What is the Difference Between a Valve and an Actuator?

In the world of fluid control systems, understanding the distinction between a valve and an actuator is essential. A valve is a device that regulates, directs, or controls the flow of a fluid by opening, closing, or partially obstructing various passageways. Valves are integral to systems that convey liquids, gases, and slurries. On the other hand, an actuator is a mechanism that operates a valve using a control signal and an energy source. It’s the muscle behind the valve’s operation, providing the force required to move the valve to the desired position.

At Process Valves, a leader in valve and actuated valve systems with over 35 years of experience, we understand the nuances that differentiate these components. Our expertise ensures that valves are not only selected but paired with the correct actuators for optimal performance in any industrial setup.

Next, we will delve into the role of actuators in valve operation, shedding light on how they interact with valves to control industrial processes efficiently.

The Role of Actuators in Valve Operation

Actuators play a pivotal role in the functionality of valves within industrial systems. They act as the control point, responding to a signal to adjust the valve position, thereby managing flow, pressure, and temperature within the system. Without actuators, valves would require manual operation, a scenario impractical in complex or large-scale operations.

Process Valves specialise in pairing the correct type of actuator with the appropriate valve, a critical aspect of system design that ensures responsiveness and reliability. The company’s extensive experience allows for a technical evaluation of each system’s needs, factoring in variables such as fluid properties, environmental conditions, and operational demands to recommend the best actuator-valve combination.

Exploring further, we will examine the different types of actuation—electric, pneumatic, and manual—and understand how each type serves specific operational needs within various industries.

Electric, Pneumatic, and Manual Actuation: Exploring the Varieties

A thorough understanding of the types of valve actuators available is crucial for making informed decisions regarding fluid control systems. Actuators are selected based on their operation type, energy source, and the specific requirements of the application. They can be categorised broadly into electric, pneumatic, and manual, each with its unique set of characteristics and advantages.

Electric actuators are celebrated for their precision control and adaptability to a wide range of operating conditions. Pneumatic actuators are favoured in situations where compressed air is readily available or in explosive environments where electricity poses a risk. Manual actuators are chosen for their simplicity and direct control, often used where automation is unnecessary or not cost-effective.

Process Valves’ expertise lies in not only providing a wide spectrum of valve actuators but also in ensuring that the chosen actuator aligns perfectly with the client’s system requirements and operational parameters.

Advancing to the next segment, we will delve deeper into electric actuators, highlighting their precision and power, and why they are a preferred choice for certain valve control applications.

Electric Actuators: Precision and Power in Valve Control

Electric actuators are an embodiment of modern automation, offering unmatched precision and control in valve operation. These actuators convert electrical energy into mechanical torque, providing fine-tuned manipulation of valve positions with the ability to hold them steadfastly. They are particularly advantageous in scenarios requiring accurate positioning, rapid response, and where the convenience of remote operation is paramount.

Process Valves equips its clients with electric actuators that are not only highly precise but also versatile, capable of integrating with sophisticated control systems. These actuators are designed for durability and are well-suited for a variety of environments, including those with stringent safety requirements.

As we proceed, we will explore pneumatic actuators and their role as a dynamic and robust solution for valve automation, underlining the reasons they are chosen for certain industrial applications.

Pneumatic Actuators: The Force Behind Valve Automation

Pneumatic actuators harness the power of compressed air to actuate valves, offering a compelling blend of strength, speed, and reliability. They are especially prevalent in industries where explosive atmospheres or flammable materials preclude the use of electrical devices. The simplicity of air as a driving force makes pneumatic actuators a robust and cost-effective choice for many automated processes.

At Process Valves, our pneumatic actuators are selected for their performance and compatibility with a diverse range of valve types. We provide systems where rapid actuation is critical and where the intrinsic safety of air power is a paramount concern. These actuators are part of our commitment to delivering reliable and efficient solutions that cater to the vigorous demands of industrial operations.

In the following discussion, we will turn our attention to manual actuators, examining the scenarios where the direct, hands-on approach to valve control is not just suitable but necessary.

