Motorised Valves

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Motorised valves generally comprise:

  • a synchronous electric motor
  • gears to reduce the speed and increase the torque output of the motor

The motor and gears are often combined in a package known as a Synchron motor.

  • a linkage from the output gear to the hydronic part of the valve
  • one or more switches (usually microswitches) actuated by, for example, a cam attached to the output linkage
  • a spring: see below
the above components usually comprise one module, often known as the 'head', which may be detatched from the parts below for repair or replacement.
  • a valve controlling flow of water in the hydronic system, actuated by the head: this part is often known as the 'body'.

Configurations of motorised valve

Valves are commonly found in the following configurations:


The valve has 2 pipe connections (ports) and permits or blocks flow between the ports depending on whether it is actuated or not. Flow is permitted when the valve is actuated and blocked in its resting state.


The valve has 3 pipe connections, in a T formation. The centre leg of the T is the inlet and the two short arms are the outlets, usually referred to as ports A and B. Actuation controls whether the flow from the inlet passes to the A or B port. In the resting state flow is to the A port.

Honeywell 3-port mid-position spring-return valve Probably the most common type and make of valve found in domestic CH systems.

There are two types of 3-port valve:

Diverter valve
This is a simple change-over version of a 2-port valve: when the valve is actuated all flow is diverted to the B outlet.
Mid-position valve
In this type of valve there is a stable state in which flow from the inlet can pass to both (A and B) outlet ports simultaneously. This type of valve is commonly found in domestic central heating systems where it controls flow of hot water from a boiler to hot water and radiator circuits in a Y-plan system configuration.

Types of motorised valve

Spring return valves

In these types when power is applied the motor and gears act against the force of a spring to operate the valve. When power is removed the spring returns the valve to its resting position. In a 2-port valve this is the closed position. In a 3-port valve the resting position is where flow from the inlet passes to the A port.

These types of valve consume power whenever they are open (and, in the case of 3-port valves, often even when they are not). In 2-port valves the motor runs until the valve is fully open and then stalls as the actuator mechanism cannot move any further. 3-port valves are more complicated: a description can be found in the uk.d-i-y FAQ and here is a diagram showing a 3-port valve in a Y-plan CH system

Motor open/motor close valves

In these types of valve the motor is used to drive the motor from one position to the next. Switches in the mechanism stop the motor when it has reached its desired position.


This type of valve changes from it closed to its open position when power is applied to one terminal, and from open to closed when power is applied to another terminal.

                   ENERGISE                ENERGISE
                   TO CLOSE                TO  OPEN
                       |                       |
                     white                   yellow
                       |                       |
                       o                       o
                       /                       /
                     o/   o                  o/   o------- orange ----> TO BOILER
                     |                       |
                     |                       |
                      ----------- -----------
                             |       |
                             | MOTOR |
                             |       |
         Switches are shown in their non-actuated states which occur
             when the valve is neither fully open nor fully closed.
         The switch on the left operates when the valve reaches its closed position.
         The switch on the right operates when the valve reaches its open position.

These types of valves are occasionally found in domestic central heating systems: usually as Satchwell or Sunvic valves with grey plastic heads. (Note however that Sunvic also make almost identical spring-return valves.)

If a motor-open/motor-close valve is replaced by a spring-return valve, or vice-versa, the controls wiring must be modified to suit. In the case of replacing a spring-return with a motor-open/motor-close valve this requires change-over contacts at the room thermostat (or progstat) and an extra wiring conductor between the 'stat and the valve.

This type of valve is also found in non-domestic installations.
Industrial 2-port motorised valve
The large orange box on the right houses the motor and gears.
The smaller orange box on the left contains the switches.


Sunvic's SDMV series 3-port valves are motor-open/motor-close types but are wired identically to spring-return valves.

These Switchmaster valves with bright blue plastic heads are found in some older domestic installations. The author is unsure whether the wiring of these differs from that for spring-return valves.
CH motorised valve Switchmaster 3-port mid-pos (end).jpg CH motorised valve Switchmaster 3-port mid-pos (top).jpg CH motorised valve Switchmaster 3-port mid-pos (inside).jpg