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How Do You Know If A Water Valve Is Open Or Closed (3 Types of Valves)

red water valve

Oh, the mighty water shutoff valve. As homeowners we really don’t think about water valves until, well, it’s typically a hurry up type of situation. 

My worst fear is having a major water leak inside my house and not knowing immediately where the water shutoff valve is located.  

But what if you already know exactly where the water valve is located, how do you know if the water valve is open or closed? 

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at how you can tell if a water valve is open or closed. 

How Do You Know If A Water Valve Is Open Or Closed

There are a number of different types of water valves. And in this article, we take a look at a few of the most popular types of water valves and how to know if they are open or closed.

Ball Valve

Ball valves designed with a rotating sphere, or “ball” that has a hole in it that water flows through.

When the ball valve is turned open, the hole in the sphere is in line with the pipe and allows water to pass through.

When the ball valve is closed, the hole in the sphere is perpendicular to the pipe, which prevents any water from passing through.

How To Know if a Ball Valve is Open or Closed

The lever handle is what turns the ball inside the valve. And it just so happens that the handle on the ball valve also acts as an indicator for the user as to whether or not the valve is open or closed.  If the handle is perpendicular to the pipe, then the valve is closed. If the handle is paralell to the pipe, then the ball valve is open.

One of the downsides to installing ball valves is that they don’t allow you to control the amount of water that can flow through the valve. In many cases, ball valves are either on or off. 

The good thing about ball valves, however, is that they are known for providing an excellent seal when they are turned off and in the closed position.

Gate Valve

Gate work in the exact way that they sound. They literally control the flow of water by raising and lowering a gate inside the valve.  The handle, also called a wheel or a knob, is what you turn to raise and lower the gate. 

The downside to gate valves is that the handle, or wheel, doesn’t have an indicator on it to let you know if the valve is open or closed, or if its anywhere inbetween. 

How To Know if Gate Valve is Open or Closed

So how are you supposed to know if a gate valve is open or closed. 

What I do to make sure the gate valve is all the way off is turn the wheel, or handle, to the right as far as it can go. This should be the off position. 

Then as you slowly turn the wheel to the left, you begin to let water flow through. You can control how much you let through by the amount you turn the knob to the left. 

Once you turn the wheel of the gate valve all the way to the left, it is all the way open.

Even though you can adjust the flow rate through a gate valve, their not the best for controlling flow. Unfortunately, these types of water valves are not very strong and have been known to wear out and corrode over time. When this happens, you get a stuck water valve.

Read More: How To Loosen a Stuck Water Valve.

The upside to gate valves is that they provide an excellent seal when all the way shut.

Butterfly Valve

The last type of valve I’m mentioning here is the Butterfly Valve. 

Butterfly valves are designed with a disc inside of it that is the same size as the pipe. And like the ball valve, the disc turns inside the valve opening and closing off the flow of water. 

How To Know If a Butterfly Valve Is Open or Closed

Also like the ball valve, the disc is attatched to a handle or lever. When the lever is paralell with the pipe or flow of water, then you know the valve is open. 

When the lever is perpendicular to the pipe or flow of water then you know that the disc has turned inside the valve and closed off the flow through the pipe.

The biggest complaint about butterfly valves, however, is that they are not the most efficient type of water valve. That’s because the disc that opens and closes off the flow of water is always going to be inside that flow, even when its turned on. 

Because of this, there will always be a drop in pressure when using butterfly valves.

With that said, butterfly valves are probably the best type of water valve for controlling the amount of water that flows through it and allow for precise flow compared to the other types of valves.

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