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Linear or Equal Percentage Valves: When Should I Use Which?

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Home / Articles / 2015 / Linear or Equal Percentage Valves: When Should I Use Which?

Linear or Equal Percentage Valves: When Should I

Use Which?
Since the goal is to control loop stability, the choice that gives you the best chance of that is
the one to make.
By Bela Liptak
Feb 26, 2015







This column is moderated by Bla Liptk, automation and safety consultant, who is also the editor of the
Instrument and Automation Engineers' Handbook (IAEH). If you have automation related questions send
them to:
Read other Ask The Experts columns.
Read other articles by Bla Liptk.

Is there some general rule on when we should use =% (equal percentage) and when linear control valves? I
know that the determining factor is the inherent flow characteristic, the flow vs. lift at constant pressure drop,
or something like that. I do not know what this means, because constant valve pressure drop rarely exists
except in the ideal conditions in the manufacturer's test lab.
Nenad Tripkovich, Serbia 31/08/2015

Linear or Equal Percentage Valves: When Should I Use Which?

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The selection goal is control loop stability. This we obtain by making the loop response to load changes as
linear as possible (keeping the loop gain more-less constant). The gain of any device is the ratio of its output
divided by its input. The loop gain (LG) is the product of the gains of the loop components, the process(Gp),
sensor (Gs), controller (Gc) and valve (Gv). Tuning the loop means that if our goal is quarter-amplitude
damping, we adjust the controller gain (Figure 1) so that the loop gain (LG) will be about 0.5.

Figure 1: If the process is non-linear (Gp varies with load), the gain product of
the loop (LG) should be held more or less constant by compensating for the
variation in Gp by using a non-linear valve with inverse Gv non-linearity.
LG = (Gp)(Gs)(Gc)(Gv) = CPG(Gc) ~ 0.5
Linear valves: If the total process gain (TPG = (Gp)(Gs)(Gv)) is more or less constant (does not change
much with load), linear valves should be used. In a linear (constant gain) valve, a 1% change in lift results in
a 1% change in flow (Gv = 1.0). TPG is acceptable if it stays between 0.5 to 2.0, as the load varies between
its minimum and maximum limits. Linear valves are used in most applications except heat transfer
(temperature control).
TPG = (Gp)(Gs)(Gv) ~ 0.5 to 2.0
Non-Linear Valves: If the valve gain rises as the valve opens, its characteristic is called equal percentage
(=%) and if its gain drops as it opens, it is called quick-opening (QO). Special, custom-made valves can
provide other non-linearities, for example, having gains that are the inverse of the pump curves. Therefore,
compensation is provided by using an inverse valve characteristics (Gv = 1/Gp), so that the installed
characteristics of the total process will be more or less linear (TGP = 0.5 to 2.0). Naturally, Gv can never be 31/08/2015

Linear or Equal Percentage Valves: When Should I Use Which?

