Plug Valve Vs. Ball Valve: A Detailed Comparison

When it comes to control valves, you have two primary choices: a plug valve and a ball valve.

Plug and ball valves are two of the most common control valves used in many applications, from controlling pressure to regulating the flow of fluid or medium.

But what is the difference between these two different control valves?

Plug and ball valves have distinct structures that function differently.

Although plug and ball valves control flow, depending on the application, each type of control valve might be better suited for specific jobs.

It is crucial to understand the subtle differences between the plug valve and vs. ball valve to make sure when you need a control valve for your job; you choose the right one!

Video – Know the Difference Between the Ball Valve & Plug Valve

What is Plug Valve?

A plug valve is cylindrical and is essentially a hollow passage with an irregularly-shaped cylindrical plug that fits into it.

This cylindrical plug helps to regulate the flow of liquid or gas by providing a reasonable throttling control.

Plug valves are controlled by rotating the handle, which provides 360-degree rotation along with a shutoff capability.

It operates on the principle of pushing the cylindrical plug further into the hollow passage, opening further to pass more material, or blocking completely any flow by using a full bore closure.

With just a quarter-turn of the rotating handle, one can open, close or regulate the flow rate for various applications.

Plug Valve Construction

The construction of a plug valve is unique, with components that differ vastly from a traditional ball valve.

The main components of the plug valve are the body, stem, disc, and ports.

The body houses the other three pieces to form the complete unit, and it can be composed of high-grade stainless steel and cast iron or ductile iron.

The stem regulates how much fluid is released according to two directional orientations upon actuation.

At the same time, the plug disc may come with undercut slots on its surface to control flow exiting the port openings more precisely.

Depending on their purpose and application, these port openings can be optimized for multiple sizes ranging from ½ inch to 48 inches in diameter.

Plug Valve Working Mechanism

Plug valves typically contain a cylindrical plug fitted into the valve body so it can move axially toward an opening or closing position.

When placed firmly in an opening position, there is an unobstructed path for the liquid/gas to pass through.

while in a closed position, the plug and its correspondingly shaped seat cause the desired shut-off effect.

Plug valves are often used for high-pressure and low-flow applications.

Maintenance Plug Valve

Plug valves are relatively easy to maintain as they can be easily reached and serviced.

Plus, plug valves have an internal construction that prevents foreign material buildup in the body cavity.

This helps prevent any potential issues that can occur with clogging or leaking, as it is less likely to become encrusted with deposits from the medium.

As such, there is much less need for regular maintenance of plug valves compared to their ball valve counterparts.

A plug valve is a better option for a control valve that offers dependability over many years.

Not only are they easier to maintain, but they are also designed to accommodate a variety of pressures without compromising performance.

Maintenance of a plug valve is straightforward due to its design which features fewer moving parts and smaller sizes.

This makes repair work quick and easy.

But even simpler than that is the ability to remove and clean the plugin in mere seconds.

This also provides access to the rest of the valve body so you can do any maintenance that may be needed.

The simplicity and convenience of cleaning a plug valve make it stand out from other types of valves like ball valves, making it much preferable for efficient, effective maintenance.

Plug Valve Symbol: How To Identify it?

It’s easy to mistake it for the symbol of a globe valve because both symbols have circles within triangles.

However, on closer inspection, the plug valve symbol has an outlined circle instead of a dark or solid circle like with a globe valve.

You must consult your drawings before selecting this type of valve to avoid making a mistake.

Types of Plug Valves

They come in a sea of shapes and sizes, but the four main types are lubricated plug valves, non-lubricated plug valves, eccentric plug valves, and expanding plug valves.

Each type of valve has unique features that can provide optimal performance for specific needs.

Choosing the correct type of valve for your application helps ensure that everything runs just as it should.

Lubricated Plug Valves

Lubricated plug valves are an effective, reliable option when it comes to controlling various types of fluids.

Their lubricating film helps them operate smoothly and efficiently, even at various operating pressures.

The film also acts as a powerful sealant that efficiently prevents the leakage of fluids.

