Any type of fluid or air system needs correctly placed valves to regulate flow. Without control, systems are either not functioning to their peak performance or not performing at all. To keep control, every system should undergo valve maintenance. Proper valve care is critical to sustain valve functionality and eliminate disruptions that may be extremely costly down the road.
For example, consider a vehicle. Even a quality car or truck won’t last without proper maintenance. To ensure peak performance, vehicles require regular oil changes, brake replacements and fluid flushes. Like a vehicle or anything mechanical, valves need regular routine check-ups to function correctly and extend their usable life.
PREVENTIVE VS. PREDICTIVE MEASURES
Valve maintenance techniques come in different forms. Depending on the system and the type and number of valves within, operators may want to use a preventive or predictive maintenance processes or both.
Preventive maintenance relates very much to the previous example of basic vehicle care and valve cleaning. It can be described as maintenance that is performed routinely to identify any issue that may result in future valve malfunction or failure. The idea is to perform services that help avoid breakdown. Another great example to put on the maintenance list of items to keep in mind is lubrication. This is a commonly overlooked step that goes a long way toward increasing valve life expectancy (depending on the type). Regular lubrication not only helps moving parts work easier and limits wear but it also helps seal the valve. It’s important to note to use the correct type of lubricant. For assistance on choosing the proper kind of lubrication per valve, we recommend contacting our team for a professional recommendation.
Predictive maintenance is similar in the valve maintenance concept: to get ahead of failures. With this technique, however, the health of the valve is determined by thorough testing and analysis of performance. This can be done using diagnostic equipment and technology. Once a decline in valve performance is recorded, maintenance or further action is taken. This technique can decrease overall time spent on general cleaning maintenance because diagnostics will determine when it is needed; however, the technology involved can be costly.
While each method of valve protection has a slightly different approach, the goals are the same: avoid reactive measures. Our top 3 recommendations to keep your valve assembly running smoothly and efficiently include:
KEEP VALVES CLEAN
One way to keep a valve clean is to simply scrub the exterior of a valve with a rag or brush. This proactive measure keeps dust and grime from building up around the valve stem and inhibiting motion of other moving parts. This is also a perfect time to look for leaks (which can be identified by corrosion, rust or mineral deposits). Severe leaks can indicate the need for new internal parts or seals.
Bypassing valves or doing a complete system shutdown for more thorough cleaning is highly recommended. Though it does not need to be done as often, it is extremely important to clean and inspect the internal components of a valve. This can be accomplished by taking the valve apart and cleaning the inside of any build-up. Check all moving parts for sign of wear. If they appear to be worn, brittle or broken replace them right away.
No matter what method of maintenance is chosen and how prepared one may be, the reality is that failures and malfunctions happen. Though it’s important to do as much as possible to avoid these situations, preparation should always be at the forefront when disaster strikes.
Preparing for unexpected setbacks is just as much part of valve maintenance as cleaning. This all starts with keeping a clean and tidy area around the valves. If a valve were to malfunction and quick corrective action was needed, a clear surrounding area allows faster and uninterrupted repair. Standard operating procedures known to anyone who may be providing maintenance or repair is also a must. Clearly printed step-by-step instructions for cleaning, repairing or replacing valves ensures that the proper steps are being taken each time, no matter who is performing the task or in what situation.
Another easy way to prepare for the unanticipated is to have spare components and valves on standby. Increased downtime is costly, so having a cache of replacement parts may cost a little at first but in the long run, it’s a money and time saver when necessary. Keeping easily accessible tools designated only for emergency repairs ensures that the right tools will be available when needed.
ROUTINE HEALTH CHECK-UPS
It’s easy to put valve maintenance on the back burner. When things are running smoothly and times are busy, taking time out of the day for something that’s not urgent is challenging. However, as you’ve read, a few minutes to clean and inspect valves goes a long way to keeping the systems running efficiently and effectively.
Scheduling consistent, routine cleanings is key for any valve system. We suggest designating a specific time of the week or month to go through a checklist of valve maintenance so it becomes part of your overall operation. Avoiding valve related emergencies means recognizing the signs in advance and taking necessary action before disaster strikes.