Irrigation Sprinkler Heads

Irrigation: Sprinkler Heads
Proper arrangement of sprinkler heads is the key to a lush, healthy lawn. While water pressure, frequency of watering and watering times all play important roles, the most crucial component is ensuring even coverage. Areas that are under watered will not only quickly turn brown and die, but will provide a discordant contrast to the areas of your lawn that are green and verdant. Different types of heads provide varying amounts of water in distinct patterns. It's important to know how each type works so you can select the ideal combination for the unique shape of your yard. Consider the following questions to find the right sprinkler heads for your lawn:
        • What types of sprinkler heads are available?
        • What kind of pattern does each type produce?
        • Which areas are best suited for pop-up heads? Shrub heads?
        • What points should you consider to ensure proper installation?
        • What features would you like to have available?

Head Types and Installation Considerations

By using different types of heads in different parts of your lawn, you'll ensure total coverage. Consider the shape of your lawn. Identify oddly shaped areas and borders as well as sections that may need less water than others (for example, shrubs and trees require less water than grass and flowers). In most areas, you'll probably want to install pop-up sprinklers, which sink into the ground when not in use to prevent people from tripping over them and reduce the potential for damage from lawn mowers. Shrub sprinklers do not go into the ground, but they are ideal for using near shrubs and other plants because they rise over the top of them to provide coverage in the surrounding area. Closely examine each type of head to determine where it will best fit into your watering scheme, and then consider a few installation tips to maximize watering efficiency.
Rotary Heads: When you need to cover medium- and large-sized areas of your lawn, rotary heads are up to the challenge. These heads deliver a single stream of water as they rotate in either a partial or full circle, depending on how they are set up. The most distinctive type of rotary head is the impact sprinkler, which can be recognized by its jerky motion and distinctive clicking sound. The distance which these units shoot water can be adjusted to ensure overlapping coverage or to prevent watering sidewalks and driveways. Look for heads that have a sealed gear drive to prevent dirt from getting inside and impairing operation.
        • Stream rotary heads are driven by a gear
        • Rotary heads put out water at a slower rate than spray heads
        • Ideal for slow-draining soils and use on slopes
        • Available in both fixed and pop-up designs for maximum versatility
        • Require higher water pressure for operation
Spray Heads: For small- to medium-sized lawn areas, use spray heads, which give off a fine, misty spray. Like rotary heads, spray heads may be either fixed or pop-up. With a variety of patterns to choose from, you can use these units in a number of different areas, such as around shrubs and in flower beds. They have a high application rate, meaning they put out a lot of water in a short period of time. Because of their shorter range, they'll need to be installed more closely together than rotary heads. Spray heads have no moving parts, so they're less likely to break, and they're ideal for systems with low water pressure. Be aware that on windy days, the mist they emit may be blown away, reducing watering efficiency.
        • Spray patterns include full, half and quarter circles
        • Ideal for flat surfaces and soils that absorb water fast
        • Provide thorough, accurate coverage
        • Won't damage delicate flowers
Bubblers: These heads are used for deep watering in small, well-defined areas, such as near shrubs or trees. Bubblers emit large amounts of water very close to the ground within a small radius, allowing for very precise watering that gets deep down to the root system. Their design makes them much less susceptible to wind and evaporation, creating greater water efficiency. You may want to avoid using them in soil that doesn't absorb water very well. Heads with pressure compensators provide steady, consistent watering even if your water pressure fluctuates.
        • A controlled flow allows for soaking small spaces
        • Perfect for ground cover areas
        • Patterns range from a partial arc to a full circle
Design: There are a number of different head designs available, and each serves a different purpose. Use the chart below to help plan out your irrigation system.

Head Design



Fixed Spray • Produce a tight, constant fan of water
• Fan out in a radius of 5'-15'
• Small lawns
• Shrubs
• Ground cover
Flood/Bubbler • Produce a flow of water that soaks soil to reach the root
  zone, dispersing water in a small area 5' or less in
• Tree wells
• Planters
• Shrubs
Gear Driven • Smooth, quietly operating heads that often feature
  adjustable patterns
• Medium lawns
• Large lawns
• Side lawns
Multiple Stream • Produce thin streams of water that slowly rotate in an
  18'-27' radius

• Medium lawns
• Ground cover
• Slopes and uneven
Pop-Up • Pop up above grass when activated and disappear below
  ground when not in use
• Provide even water distribution and low spray angle
• Small lawns
• Medium lawns
• Large lawns
• Side lawns
• Gardens
Rotary • Deliver a single stream of water that rotates in a circle
• Apply water more slowly than spray designs
• Medium lawns
• Large lawns
• Side lawns
Shrub • Mounted above foliage on risers, or extensions
• Special pattern nozzles provide flexibility
• Ground cover
• Planters
• Shrubs
• Gardens

Installation Considerations: Generally, sprinklers are laid out in a triangular or square pattern to ensure overlap, or head-to-head coverage. The amount of water that the yard receives from a sprinkler stream lessens the father it goes out, so overlapping the streams is necessary to provide even coverage for all parts of the lawn. It's easier to adjust heads to reduce spray distance than it is to dig them out and reinstall them if spray falls short, so err on the side of caution and keep them close. Different types of sprinklers have different flow rates, so you'll want to install only one kind in a given zone.
        • Avoid installing sprinklers that spray trees directly, as water streams may damage bark
        • Adjust patterns to avoid sidewalks, driveways and other areas you don't want to water
        • Square patterns are best for clearly defined yards
        • Triangle patterns are ideal for irregularly shaped yards


Special Patterns: When you need to irrigate small ground cover areas, narrow beds and compacted, slow-absorbing soils, utilize micro spray heads that provide patterns and flow rates suited for these purposes..
Spring Retraction: Sprinklers with this feature ensure that pop-up sprinklers return to their underground position automatically as soon as they finish their cycle, rather than relying on gravity to do the work.
Wiper Seal: This feature prevents leaks and helps ensure proper retraction for pop-up sprinkler heads.
Drip Irrigation: In areas of your yard that conventional sprinkler heads can't quite get to or may prove too powerful for, such as hanging shrubs or delicate gardens, install a drip irrigation system. Drip systems provide slow, steady water in hard-to-reach places without damaging plants and flowers.