A Homeowner’s Guide To Sprinkler Heads

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With so many sprinkler heads on the market, it can be tough to know which ones are right for your unique landscape. Don't worry! The experts here at Oliviers have done all the research and hard work to help you make an informed decision. For this blog post, we have broken down the different types of sprinkler heads to help homeowners understand some basic strengths and weaknesses of each. 

Rotary Sprinkler Heads

Rotary sprinkler heads, also known as rotor sprinklers, are a popular choice for homeowners looking to efficiently water larger or irregularly shaped lawns and landscapes. Unlike traditional spray heads that emit a continuous stream of water in a fixed pattern, rotary heads utilize a rotating nozzle that distributes water in a circular or semi-circular motion. These types of sprinkler heads eliminate the risk of underwatering the designated zones within their range, ensuring a consistent and even application of water across the entire area. Depending on the specific model, rotary heads boast a coverage area of anywhere between 20 and 80 feet or more.

The slower distribution of water from rotary heads also allows for better absorption into the soil. This is particularly true of slopes or areas with less permeable soil conditions. In these types of conditions, rotary heads can go a long way in helping to reduce water waste due to runoff, promoting water conservation and healthier lawns

Gear-Driven Heads

When it comes to the types of heads that are classified as rotary, two primary types dominate the market: gear-driven and impact-driven. Gear-driven heads, as the name suggests, employ a gear mechanism to rotate the nozzle. This mechanism is powered by the water pressure itself, ensuring smooth and reliable operation. This is the most popular type of rotor head and has largely replaced the impact sprinkler head for smaller, residential lawns. 

  • Durability: Gear-driven heads are renowned for their longevity. The enclosed gear mechanism provides excellent protection from dirt, debris, and even minor clogging, minimizing the need for frequent repairs or replacements.
  • Adjustability: You can typically fine-tune the radius of rotation, making them suitable for watering along sidewalks, driveways, or other obstacles within the rotor's range.
  • Water Efficiency: Modern gear-driven heads often integrate pressure regulation mechanisms to prevent overwatering or specially designed nozzles that deliver larger water droplets that are less susceptible to windblown evaporation.

Impact Heads

Impact-driven heads, on the other hand, utilize a hammer mechanism to propel the nozzle. The water pressure acts as the driving force, striking a small hammer that imparts a back-and-forth motion, causing the nozzle to rotate. These types of sprinklers are still frequently used for larger, commercial properties. 

  • Throwing Power: Impact heads are known for their powerful throw, making them ideal for watering large, open areas. They can effectively distribute water over significant distances, ensuring even coverage across larger landscapes.
  • Simple Design: The mechanism of impact heads is relatively straightforward, making their use and repairs easier. However, the simpler design might also mean they are slightly more susceptible to wear and tear over time.
  • Limited Adjustability: While some impact heads offer basic adjustments for radius control, their adjustability is generally more limited compared to gear-driven options. They are best suited for open areas where full or nearly full circle coverage is desired.

Fixed Sprinkler Heads

While rotary heads reign supreme for covering large landscapes, fixed sprinkler heads offer a more targeted watering solution. These heads remain stationary and emit a continuous stream of water in a pre-defined pattern. This approach makes fixed heads ideal for watering smaller lawns, gardens with specific layouts, or walkways and driveways. Due to their fixed nature, spray heads typically have a shorter watering range compared to rotary heads, usually around 15-20 feet.

Fixed heads typically deliver water in a fan pattern, square, or rectangle and allow for precise watering control, minimizing overspray and the issues that come with excess water. Rotary heads, on the other hand, rotate, distributing water in a circular motion. Though this offers even coverage over a larger area, it can lead to overspray on sidewalks or walls and cause too much moisture to be introduced to the soil. 

Spray Heads

Spray heads are the most common type of fixed sprinkler head. They feature a simple design with a fixed nozzle that produces a fan-shaped or circular spray pattern. Spray heads are so popular that people often use the terms “spray heads” and “fixed heads” interchangeably. This type of fixed sprinkler head is appreciated for the full and consistent coverage it provides small-to-medium sized landscapes. 

  • Simple & Affordable: Spray heads are a cost-effective solution for watering smaller areas. Their straightforward design makes them easy to install and maintain, requiring minimal knowledge.
  • Variety Of Patterns: Spray heads come in a variety of spray patterns, including fan, full circle, and half circle. This allows for customization based on the specific area you need to water. 
  • Susceptibility To Wind: The continuous spray pattern can be affected by wind, potentially causing water to drift away from the intended target area. This can lead to uneven watering and water waste, particularly in windy conditions.

Multi-Stream Heads

While many spray heads offer a cost-effective solution, multi-stream fixed heads address some of their limitations, particularly when it comes to wind drift. These heads feature multiple nozzles or outlets that emit smaller water streams at a lower trajectory. The smaller streams are less susceptible to interference from the wind, meaning you will waste less water and give the desired areas of your landscape the moisture they need. 

  • Reduced Wind Drift: The lower trajectory and multiple streams of water droplets minimize the impact of wind, ensuring a more even and targeted application of water compared to traditional spray heads.
  • Improved Water Efficiency: By reducing wind drift, multi-stream heads deliver water more effectively to the intended area, minimizing water waste. This can be particularly beneficial in areas prone to windy conditions.
  • Limited Coverage Area: Similar to traditional spray heads, multi-stream heads are designed for watering smaller, defined areas. Their coverage radius typically falls within a range of 5 to 15 feet.

Pop-Up Heads 

Pop-up sprinklers are the most popular choice for residential landscapes, and they can feature either fixed or rotary heads. Their retractable design minimizes the risk of damage from foot traffic or lawn mowers, ensuring longevity and safety for homeowners and their families. With customizable heights and spray patterns, pop-up heads adapt effortlessly to various landscapes and lawns of all sizes. Of course, if aesthetics are a concern, pop-up sprinkler heads are the best option because of how seamlessly they can be integrated into a landscape. The combination of visual and practical benefits makes pop-up heads a great option for your lawn. 

Irrigation Installation Services

If you are looking to improve or upgrade your lawn’s irrigation system, professional services are the way to go. Professional services like Oliviers know how to install and maintain all of the types of sprinkler systems discussed in this post. Professional expertise also gives you peace of mind that you are getting the best and most efficient type of sprinkler to suit the needs of your particular property. Call us today for more information on which sprinkler heads you should install for your Louisiana lawn!