Check valves are two-port valves, meaning they have two openings in the body, one for fluid to enter and the other for fluid to leave. There are various types of check valves used in a wide variety of applications. Check valves are often part of common household items. Although they are available in a wide range of sizes and costs, check valves generally are very small, simple, and/or inexpensive. Check valves work automatically and most are not controlled by a person or any external control; accordingly, most do not have any valve handle or stem.
An important concept in check valves is the cracking pressure which is the minimum upstream pressure at which the valve will operate. Typically the check valve is designed for a specific cracking pressure.
A ball check valve is a check valve in which the closing member, the movable part to block the flow, is a spherical ball. In some ball check valves, the ball is spring-loaded to help keep it shut. For those designs without a spring, reverse flow is required to move the ball toward the seat and create a seal. The interior surface of the main seats of ball check valves are more or less conically-tapered to guide the ball into the seat and form a positive seal when stopping reverse flow.
Ball check valves are often very small, simple, and cheap. They are commonly used in liquid or gel mini-pump dispenser spigots, spray devices, some rubber bulbs for pumping air, etc., manual air pumps and some other pumps and refillable dispensing syringes.
A diaphragm check valve uses a flexing rubber diaphragm positioned to create a normally-closed valve. Pressure on the upstream side must be greater than the pressure on the downstream side by a certain amount (pressure differential) for the check valve to open allowing flow. Once positive pressure stops, the diaphragm automatically flexes back to its original closed position. A swing check valve or tilting disc check valve is a check valve in which the disc, the movable part to block the flow, swings on a hinge or trunnion, either onto the seat to block reverse flow or off the seat to allow forward flow. The seat opening cross-section may be perpendicular to the center line between the two ports or at an angle. Although swing check valves can come in various sizes, large check valves are often swing check valves.
A stop-check valve is a check valve with override control to stop flow regardless of flow direction or pressure. In addition to closing in response to back-flow or insufficient forward pressure (normal check-valve behavior), it can also be deliberately shut by an external mechanism, thereby preventing any flow regardless of forward pressure.
A lift-check valve is a check valve in which the disc, sometimes called a lift, can be lifted up off its seat by higher pressure of inlet or upstream fluid to allow flow to the outlet or downstream side. A guide keeps motion of the disc on a vertical line, so the valve can later reseat properly. When the pressure is no longer higher, gravity or higher downstream pressure will cause the disc to lower onto its seat, shutting the valve to stop reverse flow.