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Are Rotors Or Spray Heads Better For Your Lawn?

This article explains the differences between rotors and spray heads. Congratulations. You just bought a football team. Now you have a football field to water. You decide to use pop up spray heads with a 15 degrees radius. You can get a very efficient pattern of coverage with only 147 spray heads. Of course, you’ll constantly repair them as the players will stomp them into the ground. If, after a tackle, a player comes up with a spray nozzle in his nose I extend my sympathies to you.

How about planting a flower garden? Oh, about 6′ wide x 20′ long. Now I’ll use a rotor to irrigate it. For highest efficiency I’ll plant the rotor about 20″ past the end of the garden, spraying back in. I’ll also set it’s rotation to the standard minimum 40ยฐ angle, which means it also waters an extra 21″ of yard at the end of its arc. Hope that doesn’t hit your sidewalk.

People get confused about which type of sprinkler to use. On the one hand rotors put out a lot of water and move all around. Must be good, right?

Spray heads have a fixed radius, usually 15′ or less, and just serenely apply this efficient fan of water. No wasted movement, no back and forth agitation. Must be good, right?

The decision on which to use is simple. Answer these questions and the answer falls into place.

  1. Is your distance less than 25′? If so, go with popup spray heads. The most popular rotors can’t get any closer than 22′, usually 25′ plus.
  2. Wide open area? More than 25′ each direction? Rotors would work.
  3. In a planter? Spray head
  4. Following the curve of a walkway? Spray head
  5. Narrow strip between houses? Spray head
  6. Open area now, as in question #2, but you intend to put in planters later? Spray head
  7. Football/baseball/soccer field? Rotors
  8. Around your deck and pool in back yard? Spray head

The Differences: Rotors vs Spray Heads


Rotors are designed for open areas. They spray a large volume of area in a back and forth motion, either full or partial circle. Typical distances for residential are 22′ to 50′. There are some that will go down to 15′ but these aren’t normally used in good efficient designs. They are usually used to fix a problem somewhere or to help compensate for a bad design.

Spray Heads:

Spray heads are usually used on pop up bodies. They spray a consistent amount of water over a fixed area. They are available in various radii and patterns, along with adjustable pattern spray heads. This makes them very adaptable to any situation. In the eight questions above, notice that only two indicate rotors. Also that #2 and #7 are essentially the same thing, so only one situation fits rotors. After that, it’s spray heads.