How to choose the right check valve

To be able to choose the right check valve for your application there are a number of selection criteria you should consider.

Different types of check valves

Selecting the correct type, size and specification of check valve is important to ensure a smooth, trouble-free and long-term operation with low energy consumption. In many cases, the rate of fluid reversal is not a cause for concern and standard check valves will perform well. However, in pumped systems the selection of the correct check valve can be crucial.

Ball check valves

In general, ball check valves are simple and cost-effective. Advantages are their compactness and the fact that they have no external parts which helps keeping the price low and the reliability high. A disadvantage may for some applications be that they do not have an open/close indicator.

Because of their clear bore design, ball check valves are commonly used in wastewater applications. A full and smooth bore ensures full flow across the valve and that no solid deposits can build up at the base of the valve. The ball rotates during operation, eliminating the risk of impurities getting stuck on the ball.

For more details, please visit the section about ball check valves.

Swing check valves

Swing check valves are the most common check valves. They are inexpensive and as they are automatic, they do not require any external power or control to operate – only flow and pressure determine the valve operation. Swing check valves are available with an open/close indicator, and often the valves are mounted with lever and weight or lever and spring which enable visual check or with devices enabling digital feedback.

The valve design provides a full bore opening which makes it efficient due to its low head loss characteristics. Swing check valves are generally used for systems where the risk of pressure surges is low. Due to the full bore opening, this valve is commonly used in water and wastewater applications.

For more details, please visit the section about swing check valves.

Tilting disc check valves

Tilting disc check valves are similar in appearance to eccentric butterfly valves. The disc is held in place via a shaft which is positioned eccentrically from the body centerline in both the horizontal and vertical axis.

The double eccentricity of the shaft results in the lower section of the disc occupying a greater area in the flow path. Consequently, the disc begins to open at very low flow rates.

Tilting disc check valves are therefore commonly used in pumping systems with low flow rates and for pulsating flows. Because of the internal shafts which are within the flow stream, they are used for water and treated effluent applications. Tilting disc check valves are well suited to reduce the risk of water hammer.

For more details, please see our tilting disc check valve product information.

Tilting disc, slanted seat check valves

The slanted seat check valve also offers enhanced resistance to water hammer. The valve has a double eccentric shaft position as well as an increased seating angle. This yields a shorter valve stroke, thus reducing the time taken for the door to close.

Hydraulic dampers are recommended, especially when the valves are installed on a pumping station where high frequency opening and closing of the valve is required. The valve disc closes quickly over the first 85% of its angular travel before meeting the hydraulic damper. The damper then dissipates the kinetic energy of the disc and forces it to open slightly. The disc closes until it contacts the damper again and this cushions the disc until it returns to its fully closed position, sealing the valve. This function greatly reduces the onset of water hammer due to the damped and controlled method of valve closure. 

For more details, please see our slanted seat check valve product information.

Nozzle check valves

Nozzle check valves are designed with the valve disc connected to the stem which is guided on the central horizontal axis. A spring is positioned between the disc and the diffuser sleeve. When flow enters the valve, the hydraulic force exerted onto the front face reacts against the spring, causing the spring to compress and allow the valve to open. When the flow stops, the spring forces the disc to return to the closed position.

Due to the spring-assisted closure and the short linear valve stroke, the nozzle check valve is one of the quickest acting check valves available and is commonly used in pumped systems where water hammer is a potential concern. Because the disc is constantly in the direct line of flow, the head loss characteristics of this valve are higher compared to that of conventional swing check valves.

For more details, please see our nozzle check valve product information.

What to consider when choosing your check valves?

In order to choose the right check valve for your application, several selection criteria should be considered. First, however, there is not one type of check valves being the best choice for all applications, and the selection criteria may not be equally important for all cases. Some of the things you may need to consider are fluid compatibility, flow characteristics, head loss, non-slam characteristics and total cost of ownership.

Fluid

All check valves referred to in this article are designed for water and treated wastewater applications, but using the valves for raw wastewater/sewage applications may cause some issues. When selecting a valve for these fluids, you should consider how the presence of solids may potentially affect operation of the valve.

Flow characteristics

If a check valve closes very fast, it may prevent slamming against upstream equipment such as pumps. However, the rapid closure will not protect against the surges caused by pumps being started and shut down. If the valve opens (and closes) quickly, the flow will change rapidly and thus increase likeliness of surge occurrence.

Head loss

Head loss is, among other things, a function of fluid velocity. The head loss through a valve is determined by the internal design of the valve and the opening degree. When a valve is designed with a restricted (narrowed) opening compared to the pipeline, the velocity will increase through the valve, increasing the head loss as a result. Vice versa, if a valve is designed with less restriction and bore is equal size to the pipeline, the head loss will be smaller, and the valve will in practice not affect the overall head loss of the system. There are a number of values for head loss, amongst others zeta values, Kv and Kvs values.

Total cost of ownership

The costs for your check valve consist of more than just the purchase price. For some installations, the most important costs may be purchasing and installation, but in other cases, maintenance or energy costs may be equally or even more important. Also protecting more valuable equipment such as e.g. pumps has to be considered, and looking at the valve performance will be crucial. When considering costs as a selection criterion for your check valve, the total costs over the life of the valve should be considered. In general, the simpler the valve construction is, the lower are the maintenance requirements. The higher the Kv value, the lower the energy consumption. The higher the performance, the better the protection ability.

Non-slam characteristics

Check valve slam can affect pressure surges in a negative way. First step of the process is when the pump stops, starting the pressure surge. Second step is, when the flow is reversed, slamming against the fully closed check valve. If the check valve closes too fast, the kinetic energy is turned into high pressure, stressing the pipes, and causing high noise.

A slam sounds like if the disc or the ball from the check valve is hitting the seat and can make quite some noise. However, the sound is not caused by the physical closing but by a sound wave arising from a pressure spike stretching the pipe wall.

To prevent the occurrence of check valve slam, the valve should close in a controlled way and slower when near closed position. For a check valve to close slowly, it requires additional ancillary equipment, such as hydraulic dampers, which act as a cushion to the valve door, as it comes into its seated position. This slower closure allows the fluid to pass through the check valve until it closes, causing less kinetic energy turning into high pressure, and thus less energy to feed and maintain the surge. Consideration must be given to the upstream pump to ensure that it is suitable for reverse spin and flow.

As swing check valves have the disc in the flow stream, helping with rapid closure, they have better non-slam characteristics. However, today many pumps are frequency converted, enabling them to adjust the start-up and closure time to avoid water hammer.

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