Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: A Complete List of Differences

In this blog post, you’ll read:Pipelines need regular control management. Their smooth performance leads to efficient flow transfer. Every pipeline system uses control valves to track fluid pathways. The two major control valves are plug valves and ball valves. The role and work of each type should be more obvious. In comparison between the Plug valve and ball valve, both have significant roles. This writing focuses on the plug valve and ball valve differences. Let’s understand everything about these two valves.
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Valves are significant in pipelines for the control and management of fluids. They ease the flow transfer and enhance the performance of these carrier pipes. Every pipeline system uses control valves to track fluid pathways. Plug valves and ball valves are two highly significant control valve types. You should know their work and operation before choosing between them. In comparison between the Plug valve and ball valve, both have substantial roles. This writing focuses on the differences between lug and ball valves.

plug valve and ball valve
plug valve and ball valve

What is a Plug Valve?

A plug valve controls the management of liquids and gases in pipelines. A plug lies within the body, often cylindrical, which rotates at 90 degrees. It comes with a hole in the middle of its structure, which turns within the valve body. The hole in the center and the pipe align on turning the plug. It creates a pathway for the fluids to pass. Conversely, on rotating again, the spot moves away from the line, and the fluid passage blocks.

Plug valves are of basic construction and do not have complex operations. They are easy to operate with quick and efficient flow control. Regulation of media is not a suitable application for these valves because they are meant for an on-off mechanism.

plug valve inside
Plug valve inside

What is a Ball Valve?

A ball valve is one of the most basic and highly applicable valve types. The name is kept after a round ball-shaped component in the valve body.

The fluid passage in the ball valve is similar to plug valves. Yet, instead of a plug, a ball valve uses a sphere-shaped ball with a hole in the middle. To operate the ball valve, turn the lever or handle which initiates the opening and closing.

Like the plug’s alignment, the ball aligns its hole with the pipeline. This is an open position. When we turn the ball to block the hole, the flow stops. This is when the valve is closed. Ball valves are best for short and frequent flow control applications.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve Applications:

Both the valves have different applications. Here’s a simple explanation of Plug valve vs. ball valve applications:

Plug Valve Applications:

Plug valve applications differ from those of ball valves. Their functional ability serves relatively different industries.

Oil and Gas Industry: One of the best Plug valve applications can be found in this industry. They control various mechanisms by supplying natural gas and crude oil to multiple chambers. They also manage liquids through pipelines in the oil and gas industry.

Water Treatment Plants: Maintaining water flow is essential in wastewater treatment plants. For this purpose, plug valves are installed, which control wastewater and distribute treated water.

Chemical Processing: In chemical processing plants, plug valves can regulate the flow of different reactors and products.

Waste Water Management: Wastewater from houses and buildings is carried to sewer treatment plants. Plug valves are installed at specific locations to manage the pathway of wastewater. They not only dispose of waste but also keep treated water separate.

Ball Valve Applications:

Ball valve applications are primarily found in frequent control operations. A few examples are given below.

ball valve applications
Ball valve works

Residential Plumbing: Ball valves are widespread in household applications to control water flow. You can find shut-off ball valves in toilets and under sinks in plumbing.

HVAC Systems: One of the best Ball valve applications is in (HVAC) systems, where they control water distribution. In refrigerants, ball valves manage the process of heating and cooling.

Industrial Processes: Industrial processes require a keen check and balance of fluids coming towards various chambers. Ball valves are ideal in such applications for smooth reactions. Some of the standard methods include manufacturing, refining, and power generation.

Fuel and Gas Distribution: Fuel and gas distribution systems require diligent and robust valves. Ball valves are efficient in managing flow to storage tanks at distinct locations.

Working Mechanism: Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve.

Plug Valve:

A plug valve works by rotating a cylindrical plug inside the valve body. The principal is to align the pipeline with the hole in the plug’s center. The plug hole’s position decides the valve’s opening and closing.

structure of plug valve
structure of plug valve

In the open position, the fluids experience a streamlined flow due to the work of the hole with the pipe. The spot rotates to change its place in a closed condition and blocks fluid passage. This is how the plug valve works to maintain the system’s efficiency.

Ball Valve:

The working mechanism of the ball valve is controlled by a spherical ball in the center. We can initiate the work by rotating the handle, which causes the ball to turn.

ball valve uses a spherical ball with a hole
The ball valve uses a spherical ball with a hole.

