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Selecting The Right Sprinkler Head For Your Sprinkler System

This article explains how to choose the right sprinkler head for your yard. To choose the sprinkler heads for your project you’ll need to know the dimensions and shape of the area, the available water pressure and the height of the plantings.

Choosing Spray Heads or Rotors

Spray Heads

Sprays disperse water in specific patterns. You can choose to change spray heads as the needs of your yard or plantings change. Spacing between sprinklers determines the nozzle radius needed. To operate efficiently, you should rarely space spray heads further than 15 feet apart. Additionally, sprays require 20-30 psi of water pressure. Ideal for smaller, fragmented, hard-to-reach areas, these heads discharge 2-3 times the water of a rotor.

This is a product image for the Rain Bird 1800 Spray Head on a white background.
This is the 4″ Rain Bird 1800 Spray Head.

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Rotors also disperse water in circular patterns. However, these cover larger areas of uninterrupted space. Small rotors tend to cover radii of 15-52 feet and large rotors can cover radii of up to 100 feet. Rotors require more water pressure than spray heads. The psi level should approximately equal the space between each installed unit.

There are two basic types of rotary heads.  These types are impact rotors and gear-driven rotors.

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Choose a sprinkler rotor or impact

Choosing a Pop-up or Fixed Body

Pop-Up Body

The most common style of sprinkler head is the pop-up head. Pop-ups come in both sprays and rotors.  Installed below the ground, the sprinkler head remains out of sight while inactive, keeping your landscape beautiful.  Furthermore, there won’t be any pipes sticking out of the ground for you and your children to either destroy or trip over.

Once the sprinkler system is turned on, a small portion of the head pops up above the surface and sprays water over the irrigation area.

Popup Sprinkler Body

The video below goes over the details of the Rain Bird 3504-PC Rotor and shows how it pops up.


Installed above the ground on a riser (a.k.a. shrub stick), this sprinkler head should be utilized if you need to provide water to high-reaching plants. They are sometimes cheaper than pop-ups, but we do advise you that this is not the best selection for an area in the middle of the lawn. Pop-ups can usually be designed to perform similar functions and will mitigate the potential problems caused by shrub sticks. If a shrub stick is indeed needed, we encourage you to install them in the corner areas of the landscape not usually walked through.

The video below shows a fixed rotor in action. This one is the Hunter PGP ULTRA Shrub Rotor, also knows as the PGP-00.