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Air Piloted Valves 101 - The Basics

Air piloted valves make use of air pressure to control compressed air, liquids or gas by means of a pneumatic system. Manufacturers prefer these valves because they do not require additional electrical current or labor to operate. This proves especially useful in dirty, wet applications or when operating media in volatile environments could combust or change drastically in the presence of electricity. 

To understand air piloted valves better, we’ve compiled some basic information. We’ll be covering: 

  • What are air piloted valves? 
  • How do they work? 
  • What applications are they best suited for? 
  • What makes ours unique? 
  • What to do if you need custom air piloted valves for your system 
  • What Are Air Piloted Valves? 

Air piloted valves are operated with pneumatic pressure, and typically by the output of other pneumatic valves. They are configured as 2 and 3-port types to control pressurized liquids and gases such as water and chemicals, or as 2, 3 and 4-way types controlling compressed air (or vacuum) in industrial automation applications. 

Often, they contribute to simpler, more reliable and cost-effective solutions in media control problems, using smaller and/or fewer solenoid or manual piloting valves mounted away from the point of use.

They are commonly used in applications where the presence of electricity or manual labor may be hazardous. Additionally, air piloted valves are used in situations where an air pressure-based operating method is already in place. For example, outputs of other solenoid or manual valves can perform their work but also pilot operate these valves for simultaneous functions.

Other Terms for Air Piloted Valves

Some manufacturers and retailers may use these synonymous terms in place of “air piloted valves” to control liquids and gases in process applications for compressed air in pneumatic applications:

  • Air Operated Valves 
  • Remote Air Pilot Valves
  • Air Operated Slave Valves
  • Air Piloted Pneumatic Valves
  • Air Piloted Process Valves
  • Air Operated Pneumatic Valves
  • Air Operated Directional Control Valves
  • Pneumatically Operated Valves

How Do Air Piloted Valves Work? 

Air piloted valves use the force of compressed air on the effective area of a piston or diaphragm to shift into an actuated position. The manufacturer will specify a minimum pilot pressure requirement relative to the pressure being controlled.  

At Humphrey, we offer a variety of industry-standard and specialty function 2, 3, and 4-way air piloted valves for industrial pneumatic and low pressure, mild liquid applications. Our extremely reliable, diaphragm-poppet types are unique to industry with configurations for vacuum, dirty air, ultra clean air or mild liquids.

What Are Some Benefits of Air Piloted Valves? 

Air piloted valves can offer the following high-level benefits to end-users:

  • Cost savings: Require smaller, more efficient piloting valves, and utilize less compressed air when mounted near the point of use. Less expensive than solenoid and manually operated valves.
  • Reliable: Simple construction with few parts. High shifting forces and tight sealing. 
  • Safety: Reduces risk and more reliable when operating in hazardous or dirty environments. 
  • Amplified, high flow capacity: Excellent alternative when most flow requirements in the system are satisfied, but a few require amplified, high flow.

What Applications Are They Best Suited For?

Though not every type of valve will prove useful across all applications, air piloted valves are incredibly versatile. Some of the ways that they are used can include, but are not limited to:

  • Slave valves in simultaneous functions
  • Lockout valves in interlocking functions
  • Simple alternative when amplified, high flow capacity is required 
  • A safer alternative in hazardous or difficult environments 
  • Reliable in poor or unstable compressed air conditions 
  • Transitioning valves from lubricated, dirty air to clean dry air or alternate media
  • Consuming less compressed air than other solutions 

The Humphrey Difference

We design our products around our Classic Diaphragm-Poppet Series. This unique air piloted valve construction cannot stick and will not leak. 

Different from spool valves, diaphragm-poppet air piloted valves eliminate sliding seals that stick and wear with time. The design is also popular when “dirtier” system air needs to be isolated from clean, instrument quality air, or inert gas. 

Humphrey diaphragm-poppet air piloted valves are offered in optional brass and stainless steel bodies for use with gases and liquids as well as corrosive environments. This results in exceptional performance and reliability with certain alternative media.

Industry Standard Doesn’t Cut It? Try Humphrey Engineered Solutions

Sometimes, your system needs go beyond what the market-variety valves can provide. This is not unusual. In fact, one of the most frequent requests we receive from customers is to tailor the air piloted valve to their specific requirements. 

If your system does not or can not utilize industry-standard air piloted valves, we can help. We specialize in creating engineered solutions that more closely align with your needs without sacrificing performance or durability.

Get Better Air Piloted Valves

If you are interested in learning more about air piloted valves or understanding how you can implement better solutions into your systems, we are here to help. Contact us anytime for additional information.


 

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