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the exact inverse of Gp, but as long as the selected valve characteristic keeps the TPG within 0.5 and 2.0,
instability and limit cycling can usually be avoided by good controller tuning (assuming TGP = 1.0 when
adjusting Gc).
See Also: How to Select Control Valves, Part 1
Equal Percentage Valves: Equal percent (=%) valves are used on heat transfer processes because in case
of heat transfer (temperature control), when the heat load is low, the heat transfer surface area available to
transfer that heat (load) is large. As a consequence, at low loads the heat transfer is efficient; the process
gain (Gp) is high. As the load rises, the same heat transfer area has to transfer more and more heat and
therefore its efficiency (the process gain) drops. To compensate for this, we need a valve whos gain rises
with load (=% one). For example, if the selected =% is say 3%, flow will increase 3% for each 1% increase in
lift. Therefore, the higher the load (flow), the higher this 3% quantity becomes and, therefore, the valve gain
(Gv) rises with load.
Some will also use =% valves when using constant-speed centrifugal pumps to transfer fluid through long
pipes. They do that because at low flows, when the pressure drop in the pipe (Ppipe) is small, most of the
inlet pressure is burned up in the valve (Pvalve), so a small change in lift results in a large change in flow
(Gp is high). As the load rises, the pipe drop (Ppipe) also rises, and therefore, less pressure drop is left for
the valve, so Gp drops. This method of compensation is wrong because it is at low flows one should not burn
up all that energy in the form of valve pressure drop (Pvalve)! Instead, variable- speed pumps providing
constant valve pressure drop and linear valves should be used.
As you can see, you asked a complex question, which I could answer only briefly here. So if you need an in
depth explanation, see Chapter 6.7, starting on page 1154 of Volume 2 of the Instrument Engineers
Handbook, where Table 6.1g lists the selection of valve characteristics for many applications.
Bla Liptk
Use a linear valve when controlling flow, liquid level, pressure and composition, and an equal-percentage
valve when controlling temperature.
In over 60 years working with control loops, almost all the cases where I had to change valve characteristics,
I have been replacing equal-percentage with linear.
F. Greg Shinskey
In order to make the control as stable as possible, you want the loop response to be as linear as possible. (If
you put the loop in manual and move the output 10%, you want to see the same 10% change in the
measurement regardless of whether you moved the output from 10% to 20% or from 70% to 80%. If the
response is nonlinear, it is difficult to tune the loop because a gain that works great at low valve opening will
not work as well as the valve opens further.
See Also: How to Select Control Valves, Part 2
Let's say you are controlling flow with a valve on a long pipe fed by a centrifugal pump. When the valve first
cracks open, the flow is very low, the pump discharge pressure is high, and the line loss is very small. In this
case, the control valve is taking nearly all of the pressure drop, and a small change in valve position will
result in a big flow change.
Now consider the same when the valve is 80% open. In this case, the flow is high, the pump discharge
pressure will have fallen, and the line loss will be much larger. Now the pressure drop across the valve is
much lower, and a small change in valve position will not change the flow very much at all. 31/08/2015

Linear or Equal Percentage Valves: When Should I Use Which?

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In this case, an equal percentage valve is the appropriate choice because the characteristic of the valve
offsets the effect of the piping.
When the valve first opens a 5% change will not move the valve much. However when the valve is more than
50% open a 5% change will move the valve a great deal more. This inverts the effect of the piping and
creates a more linear response for the loop.
Now consider a case where you are controlling flow, but the pipe is short and the pump has a fairly flat flow
curve. The valve is now taking the full line drop regardless of its position. In this scenario a linear valve trim
would be a better choice because a 5% valve position change will affect the flow consistently regardless if
the valve is barely open or nearly fully open.
P. Hunter Vegas, PE
See Also: How to Select Control Valves, Part 3
Linear or =% valves have very practical applications not just theoretical ones. The exact conditions can be
found in many references, for example, Emerson's Control Valve Handbook.
I came across an application on startup where the =% valve gave poor control because the piping pressure
drop was low. I had to do an inverse characterization in the DCS (which amounted to gain scheduling). In
other words, the process piping was larger than it needed to be.
Two classic examples of linear valve applications:
A bypass valve around a heat exchanger for temperature control
A trim valve in parallel with a larger main valve.
Simon Lucchini
In general, control valves with an equal percentage inherent characteristic are used to produce a linear
installed characteristic in process control. Such an installed characteristic in flow vs. lift for control valves can
be mathematically derived and has been published in text books on process control.
Some control valves are provided with custom-made trims so that the pump curve is built-in. This provides
high loss coefficients at low flows and low loss coefficients at high flows, and eliminates the need for parallel
valve operation and therefore reduces maintenance while increasing reliability and controllability in process
control. Boiler feed water valves are an example.

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Submitted by R. Glenn Givens on Wed, 03/11/2015 - 09:35
I suspect that P. Hunter Vegas meant: "When the valve first opens, a 5% change in valve opening will not
change the flow much. However when the valve is more than 50% open, a 5% change in opening will
change the flow a great deal more." Unless you are in a position to specify the valve (as opposed to trying
to get it changed later), gain scheduling would be your best option. This would allow you to compensate
for all non-linearities, not just those originating in the valve curve and also is easy to change at any time.
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