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How to Keep a Valve From Breaking Too Soon

Compressor Valve | KB Delta

Often fragile and always in a position of great importance, valves are the practical cornerstone of many operations.

Like any other mechanical fitting, valves possess a finite service life, meaning that sooner or later they will degrade and be in need of replacing. An ineffective or damaged valve can have disastrous consequences for a business in terms of both safety and productivity. Therefore, to prevent this need prematurely arising, there are several steps that can be taken to get the most from your equipment and ensure they achieve their estimated durability.


How a Valve Can Fail

To gain an understanding of how valves can be better maintained, strong knowledge of the functional problems they face is essential. With the primary role of a valve being to control the flow of a fluid, the condition of the seal that they form is, therefore, critical to applying a high level of performance and preventing leakage.

A key reason for leaks arising is due to the sealant materials, such as packing or elastomers, within the build of the valve perishing. Another contributing factor to their demise is the moving parts of the trim. This can be caused either by a seizure due to contaminants or a lack of lubricant.  Alternatively, a loose part can equally cause as much disruption, with the same net result of failing to provide the required degree of control.

A final problem that can easily transpire is physical damage to the actual valve. Within these three key areas, there are certain factors that can cause the duration of a valve to be considerably reduced, however, before looking at specifics it’s worth highlighting the most important part of a systems healthcare.


Meticulous Maintenance

A detailed and thorough maintenance schedule offers the ideal platform to both detect the problems that currently exist and to identify further risks posed within the system. Through ensuring that each part of the system is in full working order, there is much less chance a major fault will occur that will cause damage to the surrounding parts and equipment. Similarly, by providing a framework of care around your control valves, it will actively help to extend the lifetime of the valves.

We are also now well within the age of technology and the smart valve is a realistic option to enhance the monitoring of a system. Digital technology allows for constant monitoring of the valve at all times, while heightened accuracy in sensors also provide a closer inspection of the valve during operation.

With many manufacturers investing large amounts of money into research and development, new technology is being advanced and applied to current parts with increased regularity. One such area of growth has been that of real-time control systems software. Computer models and systems provide a further control for monitoring these finely-tuned pieces of equipment and even the most peripheral parts should not be neglected or taken for granted, if you wish them to fulfill their potential as durable parts in a system.


Suitable for Purpose

Further to monitoring your equipment, there are simple steps you can take to ensure your valve does not deteriorate quicker than expected. One often overlooked aspect of this is in the actual suitability of the valve to the task at hand.

Precision control requires the correct equipment in place to achieve optimum efficiency. Likewise, achieving maximum endurance levels from your equipment also requires correct deployment. If the choice of valve does not match the criteria demanded of the role, additional stress will be placed on the valve in comparison to factors accounted for in the design specifications. These choices for suitability include the type and size of the valve, the parameters for the valve’s capabilities and also the material used to construct the individual parts.

Another major factor to consider is in the quality of the valve that you purchase. While a cheaper alternative may be suitable for non-critical and low-demand tasks, using a valve that is not of premium quality for a demanding task will likely result in rapid expiration. The ensuing cost of prematurely replacing a valve and potentially any surrounding equipment damaged during a failure will completely negate any initial financial savings made through buying sub-standard equipment.


Correct Design, Assembly, and Installation

In addition to choosing the appropriate valve for your system, it’s imperative you also use the part as intended.

With efficiency and durability the driving force behind the development of modern control valves, there’s a growing trend for valves to be mechanically simpler in design. While these valves may be simpler in design, the assembly process remains a critical stage despite becoming arguably less convoluted.  As such, this procedure should always be undertaken by qualified engineers who are provided with enough time to ensure that the valve is correctly installed into the system, preventing any unnecessary damage being caused.

Further to this, an experienced engineer should also be consulted with regards to the positioning and use of the valve within your system. The general design and layout can play a crucial role in reducing cavitations and flashing, problems that will lead to increased risk of damage to your valve. Additionally, engineers can help to maintain performance levels over time by applying corrective positioner adjustments as required by variations in the overall system.


Cleanliness is Godliness

Cleanliness plays a large part in the overall endurance of a control valve. One of the main reasons for damaged valves is the result of contaminants entering the system. While it’s important to ensure the valve itself is maintained and in good condition to prevent a build-up of dirt, the fluid moving through the valve should also be carefully regulated. This applies both to the lubricants used within the valve and the fluid mass flowing through your system.


Replace Faulty Parts

Finally, it’s vital to replace any parts that are found to be faulty or compromised with regards to quality in any way. Using a less than perfect piece of equipment dramatically increases the chances of a major problem occurring which can result in extra parts needing to be replaced. There can be much confusion over whether to repair or replace valves compromised in quality, however, fundamentally it’s far better to do something rather than nothing.

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