Types of Irrigation Sprinkler Heads – Green Arbor Landscaping

Your landscape is a mixture of many different types of plants requiring different methods of watering to provide enough water for a healthy lawn. As some research, you can save about 50 – 70% of your water bill just by the way you combine the correct sprinkler heads in the same zone in your landscape. However, how do you know if it is right?

This article will show you the introduction of some basic sprinkler heads used for the irrigation system. Depending on each type of sprinkler, they will work well with your particular plants in each way. Matching the right types of sprinkler heads can help you optimize the water amount into your lawn, as well as prevent you from some common errors related to the irrigation system’s operating pressure.



Sprinkler heads are divided into three basic types – Spray heads and Rotary spray heads; Bubblers Irrigation Heads; and Drip systems. Depending on your lawn size, as well as the water pressure that your irrigation system operates, choose an appropriate sprinkler head designated for your own lawn.

Sprinkler Spray Heads

spray head

These spray head types are commonly referred to as “fixed spray heads” with small heads shaped fan-spray patterns. This spray head works best for small to medium-sized lawns between 20 and 30 PSI (pressure per square inch) of water pressure. The design of a spray head will recall you of a shower nozzle selection. Most spray heads use interchangeable nozzles which will determine the patterns and radius of water flow.

Because of the low PSI and shape of nozzles installed on the sprinkler heads, the distances between each spray head should be no farther than 15 feet apart. If you place the spray heads exceeding 15 feet, this would create some dry spots (dead grass) on your lawn because the water flow cannot distribute water evenly throughout the entire yard for full coverage. This results from the basic physics of water spray heads which limit the distance between heads.

spray head-1

Spray heads could have a higher flow rate than any sprinkler head that can give a lot of water fast. Also, they could be installed on pop-up spray bodies and risers.

There are a number of spray patterns available from many manufacturers, such as 90, 120, 180, 210 & 360 degrees. You should notice that the spray heads give a fine, misty spray, so watch out for windy for not to be blown away. If you live in a windy area, spray heads would be no longer a choice for your lawn because windy will reduce the watering efficiency greatly.


impact rotor sprinkler head

The sprinkler rotors are usually used for medium to large lawns and the irrigation system can apply a PSI above 30. The rotor is a term used to describe the sprinklers which operate by rotating the stream of water in circles. You would be more similar to the impact rotor sprinkler (commonly called “rain bird”).

These impact rotor sprinkler heads are now replaced by gear-driven rotors which do not make noisy sounds when operating like tooka, tooka, tooka, tic, tic, tic,… The gear-driven sprinkler rotors require less maintenance and are smaller in size as well as smoother when working.

gear driven sprinkler head

The important thing to remember when installing your sprinkler system is that the distances between rotors must be less than the PSI at the rotor head. It means that if you want to install rotors 35 feet apart, you will need a minimum of 35 PSI of pressure at each sprinkler head. This is a rule of thumb!

During the process of operating, the pressure might be lost in the pipes and valves when the water flow reaches the sprinklers. That’s why you will need a minimum of 45 PSI to best operate the systems. Besides, some small rotors for residential use will work best at a distance of 25 to 35-foot spacing.

Rotary heads deliver water slower than traditional spray heads in a stream. Therefore, it is best used for slow-draining soils and slopes. Also, rotors with rotary heads can save a large amount of water from runoff due to their slower precipitation which is less susceptible to wind drift.

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Rotary Nozzles

rotary nozzles

The rotary nozzle has become extremely popular in recent years. Almost all the manufacturers classify a rotary nozzle as a spray head in their categories. This comes from the size of a nozzle similar to the standard one of spray patterns. Depending on the model of nozzles, they should be placed between 15 and 35 feet in general.

Rotary nozzles are more efficient but less expensive than other traditional spray heads. And nozzles are recommended to be used in place of standard spray heads. Compared to sprays, with the spacing over 20′, it will be more typical to use a rotary nozzle or rotor than a spray head.



This type of sprinkler system is not used for watering grass lawns because the stream of water is very fast in small spaces. Bubblers are usually used to flood areas around shrubs and trees. Bubblers must be used in level areas, as well as where the soil does not drain quickly like clay, because they will flood plants away.