The valve opens when the ball rotates to set the hole with the pipe, and the fluid can flow through. When the ball turns to block the hole, the ball valve works to close and ceases the flow.


One of the most significant differences between plug and ball valves is their design. This variation brings multiple types of valves with different working. Let’s check out the different plug valve vs. ball valve types.

Plug valve type

  • Lubricated Plug Valve:

A lubricant is present in this type of plug valve. The valve releases lubricant between the plug and the body. It reduces unnecessary friction and improves the sealing mechanism. They are ideal in applications that demand extraordinary seals. Examples include corrosive substances and high-pressure systems that can be prone to leakages.

  • Non-Lubricated Plug Valve:

These plug valves do not require any extra lubrication. These valves use special polymer coatings on the body and plug to reduce friction and improve the seal. This alternate mechanism is very efficient in achieving excellent seals. They are applicable in the food and pharmaceutical industries where using lubricants is unacceptable.

  • Eccentric Plug Valve:
eccentric plug valve
Eccentric plug valve

Eccentric valves’ structure is quite different from those of other plug valves. The plug in this type is a little off-center from the pipe alignment. The plug moves far from the seat before rotation. This design helps reduce friction and chances of wear during work. Due to its unique design, this valve type is less likely to form debris clogs in the body. The best applications of eccentric plug valves are abrasive and slurry media.

Types of Ball Valve.

  • Floating Ball Valve:

This type of ball valve has a floating structure. The force which holds the ball in place is fluid pressure. This pressure keeps the ball stuck with the seat, giving a sealing effect. The fluid pressure decides the opening and closing of the valve by applying force. These valves are suitable for a medium range of temperatures and pressures with a good sealing effect.

  • Trunnion Ball Valve:
trunnion ball valve
Trunnion ball valve

These ball valves use trunnion bearings for reliable support of the ball. These bearings control the ball’s movement and also manage its weight. This feature gives the valve structure more stability and adds to the performance. These are heavy-duty valves that are suitable for high-pressure pipelines. This is because the bearings can undergo extreme pressure without damage.

  • V-Port Ball Valve:

This ball valve has a V-shaped bore in the ball structure. It is best for precise control because of the ball’s ability to position. It is a regulatory type of valve with excellent throttling capability. They are applicable in handling chemicals or industrial processes due to accuracy in flow control.

  • Three-Way Ball Valve:
3 port ways
3 port ways

They have three ports instead of the usual two. It may have two sources: an outlet, a single inlet, and two outlets. These valves mix or divert the flow from different sources or can distribute it. They are ideal for multi-port applications where more than two fluids are to be handled.

Specification of Plug Valve and Ball Valve:

Specifications.Plug Valve.  Ball Valve.  
Product:Flanged Plug Valve.Flanged Ball Valve.
Material:Stainless Steel.Steel, Ductile Iron.
Media:Oil.Liquids and Gases.
Size:1 ~ 4.2 ~ 24.
Working Pressure:6000 Psi to 20,000 Psi.PN 500
Temperature:High Temperature.High Temperature.
Application:Industrial Oil handling.Chemicals, wastewater, oil, Power plants.
Plug Valve and Ball Valve specifications

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve: Pros and Cons.

Though they offer a variety of functionalities, there can be some drawbacks, too. To learn the differences between plug valves and ball valves, here are their pros and cons.

Advantages of Plug Valve:

Quick Operation: The plug’s robust movement allows a quick operating mechanism. They have a meager chance of wearing out; thus, it is ideal for frequent regulations of fluids.

Versatile: Plug valves can handle different media types at various pressure and temperature ranges. This adds to their versatility, as they can manage water and chemicals without damage.

Simple and Reliable: Plug valves have a simple design to operate and maintain. The plug rotation carries out the whole work and decides on opening and closing.

Durable: the construction of plug valves makes them durable. Their materials include alloys and custom polymers with enhanced features. It increases product lifespan and exposure.

Cost-effective: These valves usually cost the least due to their basic design. They are an economical choice to suit a variety of applications.

Good Sealing Performance: Plug valves can provide a tight seal by avoiding leakages. It enables quick closure and less waste accumulation.

