Valves play an important role in controlling the passage of air or fluid through pipes or tubing, and it's common to ignore them until something goes wrong. But proper valve maintenance can go a long way in preventing problems from occurring in the first place. Here are some tips to help you perform some simple but valuable valve maintenance.
1. Clean the area.
Valve maintenance doesn't have to be complicated. Sometimes, the easiest way to avoid costly repairs is with a simple, quick cleaning. Depending on the type and location of the valve, you'll need either a towel to wipe away dust or debris or a wire brush for more caked-on gunk. At the very least, clean your valves once a year. It's a quick and easy way to extend the life of the entire system.
2. Inspect your equipment.
Eye-balling your valves is another free and simple step in valve maintenance. First, simply monitor the valves, checking for leaks. One of the easiest ways to determine if a leak is present is to look for signs of corrosion, rust or mineral build-up. Extensive leaks may require you to replace the valve, or at a minimum, worn or broken pieces of the valve.Next, open and close the valves to confirm they haven't seized, and inspect the pressure and temperature of the media flowing through the valves. Ensure they're not close to or over the rated limit for the valves you're using. High-stress valves should be monitored even more regularly than those under less stress.
3. Lubricate the valves.
One of the most overlooked but inexpensive parts of valve maintenance is greasing or lubrication. Skipping this step can lead to seizure or at the very least, decreased performance. Regular lubrication can also help valves seal, lengthening the service life of the valve. The key is to rotate the valve to help ensure that the lubricant gets in the valve cavity. This will prolong the life of the valve by limiting wear. Your valve maintenance will require you to choose the correct lubrication for your particular valve, depending on the setting. Lubricants have a variety of attributes, so don't just use the first thing you grab. They can be water-resistant, lithium-based, high temperature, CO2-resistant and more. Stick-type lubricants, for example, may have clay or other solid-based thickeners added, which can harden and leave solids behind in the valve, causing it to seize. In addition to protecting your valves with lubrication, you may also need to protect them from ambient temperature changes, especially if the pipes are outside. If this is the case, adding and maintaining protective insulation may need to be added to your valve maintenance routine.
Valve maintenance may seem like a minor inconvenience, but a few minutes of your attention can go a long way in keeping a system running smoothly, which can save you time and money in the long run. Ignoring valve maintenance can leave you stuck with ill-functioning machinery, tubing or pipes, requiring you to take pieces apart and possibly, replace them. That old saying about “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure" may be cliche, but it applies to valve maintenance as much as anything else in life.