What Are Pressure Regulators and How Do They Work?

Pressure regulators are found in a wide range of home and industrial applications, from gas grills to dental equipment. While they benefit different industries, all pressure regulators provide the same function. A key characteristic of a pressure regulator is its ability to reduce a supply, or inlet, pressure to a lower outlet pressure, and its capacity to maintain this outlet pressure despite fluctuations in the inlet pressure.

When selecting a pressure regulator, there are a variety of factors to consider. For example, you must account for operating pressure ranges for the inlet and outlet, flow requirements, fluids used, anticipated operating temperature range, materials for regulator components, size, and weight constraints. In this blog, we will cover how pressure regulators work and how such factors affect their overall performance.

What Are Pressure Regulators and Their Related Components Made Of?

Numerous materials are available to handle various fluids and operational settings. Some of the most common materials include brass, plastic, and aluminum, but there are also a few variations made of stainless steel such as grades 303, 304, and 316 on the market as well. Meanwhile, the springs within the regulators are usually made of carbon steel or stainless steel.

Brass in particular, is ideal for a majority of applications and is fairly inexpensive. Aluminum, on the other hand, is better suited for applications that require lightweight materials. Plastic is also a low-cost option where durability is not a concern, whereas stainless steel is used in corrosive or high-temperature environments.

The seal material must also be compatible with the fluid being used and the operating temperature range it will be exposed to. Typically, Buna-N is utilized, but some manufacturers make seals out of Fluorocarbon, EPDM, Silicone, and Perfluoroelastomer.

What Types of Fluids Are Used for Pressure Regulators?

As each fluid has its own unique characteristics, the proper precautions must be taken to select the appropriate body and seal materials that will come in contact with the fluid, those of which are known as “wetted” components. For instance, you must determine if the fluid is flammable, toxic, explosive, or hazardous. In the case of explosive gasses, a non-relieving regulator is used as the design does not vent excessive downstream pressure into the atmosphere. In contrast, a relieving regulator vents excess downstream pressure to the atmosphere.

Varying Temperature and Operating Pressures

The primary concern for a pressure regulator operating in a specific temperature range is whether it will function properly as temperature has an effect on flow capacity and/or spring rate in some applications. With regard to operating pressures, you should consider the following questions:

  • What is the range of fluctuation in the inlet pressure?
  • What is the required outlet pressure?
  • What is the acceptable variation in outlet pressure?

Flow Requirements and Size & Weight Considerations

Flow rate is an important factor to consider; thus, you should ask yourself: What is the maximum flow rate that the application necessitates and how much does the flow rate vary? As space and weight are often a factor in high technology applications, material selection for the body components is critical, alongside thread sizes, adjustment styles, and mounting options.

How Do Pressure Regulators Work?

The force generated by the spring in the pressure regulator opens a poppet valve. Once the valve opens, this applies pressure to a sensing element, usually in the form of a diaphragm or piston. This closes the valve until it is open enough to maintain the set pressure.


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