Advantages of Ball Valve:

Versatile Applications: Ball valves can be used in multiple industries. They are ideal in residential plumbing, wastewater, and chemical industries. This versatility is due to their features in handling massive fluids.

flanged plug valve
Flanged plug valve

Quick Shut-off: The ball in the body shows quick rotation, which enables quick shut-off. Turning the ball blocks the flow to avoid the wastage of fluids.

Easy Operation: Ball valves operate efficiently, even with a simple handle or lever. Their quick turning allows for convenient opening or closing of the valve.

Durability: Ball valves come from sturdy materials, which makes them durable. It gives them the endurance to stand high pressures, corrosion, and extreme heat. The materials in ball valve construction are robust.

Reliable Sealing: Ball valves have a reliable sealing mechanism. In the closed position, the ball moves its hole in the opposite direction and blocks flow. It creates a tight and efficient sealing.

Low Maintenance: Ball valves need deficient maintenance. They have a basic design with few parts. Thus, it does not take much care.

Excellent Flow Control: Ball valves provide excellent flow control capabilities. On opening, the ball valve gives a streamlined flow to the liquids.

flanged cast iron ball valve
flanged cast iron ball valve

Disadvantages of Plug Valve:

High Torque: Plug valves need significant force to start. It is common in larger sizes or when dealing with high-pressure fluids.

Slurry Handling Limitations: There are better choices for fluids having solid waste. This waste can affect the performance of the plug and can cause blockages. It involves the plug’s sealing ability.

Limited Flow Control: Plug valves are on/off and may not provide precise control. They are not suitable in conditions where flow regulation is frequently needed.

Size and Weight: Plug valves, especially larger ones, can be bulky and heavy. This can make installation and handling more challenging. They need extra support and space to fit with the equipment.

Limited to Full Open or Full Closed Positions:

Plug valves operate in fully open or closed positions. They may not offer the flexibility of partial opening to regulate flow rates.

Disadvantages of Ball Valve:

Potential for Cavitation: Ball valves can sometimes cause cavitation in high-velocity applications. The cause of cavitation can be high-pressure drops. It leads to the formation and collapse of vapor bubbles. It can cause hammering, which can result in equipment loss.

Pressure Drop: Under some conditions, ball valves can cause pressure drops. It means there can be a decrease in pressure across the valve. It may affect the system’s performance downstream.

Limited Resistance to Corrosion: Ball valves are corrosion-resistant, but abrasive chemicals can be damaging. Proper material selection is crucial for long-term adaptability.

A General Comparison Between Plug Valve and Ball Valve:

Properties.Plug Valve.Ball Valve.
DesignPlug valves have a tapered plug with the ability to rotate inside.  Plug controls the flow by blocking or allowing passage.Plug valves can be bulkier than ball valves, significantly larger ones.
Flow ControlPlug valves are for on/off applications and may not provide accurate flow control.Plug valves have a tapered plug with the ability to rotate inside. Plug controls the flow by blocking or allowing passage.
Sealing Performanceplug valves offer higher sealing due to the direct contact between the plug and the valve seat.Ball valves can provide reliable sealing when closed.
OperationPlug valves have a tapered plug with the ability to rotate inside. Plug controls the flow by blocking or allowing passage.Ball valves have a quarter-turn operation for full open or close positions.
Pressure DropPlug valves have a lower pressure drop than ball valves.Ball valves can cause a pressure drop when fully open due to the flow path restrictions by the ball.
Flow CharacteristicsPlug valves may cause turbulence and pressure loss, especially in partially open positions.Ball valves provide more favorable flow characteristics with less turbulence than plug valves.
Maintenance:Plug valves may need occasional lubrication.Ball valves need a periodic inspection of the ball and seat for wear or leakage.
Size and Weight:Plug valves can be bulkier than ball valves, especially larger ones.Ball valves are more compact and lighter, which makes it easy to handle them.
Details for plug valve and ball valve

Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: Where to Install?

There are specific industries that best suit relevant valves. To get a better insight, We have enlisted top sectors and the best suitable locations to install plug and ball valves.

Chemical and Petrochemical Industry: 

The petrochemical industry requires bulk chemical handling. Plug valves are suitable for controlling acids and corrosives in chemical refineries. Their robust construction and resistance to chemical attack make them a preferred choice. They are capable of handling chemicals with their efficient management.

