Should I Use a Solenoid Valve or Electric Ball Valve On My Sprayer?

Are you tired of replacing burnt-out solenoid coils or having to rebuild the solenoid valve each spraying season? 

On a sprayer, Electric ball valves will last longer and have fewer issues than solenoid valves. They are more expensive, but they will usually pay for themselves over time because you will not have to rebuild or replace them.

Electric sprayer ball valves, 3 section control.
Bank of 3 electric ball valves.

What is the Difference Between Solenoid Valves and Electric Ball Valves?

The difference between electric ball valves and solenoid valves is in both how the valve functions and how it is actuated (turned on/off).  The solenoid valve is actuated by sending current to the coil on the valve to create a magnetic current that either opens or closes the valve.  Electric ball valves have a motorized actuator.  The motor has constant power supplied to it and a signal or switch wire will tell the valve to open or close when a switch is flipped. 

Common Solenoid Valve Applications

Solenoid valves are generally used on smaller ag, turf, or garden sprayers.  They are used for on/off control for sprayer boom sections, boomless nozzles, and also foam markers.  They are simple to connect to a switch box with either weather pack or spade connections. Typical sizes for use on sprayers are ¾ and 1 inch.  

They have two main types: normally open and normally closed.  The normally open is open until power is supplied and the normally closed is closed until power is supplied. 

Common Electric Ball Valve Applications

Ball valves are used on pull-behind and self-propelled sprayers, planters, trucks, and other pieces of equipment.  The actuator on an electric ball valve is motorized giving you enough torque to handle larger valves and flow rates.  They only require power when the ball is being turned.  Solenoid valves require constant power to keep open or closed.    

An electric ball valve can be used more easily with different rate controllers and switch boxes. They can also be used as a regulating valve when they are equipped with the right type of actuator.  They are used for section control on self-propelled sprayers, planters, water trucks, etc. 

Note: If you have been using solenoid valves with a sprayer controller like the TeeJet 744A or similar, you will need to change your wiring in order to use ball valves.  

Why Electric Ball Valves are Better Than Solenoid Valves for Sprayers

Unlike solenoid valve coils, the motorized actuators on electric ball valves do not have the risk of “burning up”.  Solenoid coils require constant electrical current to keep them open or closed, depending on whether you have a normally open or normally closed valve. Resistance will cause the coil to heat up and burn out.  Some of the causes are the plunger not operating correctly, wrong voltage, or coil short circuit.

Electric ball valves have a signal or switch wire that tells the motor to turn the ball and when to stop.  There is no coil, instead, there is an electric motor that drives the gearbox to turn the ball. The valve actuator/motor is made to be sealed up against moisture or debris.  Ball valves also provide a better seal for a longer time, especially when they are flushed out with freshwater or a tank neutralizer and cycled before being stored for a long period of time.     

How Long Will A Solenoid Valve Last Compared to A Ball Valve?

If you spray hundreds or even thousands of acres every year, you most likely are well acquainted with electric ball valves, but if you have a small sprayer and do not spray many acres, you still may be frustrated by the number of times you need to repair or replace solenoid valves.  Although the initial investment may be greater, you will see a great deal longer life with an electric ball valve.  

How to Extend the Life of Your Sprayer Valves

Whether you use a solenoid valve or a ball valve there are steps you can take to prolong the life of the valve:

  • Drain your sprayer completely before storing for winter
  • Store valve in open position when not in use
  • Unplug power harness when storing sprayer (make sure valve stays in open position)
  • Use RV antifreeze to winterize your system

The Bottomline

Electronic ball valves are better for use on sprayers than solenoid valves. The cost of ball valves is more but you will be happier in the long run.

Sprayer Guru

I have more than a decade of experience using, building, studying, and testing sprayers in several applications. With the knowledge I have gained I want to provide straight forward and detailed answers for DIY homeowners, farmers, and commercial turf and tree care pros.

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