Manual Actuators: Understanding Hand-Operated Valve Mechanisms

Manual actuators are the simplest form of valve operation, relying on human intervention for the control of flow. They are typically operated by a handwheel, lever, or gear and are most appropriate for applications where automation is either not viable or unnecessary. The direct control afforded by manual actuators is often preferred in situations where the operator needs tactile feedback, or the application does not justify the complexity and cost of automated systems.

Process Valves offers a range of manual actuation options, understanding that in certain environments, the precision and control of a skilled operator are invaluable. We ensure that even our manual actuators meet the high standards of quality and reliability that our clients expect, providing a tactile, direct, and effective means of managing flow.

Next, we will explore control valve actuators in detail, focusing on how they serve as the nexus of hardware and function, and the role of positioners and other control hardware in enhancing valve performance.

Control Valve Actuators: The Intersection of Hardware and Function

Control valve actuators are at the heart of fluid management systems, embodying the fusion of mechanical hardware and functional precision. These devices are engineered to respond to control signals with exact movements that adjust the valve’s position to regulate flow with high accuracy. Whether modulating or on/off service, the actuator must ensure the valve responds correctly to the demands of the system.

At Process Valves, we offer an array of control valve actuators designed to meet the specific demands of each application. Our actuators are selected for their robustness, precision, and long-term reliability, attributes that are non-negotiable in the critical applications our clients operate. With our ISO9001 certified processes, every actuator is assembled and bench function tested by the manufacturer to guarantee performance upon installation.

The next section will delve into the specificities of positioners and control hardware, components that are instrumental in refining the performance of valve actuators for optimal system control.

Positioners and Control Hardware: Enhancing Valve Performance

Positioners and control hardware are integral components in a valve actuation system, serving to improve the precision and responsiveness of valve operations. A positioner is used to control the valve stroke, ensuring the valve achieves the desired position accurately and maintains it under varying conditions. It receives a control signal and manipulates the actuator, adjusting the valve accordingly to match the desired parameter, be it flow, pressure, or temperature.

At Process Valves, we understand the significance of these components in maintaining system integrity and efficiency. Our selection of positioners and control hardware is designed to complement the actuators and valves we supply, ensuring that each part of the system communicates effectively for seamless operation. We provide solutions that enhance the performance of valves in even the most demanding applications, ensuring high levels of customer satisfaction through improved system accuracy and reliability.

Moving on, we will address a common dilemma faced in valve system maintenance: deciding between valve repair or actuator repair, and how to identify which is necessary for your system.

Identifying Your Needs: Valve Repair or Actuator Repair?

Discerning whether a valve or an actuator requires repair is a critical aspect of system maintenance. A malfunctioning valve might exhibit symptoms such as leakage, noise, or irregular flow patterns, which could suggest issues like wear and tear, corrosion, or seat damage. Conversely, an actuator may present problems through unresponsive controls, inability to hold positions, or erratic movements, often pointing to electrical faults, air supply issues, or mechanical wear.

Process Valves excels in diagnostic services, drawing upon our vast technical knowledge to pinpoint the root cause of system failures. Our approach is not just to fix what is broken but to understand the underlying issues, thus ensuring a more durable and effective option. Our technical team is skilled in evaluating both valves and actuators, and can advise on the most cost-effective and efficient course of action, whether it be repair or complete replacement.

With the conclusion of this section, we will move towards wrapping up our comprehensive discussion with a conclusion that encapsulates the essence of valve actuators in industrial applications.


In the realm of industrial valve systems, the interplay between valves and actuators is pivotal for maintaining flow control and process integrity. From the precision of electric actuators to the robustness of pneumatic options and the direct control of manual mechanisms, each type plays a crucial role tailored to specific operational requirements. Understanding these differences is key to optimising performance, safety, and cost-efficiency within any given application.

Process Valves stands at the forefront of this field, bringing over three decades of experience and a commitment to quality that is reflected in our comprehensive range of products and services. By ensuring that each client receives a tailored solution, we uphold our dedication to quality and high levels of customer satisfaction.

As industry demands evolve and technologies advance, Process Valves remains dedicated to providing expertise and products that not only meet but exceed the expectations of our clients in the control of their most critical processes.