How It Works: Spring Actuated Valves

The first water-powered valves were developed during the Industrial Revolution and helped to bring about a new era for many manufacturing industries.

Since then, there have been numerous advances in valve technology so they fit a countless number of applications.

No matter what industry you’re in, you’re likely to encounter spring actuated valves at some point as an engineer. Understanding them is essential to working with them and knowing how to use them.

Keep reading to learn more about how spring actuated valves work and the various types that are available.

How Spring Actuated Valves Work

Unlike valves that are operated by human hands, spring actuated valves are designed to work with an alternative power source. This allows them to be placed in locations where it may be dangerous or difficult for humans to access.

There are two basic categories these valves fall into. Fail-open valves will remain open in case of failure and fail-close will close if they fail. They may also be distinguished by whether they are linear or quarter-turn valves.

Types of Spring Actuated Valves

Now let’s jump into the different types of spring actuated valves which you can choose from. Each of these operates through a different mechanism so there’s sure to be the perfect valve for every application.

Spring Return

Also known as a single-acting valve, a spring return works by having a supply of air or liquid on only one side of the piston.

When the media fills the piston, the valve opens or closes. Then, when the supply is cut off, a spring mechanism removes the media and reverses the valve position.

Double Acting

This type of valve works much in the same way as the spring return valve. However, the air or liquid is added to both sides of the piston.

In a double-acting valve, whichever side is higher pressure will push the valve into either the open or closed position.


Valves powered by water are hydraulic. They may be spring return or double-acting. Because liquid is not easily compressed, they work well in high-pressure environments though they are limited by how fast they can operate.

Here are the three methods of operation found in hydraulic valves:

  • Piston style
  • Rack and pinion
  • Scotch yoke

Which of these you need will depend on the type of turns needed along with how quickly you need a valve to actuate.


Any valve that uses air to power it is considered a pneumatic valve. These can either be single- or double-acting. Although these respond quickly, they don’t work in high-pressure environments because the gas can become compressed.

There are four different mechanisms found in pneumatic valves which allow them to operate:

  • Piston style
  • Rack and pinion
  • Scotch yoke
  • Diaphragm style

Each of these allows you to achieve a different outcome based on how quickly they respond and how far the internal mechanisms turn.

Need Valves for a Project?

Now you know the basics of spring actuated valves and the types that are available to you. With this information, you should be on your way to choosing the best type of valve for your needs.

If you want help in selecting the best valve or manufacturing one for a specific project, contact us today. We would be more than happy to help you with whatever you need.