Oil and Gas Industry:

The oil and gas industry demands upstream and downstream control. They handle crude oil, petroleum products, and natural gas flow. Plug valves enable smooth operations through pipelines, refineries, and processing plants.

Water and Wastewater Treatment:

Plug valves are applicable in wastewater treatment plants. They can control water flow, slurries, and chemicals in treatment. Plug valves handle corrosive fluids and offer reliable shut-off capabilities. This makes them valuable in distribution systems, sewage plants, and desalination facilities.

Suitable locations to Install Ball Valves:

Ball valves are versatile and find applications in a wide range of industries. Here are a few examples:

Plumbing and HVAC Systems: 

Ball valves apply in residential, commercial, and industrial plumbing systems. They control water flow and other fluids in pipes, faucets, (HVAC) systems. The compact design and operation flexibility make ball valves popular in household applications.

Chemical Processing: 

Ball valves are wide in chemical processing industries to handle chemicals and fluids. They offer excellent capabilities to seal and precise flow control.

Manufacturing and Industrial Processes:

Ball valves are employed in many industrial processes that need control over the flow. They work in the food and beverage, pharmaceuticals, pulp, and paper industries.

Selection Guide for Plug and Ball Valves:

When choosing between a plug valve and a ball valve, there are a few essential factors to consider. The foremost characteristic is listing the application requirements for the product you purchase. Think about the fluid or gas the valve will handle. It is compulsory to measure the sizing of the pipeline or system with the desired valve. It is essential for correct installation and favorable performance.

Careful material selection is also required when choosing between a plug and a ball valve. Different materials will produce relevant effects. If the valve will handle chemicals, the material must be resistant to abrasives. Similarly, for running water, corrosion-resistant material is best.

Next, consider the type of valve that best suits your needs. You need to identify what you are expecting from the product. Do you want complete shut-off or regulation? Plug valves are better for on/off applications. In comparison, ball valves can offer more accurate flow control. Decide whether you need an adjusted flow or a simple open/close operation.

The selected valve should handle pressure and temperature ratings from your system. The product should make no compromises on its performance or safety.

Consult industry standards and regulations when choosing between plug and ball valves. The selected valve should meet all requirements and comply with relevant guidelines. By prioritizing these facts, you can select the most suitable valve. Whether a plug or a ball valve, it would fit your needs.

gas ball valve applications
Gas ball valve applications

FAQs Related to Plug Valves Vs. Ball Valves:

Q1: How do plug valves and ball valves work?

A: Plug valves rotate the plug inside the valve body, allowing or blocking access to the fluid. Ball valves function by turning the ball within the valve. It either aligns the hole with the pipe to allow flow or stops it when the hole is perpendicular to the pipe.

Q2: Can I repair the plug and ball valves?

A: Yes, you can repair both plug and ball valves. The nature of the replacement depends upon the type of damage. In most cases, it involves repairing valve parts. It could be seals, gaskets, or other components. It’s essential to follow proper repair procedures for your specific product.

Q3: How do I select between a plug and a ball valve?

A: Consider the application needs when selecting between a plug and a ball valve. These are valve size, material compatibility, and desired flow control capabilities. Rating pressure and temperature conditions are also significant. Prepare a list of your requirements and product capabilities to select one. Referring to manufacturer guidelines can help make the proper selection.

Q4: What are common materials used for plug valves and ball valves?

A: Common materials for plug and ball valves are stainless steel, brass, bronze, cast iron, and PVC. Each material is suitable for different applications. You can refer to the usage requirements for the best selection.

Q5: Among plug and ball valves, which one last longer?

The lifespan of both valves varies on quality, maintenance, and operating conditions. A well-made and maintained plug or ball valve can last many years, even decades.

Factors like the fluid media, operating conditions, and maintenance affect their lifespan. Both valves need routine care and inspections to function well and last longer. With proper care, plug-and-play valves can provide reliable service for a long time.

Wrapping Up:

The above comparison between the plug and ball valves sheds light on both. Their structure and type divide them into specific functions. Thus, a few suits one place, and the others are for different uses. Your valve must follow the system you are operating. Both plug and ball valves are unique and fit relevant applications. Consider choosing the top plug valve and ball valve manufacturers. A supplier with a sound B2B plumbing network can be very resilient.

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