Keeping Your Control Valves in Good Health

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Courtesy of Courtesy of Singer Valve Inc.

Whether that brand new control valve in your system is the first one you have ever had to look after or if you are an old hand at valve maintenance with tens of valves in your system, there are a few simple guidelines and reminders for keeping it operating at optimal performance. It’s important to physically check valves at least every 12 weeks or so, assuming everything is running fine in the system. This inspection is to check for any leaks in the tubing, check pressure gauges to ensure the valve is actually doing what it is supposed to and generally inspecting for anything that looks abnormal. If it is determined that something is wrong, always ensure you have the correct instruction manual for the valve. Regular maintenance will ensure your valve stays in good working order. Here are some simple tasks that you can perform:

Pilot system shut off ball valves

Exercise the three isolating cocks on the main valve. These are located in front of the strainer on the upstream side of the valve, on the valve bonnet on top of the valve, and below the pressure-reducing pilot on the valve downstream. Giving the isolating cock a momentary quarter turn to the closed position, then returning it to the open position is sufficient. Open position is when the handle of the isolating cock is inline with its body.

Air in the Pilot System

Air is your number one enemy in the pilot system as it will give false readings and cause poor valve operation. Bleed air from the valve bonnet. If the valve is equipped with a position indicator, on top of the position indicator is a bleed cock. Open the bleed cock slightly by turning the handle counter-clockwise. Otherwise, bleed the air from the high point of the valve. If the water runs clear, and no air bubbles are seen in the glass of the position indicator close the bleed cock. If air is present (the water will be foamy white) run the water until the air is gone.


Pilot systems rely on a supply of clean water, usually taken from the inlet of the valve. Either external or flush clean type strainers can be installed. If an external strainer is installed a simple occasional flush is a good idea. Normally 3 – 5 seconds is sufficient time to clean the strainer screen. Experience will dictate if it needs to be flushed longer than this, but it is unlikely in a municipal system. A number of water utilities install a ball valve on the flushing plug of the strainer, allowing operators to give a short flush every time they are in the valve station. (This certainly helps to eliminate disaster as a plugged strainer causes a valve to remain open.)

Reducing Pilot

Ensuring the control valve pilot is still operational, is a simple task. As a cautionary note – before you make any pressure adjustment, ensure that this is acceptable for the system and any SCADA alarm controls that may be triggered by a change in pressure are turned off. To exercise the pressure-reducing pilot, loosen the lock nut on the pilot adjusting screw and turn clockwise to increase the pressure 5 psi above the normal set point. Check that the downstream pressure gauge is tracking the adjustments you are making. Then turn the adjusting screw counter-clockwise to reduce the pressure to 5 psi below the set point. Does the pressure gauge track this also? Finally, turn the adjusting screw clockwise to increase the pressure back to the original set point, and tighten the lock nut. If for some reason the pressure gauge is not moving as you adjust the screw, you either have a bad gauge or a pilot that needs looking at.

By following this simple routine your valves should give years of trouble free service. Of course such variables as pressures, operational use, water quality (hardness, TDS etc.) all have an effect on the periods between major valve overhauls.

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