How to Use a Pool Valve Actuator

Written by Michael Dean
May 10, 2023

pool valve actuator

As a pool owner, you may need to install or replace a pool valve actuator. If you are asking yourself, “what the heck is a pool valve actuator, and how does it work?” you’ve come to the right place! I cover all of that below and how to decide which type is best for you and what each model offers. Ready? Let’s dive in.

Main Takeaways

  • Pool valve actuators can be manual or automated. Automated valves are digitally controlled with a control box.
  • There are several types of pool valve actuators with various features and purposes: quarter-turn pneumatic and hydraulic, multi-turn pneumatic and hydraulic, multi-turn electric, quarter-turn electric, manual, jandy valve, intermatic valve, and goldline valve.
  • Always disconnect the supply air or voltage before performing any disassembly or maintenance on your pool valve actuator.

What is a Pool Valve Actuator?

Pool valve actuators provide an automated command by push-button that goes to one of the diverter valves or more in the pool’s water flow system. You will find it on your pool’s diverter valve, which will be wired into the pool’s control box.

How Does a Pool Actuator Work?

Diverter valves can be installed for a manual operation or automated one. With the manual operation, you will set the handle manually to close or open selected ports. With an automated operation, the valve actuator is mounted on the top of the valve and digitally controlled through a control box. Here’s an illustration of one.

How to Install a Pool Valve Actuator

Most of the time, the actuator is sent in the open position when it comes from the factory. You must ensure the actuator and the valve are in the same position before you mount the actuator to the valve. Once you check that the actuator and valve are in the same position, do the following:

  1. Open the valve manually
  2. Remove the valve mechanical stops

Before moving forward, make sure you leave all necessary parts where they are for the proper running of the valve, such as gland nut, packing gland, etc.

  1. Ensure the actuator and valve are positioned the same.
  2. Install the mounting hardware on the valve but leave the bolts loose for now. Mount the actuator to the valve and tighten all the nuts and bolts once the actuator screws have been placed.

The actuator conduit entry is usually perpendicular to the pipeline.

  1. Now is the time to remove the actuator cover.
  2. Wire the actuator using the proper wiring diagram. Proper wiring instructions are in a diagram version on the inside cover of the actuator.

Ensure the power is off at the main power box location. Shutting the power off is crucial for safety reasons.

  1. Turn on the power to the actuator.

Take caution around live circuits to minimize the risk of electrical shock.

  1. Put the valve in the closed position and check alignment.
  2. Replace the cover and secure the cover screws.

Types of Pool Valve Actuators

There are different types of pool valve actuators with various features and purposes. Most pool valve actuators fall into the categories below based on the power applied and the kind of movement needed.

Pneumatic and hydraulic actuators operate similarly but vary in how the cylinder moves. With hydraulic actuators, actuators move the cylinder with pressurized air, while hydraulic actuators use pressurized water.

A pneumatic actuator isn’t practical for large equipment requiring substantial bore cylinders due to compressed air intake. Hydraulic actuators will cost more per unit when compared to electric or pneumatic actuators. The hydraulic actuator may also leak and require various parts to go with the actuator, like pumps, motors, fluid reservoirs, heat exchangers, release valves, and nose-reduction equipment.

Quarter-turn Pneumatic and Hydraulic Actuators

Quarter-turn pneumatic and hydraulic actuators are versatile and can be used even when electricity is unavailable or when reliability and simplicity are prioritized. These actuators have a vast array of capabilities, including the small actuators that deliver a small number of inch-pounds of torque up to the biggest actuators capable of providing more than a million inch-pounds of torque.

Many hydraulic and pneumatic actuators have a cylinder coupled with mechanisms that run in linear motion and generate the cylinder to move a quarter turn needed for valve function. An opposing spring is added to an actuator for a positive shutdown in case of an emergency.

