Types of Irrigation Products

When deciding on a sprinkler or irrigation system, consider choosing one that sends large drops of water close to the ground. These sprinklers tend to be more water-efficient than sprinklers that spray a fine mist and lose a lot of water through evaporation. For trees, shrubs, perennials and groundcovers, drip irrigation can be a great alternative. Little or no water is lost to evaporation as the water is applied at ground level, near plant roots.

A well-planned watering system can assist you in avoiding over watering, which not only wastes water but can also be harmful to your plants. Knowing how much water your plants need, and routinely monitoring and maintaining your irrigation system are the keys to saving both water and money.

Pop-Up Sprinkler Heads

One of the most widely used irrigation heads, pop-ups are usually used for residential and small commercial sprinkler systems. The two types of pop-up heads include: stationary sprays and rotating heads, called rotors. These spray heads are designed to supply a continuous stream of water, and are fitted with a nozzle. Nozzles come a variety of designs, each design with a specific spray pattern, such as full arc, a half-circle, or a quarter circle. Nozzles distribute the water in a variety of patterns to fit the contours of the landscape. Other than a pop-up stem, pop-up spray heads are stationary, and are inexpensive and simple to operate.

The body of pop-up sprinklers range in height from 2 to 20 inches. Two-inch pop-ups are common in areas with tough soil where digging is difficult. Turf areas commonly use four-inch pop-ups. The current standard for mowing height in lawn areas is about three inches — a four-inch pop-up provides sufficient clearance for a growing lawn and for sinking — it is common for sprinkler heads to “settle” over time as soil and thatch build up around the sprinkler head. Pop-ups between six and 12-inches can be used to irrigate ground cover, gardens, and shrub borders. Risers can also be installed under spray heads as the landscape grows and greater clearance is needed.

Designed to cover relatively small areas with spray radii between 3 and 15 feet, pop-up spray heads operate between 15 and 30 psi. Fixed spray heads have a precipitation rate which is dependent on system pressure, spray head spacing, manufacturer specs and nozzle size, and varies from 1 to 2.5 inches per hour.

Impact Rotors

With impact rotors, single or multiple streams of water are provided to the landscape and distribute water in an arc pattern typically ranging from 40 to 360 degrees. These rotors are designed to cover a larger area than a pop-up spray head would, with a spray radius of 20 to 150 feet for most rotors, and a precipitation rate between 0.1 to 1.5 inches per hour.

Over the years, there has been very little change in the design of impact rotors. The simple design makes it suitable for areas with well water or where other types of heads might get gummed up by hard water. The radius and arc can be easily adjusted, but they require regular maintenance and the spring mechanism is often too noisy for residential sites. Impact rotors are often made of bronze or brass, which usually makes them cost twice as much as a plastic, gear driven rotor. However, these rotors can last for years, and have a much longer “field life” than plastic rotors.

Gear-Driven Rotors

Gear-driven rotors are one of the most commonly used sprinkler heads for medium- to large-scale sprinkler systems because of their low cost, quiet operation and versatility. These rotors typically require less maintenance as well because the enclosed body design prevents clogging of the drive mechanism from dirt and other debris.

These rotors use nozzles, and it is becoming more and more popular for manufacturers to provide a nozzle tree with each of their rotors, making it easy to select the appropriate size nozzle for the desired radius and precipitation rate. Generally, 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 74 psi, while precipitation rates range from 0.2 to 0.8 inches per hour depending on the pressure, nozzle size and the layout of the zone.

Large Turf Rotors

Large turf rotors are required for golf courses, parks and some commercial properties. An operating pressure of 50 to 100 psi is required for these rotors, and they can cover radii up to 100 ft. with flows as high as 80 gallons per minute. Some older model golf course heads were made of brass, and some are even still operating in the field 40 years after they were originally installed. The high cost of brass heads has made plastic heads a common selection.

One of the noticeable differences between the sprinkler heads used for residential and small commercial irrigation versus large turf rotors is their actuation. Sprinkler heads on smaller sites are laid out in a block formation and several heads are activated at one time when either a manual or electric valve is opened. High flows and flexibility that are required on large sites make this type of layout cost prohibitive. EVIH actuation typically has fewer problems than hydraulic activation and is the most common actuation system for large-scale application.

Industry Innovation

The highly competitive irrigation manufacturing market benefits homeowners, landscapes and other irrigation professionals. Design improvements and innovations continue to be produced by this competitive market, thus causing an increase in the durability of sprinkler heads and reducing the costs. Advances in nozzle design decrease over spray, runoff and wind dispersal.


It is important to know the conditions and requirements of the site to be irrigated in order to find the right sprinkler head for the job. Factors that affect sprinkler head selection include, but are not limited to: soil type, water pressure, water source and weather conditions. After familiarizing yourself with these factors, considering the four basic designs of sprinkler heads will have you well on the way to making an informed, cost-effective decision for your irrigation system. Contact Agscapes Landscaping with the link below for more information!

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