How to Select a Valve Actuator

A valve actuator is the component that “actuates,” or moves, a valve open or closed.  

In this video, we show you two different typespneumatic and electricand explain what factors you should consider when selecting an actuator.  

Pneumatic Valve Actuator

One of the most common actuators is a pneumatic actuator, like the one on the Kimray High Pressure Control Valve

These actuators are typically comprised of an adjusting screw, breather plug, bonnet, spring, diaphragm assembly, and stem.  

  • The adjusting screw puts pre-load on the spring to engage the valve in its fail position. 
  • Without a pneumatic signal on the diaphragm, the valve will remain in this position.  
  • The diaphragm is the key component of the pneumatic actuator. This flexible and air-tight piece moves with the spring yet holds in air pressure. 
  • The breather plug allows the non-energized side of the diaphragm to move freely without getting air locked. 

Electric Valve Actuator

An increasingly common method of actuation is an electric actuator, like the Tritex II. 

An electric actuator is typically comprised of a control board, drive motor, and adapter.  

  • The control board is the brain of the electric actuator. This is where you will terminate power and the signals from the controller.  
  • When energized, the drive motor will engage and move the valve open or closed, depending on the signal.  

How to Select a Valve Actuator

There are three primary factors to consider when selecting an actuator: Emissions, Automation Capabilities, and Cost. 

  1. Emissions — As environmental regulations tighten, electric actuators are becoming more popular because they do not require the use of supply gas and therefore do not release emissions. If you want to reduce emissions with pneumatic actuators, you can power your pneumatics with compressed air or install a vapor recovery unit.
  2. Automation — Another factor to consider is automation capabilities. A significant benefit to using electric actuation is the ability to automate valve functions. Simply put, automation gives you the ability to monitor and control your valves offsite. With a pneumatic actuator, you can do this by using an I/P valve controller, which converts an electric signal to pneumatic. 
  3. Cost — Cost is the third factor to consider. The upfront cost of a pneumatic actuator will typically be less than an electric actuator. However, when considering emissions management and the efficiency gains automation provides, electric actuators provide significant value.  

One other benefit of electric actuation which is sometimes overlooked is worker safety. Workplace injuries can be stressful and costly.  

Because electric actuation allows you to monitor and control production remotely, workers make fewer trips to the field. This means there are fewer opportunities for injuries to occur. 

If you’d like advice on what type of actuator is right for your operation, contact one of our experts at your local Kimray store or authorized distributor. 


Want to receive helpful resources like this directly in your inbox?

Subscribe to the Kimray Chronicle

Kyle Andrews serves as an Account Manager at Kimray. He provides Kimray product training and works with producers to identify project solutions.