Multi-turn Pneumatic and Hydraulic Actuators

Multi-turn pneumatic and hydraulic actuators are used for multi-turn output when operating a linear-type valve, like a globe valve or gate valve. Electric actuators are usually used for these valves, while pneumatic and hydraulic actuators are good options when no electricity is available.

Multi-turn Electric Actuators

These actuators are one of the most reliable and common kinds of valve actuators. Electric actuators can operate some of the largest valves and are powered by a three-phase electric motor that uses a mixture of gears and level spurs.

These spurs and gears drive the stern nut used to engage the valve stern to open or close. They can include a declutching device and handwheel that enable manual operation if there is a power failure.

Quarter-turn Electric Actuators

The quarter-turn electric actuators are similar to the multi-turn electric actuators, but the main difference is the positioning of the final element in one quadrant with a rotation of 90 degrees.

These actuators are more compact and are in small valves. These valves need lower power generated, so they link to an energy source like a battery for reliable operation.

Manual Actuators

Manual actuators move through a series of wheels, levers, and gears. Manual actuators vary from automatic actuators because of the external power provided for the automatic valve movement.

Manually operating a valve is not an option for many actuators due to the force required to turn the valve or because the application has valves in more remote pipelines. Manual actuators are not handy with applications that require the precaution of providing immediate shutdown in an emergency. Manual actuators are not practical for valves in hostile or toxic environments.

Jandy Valve Actuators

Industry-standard Jandy NeverLube Valves come with diverter seals with a guarantee for the life of the valve. The Jandy valve actuator and the NeverLube Valve perfectly complement one another, making the JVA/NeverLube duo perfect for an automation solution.

Original Equipment Manufacturers find JVA is ideal for many automation applications such as solar heating. If you are an OEM, you should ask what Jandy can do for you. Jandy has built-in safety and simplicity of installation that ensure customers easily understand.

There is no callback for valve setting, and JVA can stop or start the diverters in any position, eliminating the danger of the pump deadheading.

With one touch of an AquaLink RS Control System, you can change water circulation between the pool and spa, drain water, and maintain the spa overflow. You can easily automate water features and fountains with the control that allows you to adjust the flow of any water feature.

JVA has the respect of builders and plumbers and is recognized for its solid reputation.

Intermatic Valve Actuators

Quality is foremost in Intermatic’s 24-volt valve actuators. These actuators provide quality control of 2 and 3-way diverter valves for any pool/spa combinator or water feature. Adjust the water flow for a particular application with the adjustable cam that rotates the diverter valves to multiple degrees.

The cam setting is adjusted easily by removing the lid. The valve actuators are interactable with pool/spa valves of all types offered in the industry and can be retrofitted to suit all pool/spa control systems.

Goldline Valve Actuator

The Goldline valve actuator is simple to operate by design. This actuator is engineered to support two- and three-way valves installed easily using a screwdriver. Extremely adjustable cams give this actuator flexibility that many others do not possess on the market.

The Goldline is intended for the Aqua Logic but can be used instead of a 24-volt actuator. The Goldline valve actuator is compatible with Compool, Hayward, and Jandy valves but can replace these actuators completely.

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Syncing a Pool Valve Actuator

When two valve actuators operate together in a pool system, they must perform in sync. You may choose to shut down the spa and open the pool, and the following will explain how to sync two pool valve actuators.

To sync the pool valve actuator, the automated actuators on pool valves one and two must rotate in the same direction when changing from pool to spa mode. If one turns in the opposite direction from the other one, the actuators need to be adjusted to sync them.


Never operate an operated valve under pressure in a live process. Always disconnect the supply air or voltage before performing any disassembly or maintenance. Be aware of the area categorization for electrical service.

Turn off and remove electrical equipment entirely from any hazardous space before doing any maintenance. Always choose caution over all else.

Bottom Line

Using a pool actuator isn’t as complicated as one might think. You need to determine the type and model of actuator you need before making your purchase.

If you cannot install the actuator yourself, contact your pool professionals to do the job right.

Questions about valve actuators? Let me know; always happy to provide a couple of tips.

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