The Different Types of Sprinkler Heads

Sprinkler systems are a convenient and efficient way to water a garden or yard. There are many different kinds of sprinkler heads to choose from when looking to add a sprinkler system to your home or business.

Pop-Up Sprinkler Heads

Pop-up sprinkler heads are considered the most widely used irrigation head. They are typically used with residential and small commercial sprinkler systems. This category of sprinkler heads can be broken down into two sub-categories; stationary sprays and rotating heads (rotors). Pop-up spray heads are designed to supply a continuous stream of water and are fitted with a nozzle. The nozzles give different spray patterns, such as full arc, half-circle, or quarter circle.

Pop-up sprinkler heads typically range in height from 2 to 20 inches. The smaller heads are found in areas where the soil is tough and digging is difficult. The larger heads are used for irrigating groundcover, gardens, and shrub borders. They are designed to spray in a radius of between 3 and 15 feet and have an operating pressure between 15 and 30 psi. Manufacturers are constantly trying to improve pop-up sprinkler head efficiency with matched precipitation rates, creating adjustable and low trajectory nozzles, and nozzles with square spacing and strips. The advantage of pop-up sprinkler heads is that they reduce precipitation rate, which improves water absorption and reduces run-off.

Impact Sprinkler Heads

Impact rotor sprinkler heads provide either single or multiple streams of water. They distribute water in an arc pattern that typically ranges anywhere between 40 and 360 degrees. They are designed to cover larger areas than pop-up sprinkler heads, with a spray radius for most rotors being between 20 and 150 feet. Impact sprinkler heads use a very simple design that makes them suitable for areas with well water. The radius and arc of the spray can be easily adjusted but impact sprinkler heads require regular maintenance to keep them working at their maximum potential.

Impact rotors are made from either bronze or brass, so they can cost twice as much as a plastic, gear driven rotor. However, with proper maintenance they can last for several years longer than other sprinkler heads.

Gear Driven Sprinkler Heads

Gear-driven sprinkler heads are the most commonly used sprinkler heads for medium to large sprinkler systems. They are popular because of their low cost, quiet operation, and versatility. Gear-driven sprinkler heads have an enclosed body design that prevents clogging, requiring less maintenance.

Gear-driven rotors use nozzles and it is becoming more common for manufacturers to provide a nozzle tree with each rotor. This allows a buyer to easily select the appropriate size nozzle for the desired radius and precipitation rate. Typically a gear-driven sprinkler head has a radius that ranges from 18 to 55 feet and sprays in an arc rotation. The gear-driven sprinkler head is best used in small commercial sites or large residential lawns because they work better than pop-up sprinkler heads in areas with slopes or clay due to their lower precipitation rate which increases water absorption.

Turf Rotors

Golf courses, parks, and large commercial properties will use turf rotors. They require an operating pressure of 50 to 100 psi to spray water its full radius of 100 feet, with flows as high as 80 gallons per minute. Brass models will last for many years, but plastic heads are more commonly purchased because of their cheaper price.