Non-Lubricated Plug Valves

Non-Lubricated Plug Valves are a great way to regulate lower-pressure lines, as they are relatively simple devices.

The valves contain an elastomeric body liner or sleeve that fits within a body cavity and allows the plug to act wedge-like, pressing the sleeve against the body.

The plug is polished and tapered to ensure an accurate fit.

Eccentric Plug Valves

Eccentric plug valves are a type of valve that uses a half plug in its design.

This design helps the valve to provide a higher seating force while minimizing friction from the open to closed positions.

Thanks to this design, eccentric plug valves also have improved shutoff capabilities.

This makes them ideal for applications requiring precise fluid flow control.

Expanding Plug Valves

Expanding plug valves are the perfect solution for controlling and monitoring pipelines and process lines.

They offer superior performance in high pressure, temperature, and other critical applications thanks to their complicated design.

A true double block and bleed function is achieved through a mechanism that rotates between the open or closed position, thus protecting both seals from the flow path.

Applications Of Plug Valves

Plug valves are handy and versatile, finding applications across various industries. A few of them are listed below.

  • Controlling flow in the food-processing industry
  • Enabling bubble-tight seals for oil and gas piping systems
  • Deliver reliability, performance, and cost savings where needed.
  • Great for slurry services due to their high-quality construction
  • Used for high-pressure applications as well as vacuum services.

Plug valves have been trusted by businesses from all backgrounds for years now and continue to be one of the most popularly used valve types today.

How To Choose a Plug Valve?

Choosing a plug valve doesn’t have to be a daunting task.

All you need to do is identify the type of plug valve that best meets your requirements and ensure it is compatible with the range of fluids, pressures, and temperatures you are dealing with.

Additionally, pay attention to the quality of construction materials used in its design and consider whether the manual or automated operation would work best for your particular application.

What is a Ball Valve?

A ball valve is a shutoff valve that controls the flow of liquids and gasses.

It is composed of a rotary ball with a bore in its center that sits inside a valve.

The shut-off valve allows for precise control of the flow without having to close or open it completely.

This type of shut-off valve is frequently used in plumbing systems because it requires minimal effort and offers quick shut-off.

Good flow characteristics provide an added benefit to any system needing a shut-off valve.

Ball Valve Construction

Ball valve construction is a complex process that involves several components to work effectively.

The valve always consists of basic features: a valve disc, seat rings, and a stem.

When closed, the valve disc rotates 90° to completely block the flow, while in the open position, it is rotated to an angle and parallel to the valve seat rings.

This turn helps create a seal that ensures no leakage.

When a valve is operating correctly, its floating design makes it unique: the trunnion structure allows the valve disc to float until tight against the seat rings when turned on or off, creating an even tighter seal.

All these features come together to ensure ball valves function at their highest potential without problems.

Ball Valve Working Mechanism

Ball valves are quarter-turn valves that use a ball bearing to open and close the flow of fluids.

The mechanism behind this process is relatively simple yet effective.

At the center of the valve lies a ball with a hole drilled through it, and when the valve is turned one-quarter of a rotation, this opens or closes access to the flow in either direction.

Depending on what type of ball valve you require, most models also come equipped with a locking lever, offering added protection from accidentally being opened or closed.

No matter what type you choose, these efficient and cost-effective valves can handle high-pressure systems and vacuums for any needed application.

Maintenance Ball Valve

Maintaining ball valves can be tricky since the ball or disc is located deep within the valve, making it hard to get at.

If this isn’t taken care of, particles from the medium can build up inside the body cavity over time, which makes it even more difficult to clean.

So make sure you stay on top of your ball valve maintenance and regularly check it’s in good shape.

That way, you’ll avoid any long-term problems and have a well-functioning valve.

Ball Valve Symbol: How To Identify it?

If you need to describe a ball valve in a diagram, look for two equilateral triangles pointing toward one another.

This is the official symbol used to denote an on/off valve.

For more precise information, check out the arrowhead at the end of the line, which gives you an idea of what direction the fluid will flow through the valve.

