Working Principle of Temperature Control Valve (TCV)

Temperature regulators, also known as temperature control valve (TCV), physically control, as well as measure, temperature.

Temperature regulators are not capable of directly maintaining a set value; instead, they relate the load (in this case the valve opening) with the control (temperature measurement). These regulators are most useful when temperature is correlated to a flow of a substance.

Temperature Control Valve (TCV)

For example, a TCV may be used to control the temperature of an exothermic reaction that requires constant cooling. The TCV measures the temperature of the reaction and, based upon this temperature, either increases or decreases the flowrate of cooling fluid to adjust the temperature of the reaction.

Similarly, the regulator could be used to adjust the flow amount of steam, which is typically used to heat a substance. Therefore, by adjusting flowrate, the regulator can indirectly adjust temperature of a given medium.


The structure of a typical thermal regulator consists of four main parts, as shown in Figure.

The temperature detecting element, which in most cases is a temperature sensor, as described above, sends either an electrical or mechanical signal through the connector to the actuator.

The actuator then uses this signal to act upon the power source, which determines the position of the valve.

Note: The actuator consists of the capillary tubing, the power source, and the adjustment.

Figure . Schematic Diagram of Temperature Regulator Structure


The temperature regulator operates based upon a mechanical means of temperature control. As previously mentioned, the bulb of the regulator is typically filled with a heat conducting substance.

Due to the thermal expansion properties of this substance, the substance expands as the temperature increases. This expansion causes a change in the pressure of the actuator, which correlates to the temperature of the medium.

This pressure change repositions a valve on the regulator, which controls the flowrate of a coolant. The temperature of the medium is then altered by the change in the flowrate of this coolant.

Types of Temperature Regulators

Though all regulators have the same basic build and purpose, they exist in a variety of forms. In particular, these regulators vary in four primary ways: temperature detecting elements, temperature detector placement, actuator type, and valve type.

Temperature Detecting Elements

Most temperature regulation systems use thermocouples or RTDs as temperature sensing devices. (Described above) For these systems, the connector is a computer. The sensors send an electric signal to the computer, which calculates the temperature. The computer then compares the temperature measured by the sensor to a programmed set-point temperature, thus determining the required pressure in the actuator. The pressure in the actuator changes position of the power source (diaphragm or bellows), which consequently changes the flowrate through the valve.

Some temperature regulation systems use a filled bulb as a temperature sensor. Based on the thermal expansion properties of the material within the bulb, the material expands as the temperature increases. This expansion causes a change in the pressure of the actuator. The pressure change actuator then repositions power source.

Again, the change in the power source changes the flowrate through the valve. Temperature regulation systems using thermocouples or RTDs as temperature sensing devices are much more common than regulation systems using filled bulbs.

Temperature Detector Placement:

Internal and Remote Detection Temperature detection can be done with internal or remote elements. For internal temperature detectors, the thermal actuator and temperature detector are located entirely within the valve.

For remote temperature detectors, the primary temperature detecting element is separate from the actuator and valve, and is connected to the actuator with either electrical wiring or capillary tubing, depending on the mechanism of the temperature sensor.

Remote temperature detectors are more common, as internal temperature detectors are limited in use. Internal temperature detectors can only measure the temperature of the fluid flowing through the valve and not the temperature of the process.

Actuator Type: Thermal Systems

There are four main categories of thermal actuators used in temperature regulators. Thermal actuators produce power and work, proportional to the measured temperature of the process, on the power source.

Actuator types include the vapor-filled system, the liquid-filled system, the hot chamber system, and the fusion-type or wax-filled system. Of all the thermal systems mentioned, liquid-filled systems are the most common, because they relate temperature and pressure change in a linear fashion.

Vapor-Filled Systems

In the vapor-filled system, the thermal actuator is partially filled with a volatile liquid. As the temperature of the sensor increases, the vapor pressure of the liquid also increases. This increases the pressure on the power source, and adjusts the flowrate through the valve.

Liquid-Filled Systems

In liquid-filled systems, the thermal actuator is filled with a chemically stable liquid, such as a hydrocarbon. As the temperature increases, the liquid expands, which produces a force on the power source.

Hot Chamber Systems

In hot chamber systems, the thermal actuator is partially filled with a volatile fluid. An increase in temperature of the system forces some of this fluid into the power unit, where the heat of the unit causes this liquid to turn into a superheated vapor. The pressure increase produces a force on the power source.

Fusion-Type (Wax-Filled) Systems

Of all the systems mentioned, the fusion-type system is the least common. In the fusion-type system, the thermal actuator is filled with special waxes such as hydrocarbons, silicones, and natural waxes.

The wax contains large amounts of copper, which increases the heat-transfer quality of the wax. As temperature increases, the wax expands, producing a force that repositions the power source.

Valve Type: Direct and Pilot Actuated

The two main types of valves used in thermal regulators are the direct and pilot actuated valves. In all such thermal regulators, there is a power source (such as bellows and diaphragms) that provides the force required to reposition the valve to control the temperature.

These power sources rely on a change in the pressure of the actuator in order to properly regulate temperature. In direct-actuated TCVs, this power unit is directly connected to the valve, which provides the force required to open and close the valve.

In pilot-actuated TCVs, the thermal actuator moves a pilot valve, which then transfers energy in the form of pressure to a piston, which then provides the work necessary to reposition the main valve.

Direct-actuated TCVs are often much simpler in structure than pilot-actuated TCVs, and therefore they are also much cheaper. In addition, they respond better to smaller changes in temperature and more accurately reflect the temperature of the medium.

Thus, if the exact temperature of the system is essential to ensure correct operation, a direct-actuated TCV should be used. Pilot-actuated TCVs usually have much smaller temperature sensing devices, a faster response time, and the ability withstand much higher pressures through the regulating valve. Therefore, at high pressures or rapid temperature changes, a pilot-actuated TCV should be used.