How to Select a Valve Actuator?


The production of valve technology has been growing rapidly over the years. While a valve actuator seems like a simple piece of machinery, a lot of thought and planning goes into using the correct actuator.

The actuator you choose will have a significant impact on the valve’s performance. As the valve is most likely one cog in a very large machine, it’s crucial to choose the best valve actuators to ensure your operations run smoothly.

Are you having trouble deciding on the best actuator valve for your operation? Keep reading for a beginner’s guide to selecting the right valve actuator.

Valve Actuator Basics

So, what is an actuator valve? An actuator for valve operations allows you to remotely move and control the valve.

An actuator needs a control signal to work properly. You also need a power source for your valve actuator to work.

Types of Valve Actuators

There are many different types of actuators valve operations can run on. To make things simpler, we’ve broken them down into five different types and three categories.

Non-Electric Valve Actuators

The first type is quarter-turn pneumatic and hydraulic actuators. These are great when you don’t have an electric power source. They’re also useful for simpler valve operations.

While simple, they come in many different sizes for a wide range of abilities. You can find pneumatic and hydraulic quarter-turn actuators that deliver a few inch-pounds of torque, all the way to over a million inch-pounds of torque.

Most of these actuators use a cylinder for the motion that quarter-turns the valve. For emergencies, these are easy to shut off with an opposing spring placement.

The second type of actuator is a multi-turn pneumatic and hydraulic actuator. These work the same way as the quarter-turn pneumatic and hydraulic actuators, but the cylinder and mechanism turn it multiple times to fit the valve’s needs.

Neither of these types of actuators needs electricity to run. Instead, they use pressurized gas, air, or water for power. If you don’t have an electric power source, these actuators are perfect for your operation.

Electric Valve Actuators

The third type of actuator is the multi-turn electric actuator. These actuators are the most common and most reliable types.

Electric actuators can operate some of the biggest valves in the quickest amount of time. They run on a single or three-phased electric motor to move a combination of gears and spurs.

These gears and spurs move the stem nut, which turns the valve open or closed. In case of an emergency, these actuators can be manually overridden.

The fourth kind of actuator is a quarter-turn electric actuator, and are pretty similar to the multi-turn electric actuator. The biggest difference is the size.

As a quarter-turn actuator is smaller, it usually needs less power to run. This means that it can be powered by batteries in case of power loss.

Manual Valve Actuators

The fifth and final type of actuator is a manual actuator. These produce movements using levers, wheels, or gears.

They differ from all the previous actuators because they don’t require an external power source to move. While this may seem convenient, manual valves include an added risk. In dangerous environments, manual actuators don’t allow for immediate shutdown.

Things to Consider

There are many things to keep in mind when you’re choosing an actuator. As the different types of actuators can essentially serve the same purpose, you’ll have to dig deeper when deciding on the right actuator for your operation.

The first thing to consider is the power source you have available. If you have a pneumatic or hydraulic power source, keep in mind that their actuators need between 40 and 120 psi to function.

If you have an electric power source, the electric actuators need 110 VAC to get the job done.

You also need to keep in mind the temperature in which these actuators will operate. Pneumatic and hydraulic actuators can work in degrees ranging from -4 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit. If you have the right seals and bearings in place, you could potentially run a pneumatic actuator in temperatures from -40 to 200 degrees Fahrenheit.

Electric actuators have a large range. They can operate from -40 to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.

You also need to consider the environment these actuators will operate in.

If you intend to use an actuator in an environment that’s hazardous or toxic, pneumatic actuators are the way to go. As they don’t use an electric power supply, pneumatic actuators will not explode in emergencies.

If you aren’t able to use pneumatic or hydraulic power, electric actuators are still okay to use. In this case, you’ll need to use enclosures around your actuators that are approved by The National Electric Manufacturers Association (NEMA).

Safety Precautions

Speaking of NEMA, safety precautions are the most important factor to include when you’re considering valve actuators. You should always use the safest possible setup when installing actuators for your valves.

For example, if you have an electric actuator, you can’t stall it without risking damage to the motor.  In this case, you should use torque switches to protect the device.

Keeping these safety factors in mind may seem like nitpicking or looking too far ahead. In reality, it will keep your operations safe and running smoothly.

Final Thoughts

Now that you’ve read the beginners guide to choosing the right valve actuator, it’s time to make your decision.

FLOCONX has been specializing in high-quality products and services for over 6 years. Send us an email and we’ll be more than happy to help you with all your valve and actuator needs.