What’s the Deal With Gas Actuators and Valves?

What’s the Deal With Gas Actuators and Valves?

Cars have accelerator pedals. Airplanes have throttles. Boilers have gas valves and actuators. It’s all about controlling the flow of fuel to make your equipment run the way you want it to based on your demands. But since we don’t specialize in cars or planes, we thought we’d talk about the third one. 

Gas valves and actuators are two pieces of equipment that work together to make sure a boiler has enough gas coming in to let the boiler do its job. They don’t just do this whenever they feel like it, though. They work in conjunction with the boiler’s control system, and with the other parts of the boiler itself, to make sure your work processes have enough steam exactly when they need it.


Gas valves are the gates through which incoming fuel flows. When they’re closed, the supply of fuel is cut off. When they’re open all the way, fuel flows at the maximum rate dictated by the pressure it’s under, and the size of the pipe through which it’s flowing. However, you don’t necessarily need or want your boiler to run at full blast all the time, so the gas valve also serves as throttle (just like we talked about in the first paragraph.) 

By opening and closing to different positions, gas valves regulate the amount of gas coming in and, in so doing, change the amount of heat the fire side is creating. But unless your boiler room is haunted, those valves aren’t going to move on their own. They need an outside force to open, close, or modulate them as needed. That’s where actuators come in.

Keep it Moving

Actuators are kind of like robot hands. They are electrical, hydraulic, or pneumatic motors that move through a specified range of motion, and have the ability to stop at any point between full-on and full-off and hold their position. By connecting an actuator to a gas valve, you gain the ability to remotely turn that valve on, off, or anywhere in between to adjust the fuel flowing to your boiler. 

Gas Regulators

This seems like a good time to put in a plug (no pun intended) for gas regulators. Not every boiler has one in the gas train, but every boiler should. Gas regulators make sure the fire side is fed with an even, steady supply of fuel at a consistent pressure. This allows the boiler’s control system to operate the boiler more evenly and steadily, without sudden increases or decreases in heat that cause fluctuations in steam production. 

If your boiler system doesn’t have a gas regulator, seriously consider getting one. In fact, it might even be code where your boiler is located. Remember, we have highly trained technicians who can install one for you any time you want.

Know Your Equipment, Look For Trouble 

Because gas valves and actuators are such a crucial component in your boiler’s operation, they should be maintained and inspected on schedule. You should also check them yourself frequently to make sure they don’t show any signs of wear, malfunction, or leakage.

As this video shows you, hydraulic actuators can often give you a warning that they’re starting to fail by leaking hydraulic fluid. If you notice any fluid leaking from a hydraulic actuator, address it right away. If the actuator fails, it may leave you with an uncontrollable gas supply that either won’t turn on or won’t turn off. The other problem a leaking hydraulic actuator can cause has to do with the fluid itself. As the leaking fluid drips down into the other parts of the actuator or the valve itself, it will dry and become sticky. This will gum up the valve and hinder its ability to do its job and can cause it to fail completely.

It’s also important to watch your gas pressure gauges, as well. Problems with a gas valve and/or actuator can often appear as a fluctuating or “bouncing” needle on your gas pressure gauge. The problem may require equipment recalibration or replacement, but it may also be as simple as adding an orifice kit to stabilize the gas pressure and restore proper operation. 

If you have any questions about your boiler’s gas valves or actuators, the professionals at WARE are always here to help. We have the training and the expertise to keep your boiler in top shape and running efficiently. Of course, we also have new and rental boilers available should you ever need a permanent or temporary replacement. And, of course, we have plenty of replacement gas valves, actuators, and gas regulators available online at Boiler Warehouse. Whatever you need, just let us know how we can help.

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