There are a number of different types of bubblers that you can see available in many manufacturers:

  • Flood bubblers

  • Stream bubblers

  • Micro bubblers

Drip Systems

drip system

For extensive landscapes, you should use a drip system instead of the combination of many bubblers. The drip irrigation system brings more efficiency than any sprinkler system in a large landscape. The drip system works best for flower beds and crops.

Sometimes you will need to mix and match higher pressure sprinklers such as rotors with a low sprinkler head like drip irrigation on the same zone of irrigation.

No matter whether you use bubblers or drip irrigation or combine two of them, each sprinkler head should be installed with a separate valve on its own zone. These valves adjust the built-in pressure regulation in sprinklers or drip heads. If you place both valves in the same zone, some plants could be over-watering while others are under-watering.


Check these questions for your sprinkler system election:

Is your area which needs watering larger than 30 x 30? If yes, rotors are the best solution.

Is your irrigation system supply less than 40 PSI of water pressure? If so, you should choose to use spray heads or rotary nozzles since they can work with enough function at low pressure.

Is the edge of your area curved? You can use rotors just in case there are no flower beds in that area. If no or you want the border of the area not to get water, you can replace it with a smaller rotary nozzle or spray sprinkler.

Do you have many shrubs to water outside the lawn area? Consider installing a drip irrigation system or bubblers (if you want). Installing a drip system might be more efficient than a group of bubblers.

Don’t hesitate to contact us to get a free estimate at (206) 265-2940!


The Real Costs to Install an Irrigation System

The costs to install sprinklers vary based on the size and form of the lot, water distribution, the number of landscaping beds existing, and the quantity and size of the head. A smaller yard needs a smaller head that is closer together, whereas a larger yard necessitates a larger head that sprays farther.

A typical suburban yard is roughly a quarter-acre in size, and sprinkler systems cost between $2,500 and $3,500 to install. The average cost varies from $3,500 to $5,500 for a half-acre lawn and $6,000 to $10,000 for a one-acre garden.

an Irrigation System

A drip irrigation system uses above-ground drip lines for residential lawns and is usually more efficient than sprinkler systems, making them an excellent alternative for people with big lawns or gardens that demand a lot of watering. A drip sprinkler system will cost between $1,800 and $2,500 per acre.

Cost of Underground Sprinkler System

Some homeowners choose to keep their sprinkler systems hidden below to give their landscape a clean, smooth appearance. To finish the project, you’ll need to dig a trench. And the cost for you to hire a digger to help you with it is about $400 to $1,200 in total or $4 to $12 for every linear square foot. You may be able to decrease expenditures in half if you can do it yourself. In another way, hiring a local excavation firm near you is an excellent method to complete the work quickly.

An underground sprinkler system will cost between $1,740 and $3,410 for a quarter-acre lawn. The price rises in direct proportion to the size of the lawn.

Underground sprinkler systems are often automated, and the entire cost includes a panel and timer.

Free estimate your landscape cost today!

Pressure Requirement for Sprinklers

Most designers use the operating pressure of 30 PSI most efficiently for almost all types of sprinkler heads. There are just some exceptions when lacking available pressure leads to lower PSI. If you use lower pressure per square inch for the sprinklers, you must ensure the distance between the spray heads is close enough since they won’t spray as far.

In addition, almost all types of spray heads are designed to have a radius adjustment screw that allows homeowners to reduce the watering radius when using in small areas.

For rotor sprinklers, the higher pressure for operating would be better. In general, rotors will not work with pressure under 30 PSI. However, much high pressure will blow the sprinkler apart. That’s why understanding how to determine the optimal pressure is important to setting your sprinkler heads.


As we discussed from the beginning, installing a sprinkler system is a challenging project that requires a lot of effort, skills, and time. If you’re not ready for being responsible for all the faults during the process, contact an expert to help you in this field. Though it costs more expensive than doing it yourself, it provides fewer risks than that.

To begin to choose a professional, remember to ask them for the certifications and permits to avoid unwanted results.

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Green Arbor Landscaping is a full-service, 35 years experienced landscaping company serving customers. We inform you confidently that we will provide you with professional landscaping services in the area. All our laborers are required ongoing training to maintain their licenses with hands-on experience at the top level.

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