation: Ball valves can be opened or closed rapidly, making them useful for applications where quick shutoff is needed.
  2. Low Pressure Drop: When open, the straight-through flow design offers minimal resistance to flow.
  3. Reliable Sealing: With proper seating material, ball valves provide a tight seal, making them suitable for both high-pressure and vacuum applications.
  4. Minimal Maintenance: Ball valves require minimal maintenance due to their simplicity and robustness.


  1. Not Suitable for Throttling: Quick opening and potential for cavitation or flow erosions make ball valves less ideal for throttling purposes.
  2. Potential Seat Damage: If used in throttling applications, the partial opening can cause the seat to wear out, leading to leaking.

Typical Applications: Shutoff applications, high-flow systems, petrochemical industry, household plumbing systems, and food and beverage industries.

While both needle and ball valves have unique advantages and purposes, the choice between them boils down to the application’s specific requirements. Needle valves are chosen for precision, while ball valves are favored for quick operation and shutoff capabilities. Before selecting a valve type, it’s essential to evaluate the system’s demands and understand each valve’s advantages and limitations.

What is the Needle Valve?

needle shut off valves
Needle shutoff valves

A needle valve uses a slender, tapered needle-like plunger to control fluid flow. The plunger is designed to fit into a small orifice, allowing for precise flow rate control. The needle valve is often used in applications requiring accurate flow rate regulation, such as laboratory equipment or high-precision industrial applications.

What is a Ball Valve?

A ball valve, on the other hand, is a type of valve that employs a spherical ball to control fluid flow. The ball has a hole through the center, which can be aligned with the flow path to allow the fluid to pass through or rotated to block the flow. Ball valves are often used in applications requiring quick and easy shutoff, as they can be operated with a simple 90-degree turn of the lever or handle.

ball valve spare parts
ball valve spare parts

Needle valve vs. Ball Valve: difference in design

The design of needle and ball valves differs significantly, affecting how they function in controlling fluid flow. Here are some key design differences between the two types of valves:

Needle valve:

  • The valve body is typically lengthy and slender, with a small orifice and a tapered seat into which the needle-like plunger fits.
  • The plunger is usually threaded and can be screwed in or out of the seat to adjust the flow rate.
  • The valve may have a handle, knob, or another mechanism to turn the plunger.

Ball valve:

  • The valve body typically has a larger diameter and a port the ball rotates within.
  • The ball has a hole through its center that can be aligned with the flow path to allow fluid to pass or rotate to block the flow.
  • The valve may have a lever, handle, or another mechanism to turn the ball.

The design of the needle valve is more focused on precision control of the flow rate, while the ball valve is designed for quick and easy on/off control. Needle valves have a long, slender body with a small orifice and a tapered seat. In contrast, ball valves have a larger body with a port that the ball rotates within. The plunger of a needle valve is usually threaded and can be adjusted by turning a handle or knob. In contrast, the ball of a ball valve can be rotated by turning a lever or handle.

12 butterfly ball valve
12 butterfly ball valve

Needle Valve vs. Ball Valve: Different Uses

Needle valves and ball valves are both used for controlling the flow of fluid. Still, they are suited to different applications due to their design and function. Here are some common uses for each type of valve:

Needle valve:

  • Laboratory equipment: Needle valves are commonly used in laboratory equipment where precise control of the flow rate is required.
  • High-pressure systems: Needle valves are often used in high-pressure systems, such as hydraulic or pneumatic systems, where they can accurately control the flow rate.
  • Gas flow regulation: Needle valves are suitable for regulating gas flow, such as in gas chromatography or other gas analysis equipment.

Ball valve:

  • Industrial applications: Ball valves are widely used in industrial applications, such as oil and gas pipelines, chemical plants, and water treatment plants, where quick and easy shutoff is required.
  • Plumbing systems:

Ball valves are commonly used in plumbing systems to control water flow.

fire protection systems
Fire protection systems with ball valve
  • Fire protection systems: Ball valves are often used in fire protection systems, where they can quickly shut off the water flow in case of a fire.

Ball valve vs. Needle Valve: Lifespan

The manufacturer typically estimates the lifespan of a ball valve to be eight to ten years; however, with regular maintenance, this range can be increased. However, several additional factors can affect the longevity of ball valves. Conversely, the needle valve has a longer lifespan (more than eight years) than the ball because it can seal when closed tightly.

Ball Valve vs. Needle Valve: Inspection

Regular Inspection of Ball Valve

The system’s fluid quality, environment, and operational circumstances all affect how frequently a needle valve should be inspected for maintenance. Examine a valve placed and used to look for deformation, cracks, discoloration, or scratches.

Cracks: If water freezes inside the valve, cracks may develop. However, soldering cracks on the valve body will likely harm internal valve components. Small attempts on the ports may be welded.

Discoloration: Discoloration could mean the valve was damaged internally due to overheating.

Deformation: Replacement of the needle valve is necessary due to valve body deformation.

Scratches: Corrosion can result from scratches in the coating. Immediately coat the valve again.

