Reduce Costs Using Air-Piloted Valves

Air-piloted valves rely on air pressure from a pneumatic system, rather than electrical current or manual intervention, to control compressed air, liquids or gas in industrial automation or industrial process applications. While air-piloted valves are often specified where an air pressure-based operating system already exists, the absence of electrical current and manual involvement also make them a sound choice for applications in dirty, wet or hazardous locations where electrical spark could result in a fire or explosion. In addition to being a great fit in these environments, air-piloted valves offer enough cost-saving benefits that it’s likely worthwhile to consider their installation in standard applications, as well.

What is an Air-Piloted Valve?

To fully appreciate the benefits of air-piloted valves, it’s important to understand what they are and how they operate. An air-piloted valve relies on pneumatic air pressure to perform its function. As air pressure to the valve increases, it begins to push against the piston or diaphragm, causing the valve to actuate. The valve may open or close, depending on its function and the application.

They are often used within pneumatic systems to serve one of two purposes: Air-piloted valves either activate a part of the system when the required pressure level is achieved or release pressure when it reaches excessive levels.

Air-operated valves are frequently configured as 2- and 3-port types to control pressurized liquids and gases such as water and chemicals in industrial process applications or as 2-, 3- and 4-way valves to control compressed air in industrial automation applications.

Two-way valves can be either normally closed or normally opened and feature two ports to allow the valves to regulate the flow of air into the application. Three-way units can be normally closed, normally open or offer a path for the flow to be diverted through a third opening. Four-way air-piloted valves are often used for directional control in a pneumatic system and can be used to regulate the motion of a cylinder, motor or other components.

These configurations can be found in air-operated, industry-standard valve types, such as spool valves or poppet valves, as well as specialty valves, for use in industrial pneumatic and low-pressure, mild-liquid applications.

Air-piloted valves go by several other names, including air-operated valves, remote air-piloted valves, air-operated slave valves, air-piloted pneumatic valves, air-piloted process valves, air-operated pneumatic valves, air-operated directional control valves and pneumatically operated valves.

What are the Features of Air-Piloted Valves?

Air-piloted valves tend to offer very simple, yet rugged and robust construction with few moving parts, so they are not easily damaged, making them suitable for dirty and harsh industrial environments. They offer high seat tightness, which means the valve will remain tightly sealed until it reaches the programmed setpoint, at which time, the pressure chamber will fully open. And, as mentioned previously, since they operate via air pressure, there is no electrical current or manual intervention required.

According to Humphrey, a manufacturer of air-piloted valves, the features associated with this valve type allow them to provide simpler, more reliable and cost-effective solutions in media control applications, using smaller and/or fewer solenoid or manual piloting valves mounted away from the point of use.

Further, because they are powered by air pressure, air-piloted valves offer less risk and more reliable operation, so they are often specified in applications where the use of electricity or manual labor may be prohibited. Additionally, air-piloted valves may be found in applications where an air pressure-based operating system already exists, such as when the outputs of other solenoid or manual valves can perform their work but also pilot operate these valves for simultaneous functions, according to the experts at Humphrey.

The Humphrey Diaphragm-Poppet Air Piloted Valves feature Humphrey’s promise: Valves that “Cannot Stick, Will Not Leak.”

What are the Benefits of Air-Piloted Valves?

One of the biggest benefits of air-piloted valves is their ability to be safely mounted in remote locations, as well as those that are flammable, hazardous or high risk since there are no sparks or elevated temperatures. Another benefit of air-operated valves is that they can create enough shifting force without causing impact or wear on the valve as tends to happen with mechanically actuated valves.

Air-operated valves also offer amplified, high-flow capacities, making them an excellent alternative when most flow requirements in the system are satisfied, but a few require amplified, high flow.

Thanks to the many available configurations, air-piloted valves are also extremely versatile and can be found in applications such as lockout valves in interlocking functions, transition valves from lubricated, dirty air to clean dry air or alternate media and to provide reliability in poor or unstable compressed air conditions.

Generally speaking, air-piloted valve technologies also tend to be less expensive upfront than solenoid and manually operated valves. However, many of the features that are integral to air-piloted valves can lead to additional cost savings over the lifetime of the valve. For example, fewer moving parts and robust construction mean that air-piloted valves tend to provide a longer service life with fewer breakdowns and less downtime than other valve types. Air-piloted valves may provide additional cost savings as they require smaller, more efficient piloting valves and use less compressed air when they are mounted near the point of use. Additional cost savings can be realized because air-piloted valves use no electricity, which means that expensive equipment needed to protect against explosions is not required.

To learn more about air-piloted valves and how they can benefit your application, please contact a JHFOSTER representative.