When you think of a sprinkler system, you almost immediately picture these small nozzle things that spray water all around the lawn.
Those are called sprinkler heads and are undoubtedly the most visible. They are, technically, just a small part of the bigger yard irrigation system. As expected, their main job is to spray water around their vicinity. And there are many ways to achieve this using the best kinds of sprinkler heads. Some people use a tractor sprinkler, others need a series of sprinkler heads to do the trick.
1. Spray Heads
- Spray heads distribute water evenly around it, usually in a circular or fan-shaped pattern. This is generally done gently since much of the water pressure is spread out in all directions. This approach limits sprinkler head spacing to about 18 feet. They also need a minimum pressure of around 20-30 PSI to operate correctly.
- Most spray head nozzles can be customizable depending on the unique conditions of the lawn. Some heads throw water in different shapes, like a half circle or full circle, over a larger area. Some are even designed to work with narrow spaces.
- Since spray heads are structurally simple, they’re usually less expensive than other sprinkler head types. The only downside is that they require more piping, trenches, and valves to install correctly.
- Spray heads are generally suited to smaller areas because of their tighter coverage. For more extensive lawns, it will get expensive, as you need more of them to cover the same area. Spray heads also excel at watering uneven gardens with a lot of curving in the landscape.
- Rotor heads work by rotating a narrow stream of water over the area around it. This approach is similar to you standing on a merry-go-round while watering with a garden hose. If you ever spent some time in the suburbs, you’ll undoubtedly have heard of rotor sprinklers or rainbird sprinkler heads. They produce a distinct “toka-toka-tic-tic” sound when they rotate.
- Rotor head sprinklers generally project water farther away than spray heads, all things being equal. This is because the water pressure is concentrated on a single stream as opposed to all directions. Rotor heads can, therefore, be spaced farther apart than spray heads, up to 65 feet apart.
- Rotors need more water pressure to operate correctly than any other sprinkler head. At the minimum, they need around 45 PSI, and more as your space them farther and farther apart.
- Luckily, there’s a good rule of thumb to follow to figure it all out. The pressure of the water coming out of the head must exceed the distance between the heads. Hence if you’re spacing your rotor heads 15 feet apart, you need a minimum 15 PSI. But remember, there is pressure loss throughout the system, so your actual PSI needs to be a bit more.
- Rotors are generally more expensive than spray heads. But the good thing is that they require less piping and valves. You also need fewer rotor heads to cover a larger area as opposed to if you used spray heads. If your lawn area is more than 30′ x 30′, they are the better fit.
3. Rotary Nozzles and Rotators
- In addition to the first two types, there’s a hybrid sprinkler head that’s available in the market. These are called rotary nozzles. They operate much like rotary heads but project multiple streams instead of one. Viewed from the top down, they look very much like rotating spider legs.
- Rotary nozzles are less expensive and use less water than traditional spray heads. This is because it produces less water mist that ends up dissipating into the air. Hence, most local government agencies will encourage homeowners to use these in place of spray heads.
- Rotary nozzles use smaller motors than rotary heads, and can, therefore, fit into the standard spray head housing. They have an effective distance coverage of around 15 to 35 feet.
- This type of sprinkler head is your best option for narrower spaces, around 12′ to 28′ wide. If you have a PSI rating of less than 40, then you might also want to consider it (or possibly spray heads).
- Bubblers are a type of sprinkler head that floods a smaller area with a more considerable amount of water. It gets its name from the continuous stream of water that looks like it is “bubbling” out from the bubbler’s nozzle.
- Bubblers are more suited to tiny areas where the broader coverage of a spray or rotor would be overkill. Examples would be underneath shrubs or flowerbeds. They also work well in very tight spaces, such as near windows or ceilings.