Inspection of Needle valve

An increase in the valve’s inner pressure causes the valve to open. Find the central valve pressure and record it. You can also note the values and specifications for the additional associated valve feature. Proceed with increasing the valve’s inlet and discharge pressures. Verify the valve’s movement. Try to remember the emission pressure and open height. After that, slowly decrease the internal pressure until the valve closes. Record the pressure while noting the needle valve’s movement.

Needle valve vs. Ball Valve: Working difference

Needle and ball valves have different working mechanisms that allow them to control fluid flow differently. Here is a summary of the working difference between the two types of valves:

Needle valve:

Stainless steel needle valves
Stainless steel needle valves
  • The flow rate is controlled by adjusting the position of a slender, tapered plunger (the needle) within a small orifice.
  • The needle fits tightly into a tapered seat, creating a seal restricting fluid flow.
  • By turning the handle or knob attached to the plunger, the needle can be screwed in or out of the seat, increasing or decreasing the opening size and thereby controlling the flow rate.

Ball valve:

  • The flow rate is controlled by rotating a spherical ball with a hole through its center.
  • When the ball’s hole is aligned with the flow path, fluid can pass through the valve.
  • When the ball is turned so that the center is perpendicular to the flow path, the flow is blocked, and the valve is closed.
  • The ball is usually connected to a lever or handle used to turn the ball and control the fluid flow.
ball valve's spare parts
ball valve’s spare parts

Needle valve vs. Ball Valve: End connection

Needle and ball valves are valves used to control fluid flow through pipes, and their design and function differ.

The end connections of needle valves and ball valves are different. Needle valves typically have threaded or compression end connections, which allow them to be easily installed and removed from the piping system. The threaded end connections are usually used for low-pressure applications. In contrast, compression end connections are used for high-pressure applications.

On the other hand, ball valves have a wide range of end connections, including threaded, flanged, butt-weld, and socket-weld connections. This allows them to be used in various applications and piping systems. The choice of end connection for a ball valve depends on the application’s specific requirements, such as fluid type, pressure, and temperature.

Ball Valve vs. Needle Valve: Dimensions

Needle valve:

1/8  inches805660
¼ inches805660
3/8 inches805660
½ inches815860
¾ inches856260
1 inch1007070
Needle valve size and dimensions

Ball Valve:

¼ inch0.232.992.20
3/8 inch0.322.992.20
½ inch0.514.022.20
¾ inch0.754.252.72
1 inch0.994.533.50
Ball valve size and dimensions

Ball Valve vs. Needle Valve: Limitations

Limitations of Using a Ball Valve

Before you install a ball valve, consider the following restrictions. The flow rate should be considered first. A single valve can handle up to 20 GPM for a single-stage process, which is sufficient for most services.

Another disadvantage of using a ball valve is its tendency to accumulate deposits of material flowing. This type of valve is not recommended for use with dense fluids due to the ball’s design, which permits the flow to become obstructed. In addition, the chambers of the valve can eventually become blocked due to buildup, necessitating routine maintenance.

Limitations of Using a Needle Valve

Constraints are inherent to using a needle valve that restricts its application to low-flow systems. While a needle valve’s small opening makes it optimal for low-volume applications, the risk of clogging is a significant disadvantage.

Since solid particles can become embedded in the seat and damage the valve, they are not ideal for high-flow systems. While a needle valve can withstand high pressure, it is not optimal for applications requiring a high flow rate. Due to the minuscule size of the valve’s opening, it is also challenging to determine whether it is open or closed.

needle valve
Needle valve

Needle valve vs. Ball Valve: Properties

PropertyNeedle ValveBall Valve
Flow ControlPrecise control of flow rateOn/Off control of flow rate
Pressure DropHigh-pressure dropLow-pressure drop
Size RangeTypically up to 2 inchesGenerally up to 12 inches or larger
CostHigher costLower cost
MaintenanceRequires more frequent maintenance due to small parts and precision machiningRequires less frequent maintenance due to fewer parts
ApplicationsIdeal for low flow rate, high-pressure applicationsPerfect for high flow rate, low-pressure applications
Material CompatibilitySuitable for a wide range of fluids and gasesGenerally, they have a lower level of leakage due to precise machining and tight seals.
Temperature RangeCan handle high temperature and extreme temperature changesLimited temperature range
LeakageGenerally, it requires manual operation, but some models may have actuation options.It can have higher levels of leakage due to the design of the valve
OperationGenerally requires manual operation, but some models may have actuation options.It can be operated manually or with actuation options.

Needle Valve vs. Ball Valve: Which Is Better?

Ball and needle valves have some clear benefits when it comes to cost. The ball valve is less expensive and can be used where good sealing is needed. Also, both types are reliable when they are shut. Oil and gas, brewing systems, and mining are some of the most popular industries that use these parts. A ball valve is better for adjusting flow than a needle valve for controlling flow.

For more accurate flow control, a needle valve is better. The flow of water can be changed by moving the stem up or down. It can also be set to half open or half closed, which makes it a good choice for turning on and off often.

In general, needle valves are more precise, while ball valves need to be turned on and off more often. When the pressure is high, a ball valve is better. In the same way, a needle valve works better when the pressure is low. It has a short stroke and can change the speed of fluids at different rates. The way these two valves are used is the main difference between them.

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