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Old 02-15-2012, 10:08 PM   #1
Nov 2009
, Iowa
Posts: 34
Liked 4 Times on 4 Posts

I've been reading about the different types of valves.... Butterfly, Ball, Gate, Globe and such, and each has different levels of flow control... I can buy that.... and maybe this is kinda dumb, but for some reason i can't wrap my head around why that is... I was considering converting all of my valves to butterfly valves for the sake of sanitation, but from what i'm reading, butterfly valves have little to no flow control. All i can think is that if i open it a little, it'll have a little flow, and the more i open it, the more flow i'll have.

Am i just being dumb here? heh... I currently only have experience with ball valves, so nothing to compare too.
Thanks gang...


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Old 02-15-2012, 11:25 PM   #2
Sep 2011
Durham, NC
Posts: 433
Liked 16 Times on 14 Posts

My basic understanding is that butterfly valves are like ball valves except they open a crack on both sides of the tube as the gate turns, instead of just one side like on the ball valve. So a little open on the knob means twice as much flow as the same turn on a ball valve. That's probably what is meant by little control on flow. If you want the best control on flow I'd go with gate or diaphragm valves. Diaphragms can get expensive, but as far as sanitation is concerned they're the only ones biopharma companies use to move their product, so it's likely your better option. I of course opt for the cheapest and least sanitary, the ball valve.

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Old 07-27-2012, 08:47 PM   #3
Mar 2011
Beaumont, Tx
Posts: 143
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It's been a while since you posted, so I hope this reply is still relevant.

I have a wee bit of understanding about fluid dynamics...I hope this helps...
Fluid flow rate in a pipe (and through a valve) is proportional (but not linearly proportional) to both area of opening and pressure. (These relationships have been under a great deal of study for a long time. There are a couple of equations out there that are beyond this discussion.) To discuss flow through a valve, therefore, requires understanding the relationship between "% open" versus "% area opening" versus pressure.

1. There is a difference between "% open" versus "% area opening."

"% open" is what we see when we move the valve operator or spindle. We believe when we turn a butterfly valve 45 degrees, it is 50% open. (A butterfly valve only has 90 degrees of movement from open to closed. So 45d/90d x 100% = 50%.)

"% area opening" is the area that the water actually "sees" available to flow through, often called the throat. As seen in this graph:, the area of the throat does not change proportional to the amount of valve closure.

In other words, a butterfly valve that is only 30% "open" still has 60% throat area available for fluid flow. The difficulty is that the throat area changes very rapidly in the last 25% of closure.

2. A bit of mathematics.
Now, we relate the area to fluid flow using the equation:
Flow = Throat Area x Velocity of fluid.

Given the observation of valve behavior in #1, when closing a butterfly valve there will not be a corresponding change in the amount of flow until the valve is nearly closed because the area of the throat stays so high throughout most of the valve's closure, making it hard to control flow.

3. Constant pressure versus dynamic pressure.
The discussion in #1 and #2 (above) assumes the valve is under constant pressure. BUT, since the throat is changing, so is the system pressure, but not as we might expect:

Let's consider a valve being closed: as throat area decreases, fluid flow decreases through the valve, causing less velocity and less friction loss in the system, so less pressure loss, therefore the pressure the pump works against decreases.

Now, if your system is hooked to a typical beer pump, it is likely a centrifugal pump (and not positive displacement), where the lower the working pressure the more flow the pump delivers. So even though the area of throat decreases, the flow rate does not decrease as much as the throat area decreases. In essence, the pump works against the valve, compounding the problem.

4. Friction versus flow.
As stated before, the relationship between friction and flow is not linear. Plus, the relationship between working pressure and flow output (in a pump) is not linear. So, changes in working pressure will not see a corresponding changes in velocity or flow. The problem is compounded again!

5. Valve flutter.
Butterfly valves tend to "flutter" near closure because of the fluid forces on the valve. The fluttering creates variations in the throat size, and therefore variations in quantity of flow. Now the problem is even more compounded.

6. Conclusion.
As you can see, flow control is a complex problem. So, the best control valves are those designed to provide a linear relationship between "% open" and "% throat area." Generally, a butterfly valve is not consider a flow control valve, and is best used as purely open or purely closed.

Reason: clarification, added titles

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Old 07-28-2012, 11:56 AM   #4
ChuckO's Avatar
Oct 2008
Keyrock, WV
Posts: 1,025
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So what valve gives the best relationship between % open and % throat area? Seems to me that a needle valve best fits that description, or possibly a gate valve.

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Old 07-28-2012, 05:02 PM   #5
Mar 2011
Beaumont, Tx
Posts: 143
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Yes, look at the link I posted...a needle could work, with proper design, also a globe valve. Here is the full article,

Look for "control valves" then for the performance characteristics. "Best" depends on the final performance required, and how much is available for spending (as usual). The best control valves are globe, needle, and diaphragm, because the opening can be designed for fluid control. But, others can work when less precise control is needed.

Gate valves can work, but there is still the problem of throat area. Some gate valves have rectangular openings, and that helps. But most gates are round, like the pipe.

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Old 07-29-2012, 02:35 AM   #6
Sep 2009
Posts: 100
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I replaced ball valves with butterfly valves on the MLT drain and the march pump outlet.
After one brew session, they work well enough.
Definitely a different feel than the ball valves.
A bit more hysteresis with the butterfly valves.
No problems adjusting the flow rate to what I wanted.

I did not notice any valve flutter.
I suspect the 1" tri-clamp butterfly valves I got are way over engineered for my little brewery.

Cleanup was super easy. Much easier than ball valves (ymmv).
So far, the butterfly valves are a win for me.

Also the bling factor is higher on butterfly valves.

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