Buying Guide

How to Choose the Right Sprinkler System Components

Sprinkler Types

sprinkler watering a lush lawn

The size of your lawn and the area to be watered will play a large role in determining which sprinkler is best, as will how involved you want to be in the process. 


Stand-alone lawn sprinklers come in a variety of types:

  • Fixed, or stationary, sprinklers feature several different designs including rings and "salt shakers." They cast water in a single pattern over a fixed area.
  • Oscillating sprinklers have a long tube with numerous openings and move back and forth, emitting a fan-shaped waterfall.
  • Impact sprinklers, sometimes called impulse sprinklers, rotate in a circle and squirt out a single jet of water, making a distinctive clicking sound as they do.
  • Rotating sprinklers feature two or more arms and spin to disperse water in a complete circle.
  • Sprinkler hoses lie along the ground and squirt water from tiny holes to cover a long, rectangular area.
  • Traveling sprinklers often look like little tractors and move through your yard in a preset pattern, dragging the hose behind them.
  • In-ground sprinkler systems are installed int the lawn and pop up at a designated time, usually cycling their way through the yard to provide complete coverage.

Sprinkler Usage

Fixed

  • Feature Benefits: fast and precise watering, water hard-to-reach areas, economical, multiple types
  • Recommended For: small areas, gardens, landscaping


Impact

  • Feature Benefits: wind-resistant, adjustable pattern, less likely to clog, lower water pressure and flow rate
  • Recommended For: large areas, front lawns, backyards


In-Ground

  • Feature Benefits: automatic operation, timers, complete coverage, can be programmed by zones
  • Recommended For: front, back and sides of house; landscaping, gardens


Oscillating

  • Feature Benefits: gentle watering, even coverage, rectangular or square pattern
  • Recommended For: medium- and large-sized areas, front and backyards, newly seeded areas


Rotating

  • Feature Benefits: may feature adjustable jets and bases, even distribution, work quickly
  • Recommended For: medium-sized areas, gardens; front, back and sides of house


Sprinkler Hose

  • Feature Benefits: low flow rate, localized watering
  • Recommended For: long strips of lawn, gardens, landscaping


Traveling

  • Feature Benefits: cover a wide area, save time, multiple patterns available, look for automatic shutoff valve
  • Recommended For: oddly shaped yards; front, back and sides of house; hilly, uneven areas

Watering Tips

sprinkler head spraying a stream of water on a lawn

Thorough watering is essential for lush outdoor greenery, but be careful to avoid overwatering or watering with the wrong frequency for your soil type.
The type of soil you have will dictate how frequently you need to water. If you're unsure of when to water, look for changes in grass and plants as slow or arrested growth and browning will give you an indication that more moisture is needed. Allow soil to dry between waterings.

  • Sandy soil needs short, frequent periods of water.
  • Clay soil requires less watering than sandy soil.
  • Loam soil holds water longer than sandy soil but not as long as clay.

Additional watering tips:

  • Use sprinklers more frequently on hot summer days. Because grass is composed primarily of water, it is particularly vulnerable in high-heat, low-water conditions.
  • Intermittent watering over several hours provides thorough root penetration.
  • Water your lawn early in the morning so water doesn't evaporate as quickly as it does during the hotter parts of the day and to give grass sufficient time to dry before nightfall. Constant wetness can lead to disease and insect infestation.
  • Irrigation systems can also run to a set number of zones. Zones are used to distribute water more evenly and precisely, according to how much water is needed in certain areas. Choose an irrigation system that can control the number of zones in your lawn.  

Sprinkler Features

sprinkler watering a brown patch of lawn

Automatic timers, flow timers and automatic shutoff valves can help make operating your sprinkler system easy and effortless.

  • Automatic Timer: A common feature of in-ground sprinkler systems, automatic timers allow you to choose when you want sprinklers to go on or off, so you can start watering early in the morning without having to crawl out of bed to turn them on.
  • Flow Timer: Sprinklers with this feature monitor the amount of water they emit and let you calibrate it to a specific setting. This will allow you to customize the amount of water you're using to ensure thorough soaking on different parts of your lawn.
  • Automatic Shutoff Valve: A good feature to have in traveling sprinklers, these valves automatically cut off the water supply once the sprinkler has completed its pattern to ensure that water is not wasted and your lawn doesn't get waterlogged.

Sprinkler System Components

An irrigation system is made up of many components:

  • Sprinkler tubing, also known as sprinkler pipe, makes it easy to install or repair your irrigation system. 
  • Sprinkler valves can be used in locations where the use of a pressure vacuum breaker (PVB) or a double-check valve is required by code to protect against backflow. They can also flush your irrigation system of dirt and debris.
  • A backflow preventer can help prevent irrigation water from re-entering your main water supply. These are often required by city codes to prevent the contamination when the water is shut off and routed back into the main water system.
  • Sprinkler manifolds are used to control the waterflow for multiple sprinkler lines.
  • A sprinkler valve box is designed to cover and protect your irrigation fixtures like valves and manifolds. 

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