Types of sprinkler heads

Sprinkler heads come in a variety of different shapes and sizes. This guide aims to help you choose the right one or your needs.

Pop-up sprinkler heads

Typically used for residential and small commercial sprinkler systems, pop-up sprinkler heads are possibly the most common type used because they are inexpensive and simple to operate.

There are two types of pop-up heads: stationary sprays and rotating heads, which are called rotors. They’re designed to supply a continuous stream of water and are fitted with a selection of nozzles, including full arc, half-circle and quarter-circle.

Body heights range from 2 to 20 inches. Below are the conditions each height is generally used for.

  • 2-inch pop-ups: tough soil areas where digging is difficult
  • 4-inch pop-ups: turf areas, allowing clearance for growing lawn
  • 6 to 12-inch pop-ups: larger gardens

Pop-ups are generally used to cover small areas with a spray radius of 3 to 15 feet. Precipitation rates depend on system pressure, spray head spacing, manufacturer specs and nozzle size but usually vary from 1 to 2.5 inches per hour.

Impact rotors

Impact rotors provide single or multiple streams of water to larger landscapes in a 40 to 360 degree arc pattern. The spray radius for most rotors reaches 20 to 150 feet and the precipitation rate will be between 0.1 and 1.5 inches.

Owing to their uncomplicated design, the radius and arc on impact rotors are easily adjustable. They’re suitable for hard water areas and well water sites, but they can be noisy, thus may not be suitable in a residential setting.

Impact rotors are usually made of bronze or brass, which is more expensive, but does prolong the ‘field life’ of the equipment.

Gear-driven rotors

As the most commonly used type of sprinkler head for medium to large-scale sprinkler systems, gear-driven rotors are cheap, quiet and versatile. They also require less maintenance as the enclosed body design prevents the drive from becoming clogged with dirt and other debris.
Typically, gear-driven rotors have a radius that ranges from 18 to 55 feet and an arc rotation from 40 to 360 degrees. Operating pressures range from 25 to 75 psi and precipitation rates range from 0.2 to 0.8 inches per hour depending on the pressure, nozzle size and the layout.

Gear-driven rotors are best suited to larger residential premises or small commercial areas. If your designated area is on a slope or clay surface, gear-driven rotors will work better than pop-up sprinkler heads because their lower precipitation rate increases water absorption.

Large turf rotors

Golf courses, parks and some bigger commercial spaces require large turf rotors. These rotors require an operating pressure of 50 to 100 psi and can cover up to a 100 feet radius with flows as high as 80 gallons per minute.

The major difference of a large turf rotor compared with other types of sprinklers is their actuation, as most large turf rotors use either an electric valve-in-head (EVIH) or hydraulic actuation, providing high water flow and greater flexibility.

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