Finally, if it’s a 2-way ball valve, there should be a ball between the two triangles.

Types of Ball Valve

They have several different types depending on the purpose of their use, such as ball valve flange type and metal seat ball valve.

Full Bore

If you need your valve to facilitate an unobstructed flow of the medium, a full bore type is recommended.

Reduced Bore

If you wish to restrict the flow, reduced bore or reduced port valves should be chosen instead. All in all, these features are really why ball valves are so popular for many industries today.

Ball valves are a popular choice for various plumbing applications because they provide tight seals and easy operation. They generally come in two different forms, floating and trunnion mounted.

Floating Ball Valve

Floating ball valves are ideal for when you need to achieve bi-directional shutoff.

Trunnion Mounted Valve

At the same time, trunnion mounted valves provide increased levels of safety and reliability under high pressure and temperature conditions.

The construction of trunnion-mounted valves gives them unique characteristics, so be sure to choose the type that best suits your needs.

Applications Of Ball Valve

Ball valves are incredibly versatile and used in various industrial, commercial, and residential applications.

In the Industrial Sector

Ball valves are a common feature in manufacturing due to their:

  • Durability.
  • Reliability.
  • Ease of maintenance and repair.
  • Compact size.
  • Low-pressure drop.

In Commercial Settings:

Ball valves can be used for:

  • Water distribution systems (irrigation or swimming pools)
  • Plumbing solutions (hot water heaters or faucets)

Ball valves come in various sizes and configurations to fit nearly any environment and make installations easier.

How To Choose a Ball Valve?

Selecting a ball valve can be confusing with all the options available today.

Following these four simple steps, you can find the perfect ball valve that resonates with your needs.

Step 1:

The first step involves choosing a ball valve to determine the required temperature range. This is critical to ensure the safety of your environment and that it operates correctly.

Step 2:

Next, consider the working pressure of the valve so it can handle fluctuations and maintain its functioning.

Step 3:

Now, determine what type of medium passes through the ball valve, as different liquids require specific materials.

Step 4:

Finally, ensure you look at how much fluid will pass through your ball valve, as this affects how powerful it needs to be.

Answering these easy questions will help you find the best solution.

Main Differences between Plug Valve and Ball Valve

  • Flow Pattern: A plug valve has a linear flow pattern, while a ball valve has a rotary flow pattern.
  • Operation: Plug valves require more effort to operate than ball valves, as they must be manually turned to open and close.
  • Cost: Ball valves are usually less expensive than plug valves due to their simplicity and ease of operation.
  • Size: Plug valves are usually larger than ball valves, limiting their use in more confined spaces.
  • Maintenance: Ball valves require less maintenance than plug valves as they typically withstand wear and tear better over time.
  • Control: Plug valves allow for better flow control than ball valves, making them ideal for more precise applications.
  • Durability: Ball valves are generally more durable and reliable than plug valves over the long term.
  • Versatility: Plug Valves can be used in a wide variety of applications, while ball valves are better suited for specific tasks.
  • Pressure: Ball valves can withstand higher pressures than plug valves, making them ideal for more demanding applications.
  • Temperature: Plug valves can better withstand extreme temperatures than ball valves, making them ideal for hotter or colder environments.
  • Capacity: Plug valves have a greater flow capacity than ball valves, allowing them to move more material simultaneously.
  • Mounting: Trunnion-mounted plug valves provide increased levels of safety and reliability under high pressure or temperature conditions compared to ball valves.

Which One is Better?

Both plug and ball valves have their own advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different applications.

Plug valves are generally preferred when greater flow control is needed, while ball valves are best for simpler tasks requiring minimal maintenance and easy operation.

Ultimately, the best option will depend on the specific application requirements, so it’s important to take the time to evaluate the different options carefully.


If you are looking for a reliable plug or ball valve manufacturer, our professionals at INOXCN can help you choose the best one.

We are committed to delivering the highest quality product on the market with a quick delivery time and the best after-sales services.

You can get in touch to get a free quote today!

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