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Aside from personal preference, is there any reason why I would want to buy a "1/4 turn" water supply valve instead of "multi-turn valves"? Is one technology/design clearly superior than the other in terms of reliability? Or is this purely just a style preference?

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Yes, ball valves or quarter turn valves tend to be more reliable than globe valves. Globe valves require a washer and a tight friction fit between the seat and washer, and if either of these wear out (which they do over time), leaks start. Ball valves are much simpler in construction.

A downside to ball valves is that they are more difficult to get variable flow out of and are best when you need either on or off states, but nothing in between.

While there are more considerations for industry-specific applications, around the house, ball valves would be my choice for any shutoff valve.

  • Plus you have problems with the stem packing leaking, another annoyance. – Fiasco Labs May 26 '14 at 20:02
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    The wikipedia images for the two really sum up why the ball is more reliable than the globe. – Yakk May 26 '14 at 20:09
  • Addendum: Many ball-valves restrict flow a little, even in the fully open position. You can buy "full-bore" ball valves if this is important. Where I live, the main alternative (in houses) seems to be "gate valves" not "globe valves". – RedGrittyBrick May 30 '14 at 10:31
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The quarter turn valves usually have a few things going for them:

  • Clear indication of whether it is on or off
  • They (at least in my experience) seize less often, and the handle shape gives more leverage for turning it.
  • Less clearance needed around the valve
  • Where I live, some quarter-turn valves are sold as "isolating valves" or "service valves" - these do not have (or need) a high-leverage handle - just a slot for a screwdriver. "washing-machine valves" have a small red or blue plastic lever (which can be broken easily). – RedGrittyBrick May 30 '14 at 10:34
1

I just had a problem with mine: when I turned on the 1/4 turn valve after the winter, it would not turn off completely, dripping slightly. I tried to take it apart, but it did not completely apart. In the process of taking it apart, I think I spun the plastic gate around several times in trying to remove it. I would not come out, so I put it back together, and looked into unsoldering and replacing it. However, the next time I disconnected the hose that had a sprayer on it, stopping the water from leaking out, the valve was no longer leaking. Given that experience, I would never install a 1/4 turn valve that cannot be repaired.

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    I'll add my anecdotal evidence to yours: In my house I have had one gate-valve lock up completely and one break internally (the wheel spins - the valve cannot be closed). This is very inconvenient in an emergency. I have many extremely stiff gate valves. None of the ball valves I have installed in my home has ever leaked past the stem, failed or become excessively stiff. I prefer to replace failed valves rather than attempt repair as new valves are very low cost. – RedGrittyBrick May 30 '14 at 10:53
  • When I shut down for the season, turning the inside vale off, then opened the outside show on the same pipe, that valve started dripping again. I'll be replacing it with a repairable valve next spring. – sborsher Dec 17 '14 at 17:51
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    Ball valves must be turned all the way on or off. If turned partway, water pressure will push the opening in the ball against the lining of the valve to form a divot, and that divot will create a path for water to drip through the valve next time you turn the valve off. I had this happen with a newly-installed valve I left halfway on for just a few days. I turned it off to replace the faucet it supplied and it dripped constantly. – Chris Dragon Aug 30 '17 at 6:15

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