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.

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 Valves vs. Ball Valved: List of Differences:

Here is the list of differences between the plug and ball valves.

Differences in Working Mechanism:

  • 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. In the open position, the fluids experience a streamlined flow due to the work of the hole with the pipe. The hole 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.

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.

Differences in the Structures:

  • Plug Valve

A plug with a cylindrical disc performs the primary flow regulation function. It has a single or an extra fluid passageway in some conditions. A hollow space within the plug connects with the exit when we open the valve. On shutting off the valve, there is a 90-degree turn, and the hollow part moves away from the fluid passage. This is how the structure of a plug valve maintains its working phenomenon. They are suitable for medium-temperature and low-pressure systems. Yet, some types are specialized for high-temperature conditions.

  • Ball Valve

The ball valve has a spherical disc instead of the plug valve’s cylindrical one. A bore channel within the ball sets in line with the exit port on opening. The hole, inlet, and outlet are aligned 180 degrees in this condition. When the hole turns vertical to the valve ends, it results in a blockage of flow. These valves are super compatible with chemicals, acids, and solvents. They are also suitable for throttling and regulation services.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve _ Differences in Construction:

  • Plug Valve

There is a bore in the center of the plug valves. It has a cylindrical disc with a hole in the aperture. The size of the disc or plug ball in the plug valve is relatively larger. It enables a tight shut-off mechanism for plug valves. Their construction makes them compact and thus can easily fit in small spaces.

  • Ball Valve

Like the plug valves, ball valves have a bore in the center. Then, there is a spherical disc having a hollow center. The ball size is shorter than that of the plug valve. Their construction is more straightforward than plug valves.

ball valve applications
Ball valve works

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve _ Differences in Operational Mechanism:

Plug Valve
The body of the plug valve has a seat at the bottom where the plug sits. The plug has an opening whose position decides the flow rate. These openings are called ports, which carry the entrance and exit of the fluid. When the handle or lever is turned, it causes the stem to move the plug. This rotation initiates the operation of the plug valve. When the rotation is at its maximum (90°), it causes either a 100 percent valve opening or closing. The operational mechanism of the plug valve is a quarter-turn.

Ball Valve
A ball valve also has a quarter-turn operation, which uses a perforated ball to regulate flow. The stem connects one side to the ball and the other to the handle. Whenever an external change is initiated in the position of the handle, it causes the ball to rotate. On quarter-turning, the ball valve is either fully open or closed.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve _ Differences in Functionality:

  • Plug Valve

The main function of a plug valve is to provide reliable sealing and excellent shut-off. To meet this requirement, their sealing surface is relatively larger. It vanishes the chances of leakage. Yet, the large sealing surface requires more torque and high energy.

  • Ball Valve

Ball valves do not need high torque due to their lightweight nature. Their function is to regulate fluid media, and they are ideal for this purpose. The sealing surface is small, which can be compensated using seal injections or chemical sealants.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve Differences in Control Capacity:

Plug Valve
Plug valves are operated either manually or electronically. One can opt for the pneumatic actuator, but it costs relatively high. Thus, it needs a lot of torque to open and close plug valves in heavy media flow. Due to this reason, plug valves are not suitable for controlling large flow rates.

Ball Valve
Ball Valves have multiple actuation methods. They can be manual, hydraulic, electronic, or pneumatic control methods. These valves are easy to operate in high-pressure conditions and need less actuation force. Thus, we consider ball valves ideal for handling large fluid capacity.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve _ Differences in Customization:

Plug Valve
Plug valves offer little customization services to the users. Their construction and design allow modifications. Some common changes can be size options for valves or several ports ranging from two to five. There are actuator modifications available, such as pneumatic or electronic. But they can be highly expensive. The multiport option is also unfavorable as it compromises the sealing mechanism.

structure of plug valve
structure of plug valve

Ball Valve
Ball valves offer significant customization Compared to plug valves due to their versatility. The custom options include unidirectional, bidirectional, etc. You can add several ports for specific applications. Similarly, they can also be categorized into split-body or top-entry options.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve _ Differences in Maintenance:

  • Plug Valve

Maintenance of plug valves is necessary after specific time intervals. They have fewer moving components and are simple to construct. It makes maintenance activities robust and heck-free. Internal parts are easy to reach, and they can be closed periodically.

  • Ball Valve

The moving parts in ball valves are buried deep in the structure and are difficult to locate. The body chamber can cause pollutants to accumulate. It can be problematic during maintenance.

Plug Valve vs. Ball Valve _ Differences in Lifespan:

  • Plug Valve

The plug is continuously in contact with the flowing media. It increases the exposure chances of the plug and the disc, which can lead to corrosion. It decreases the lifespan of the valve.

  • Ball Valve

Ball valves maintain less contact between media and spherical ball. They use less torque for operation and are less prone to wear. It ultimately increases the working tenure of the ball valve.

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

Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: Types.

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.

Types of plug Valves.

  • 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.

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 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:

gas ball valve applications
Gas ball valve applications

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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