7 Types of Sprinkler Heads (Pros, Cons & Everything You Need to Know)

Kenneth Wilson

To achieve the lush green lawn you desire, you need to ensure your yard is watered sufficiently. That said, there are several different sprinkler heads you can consider to provide optimal coverage.

Standard sprinkler heads can be divided into two primary categories: rotor heads and spray heads. Each one has different variations and sprinkler spray patterns.

Now, let’s dive deeper into the different types of lawn sprinkler heads to help you choose the right kind for your needs.

7 Types of Sprinkler Heads for Lawn Use


Different sprinkler heads have unique watering mechanisms, benefits, and setbacks. With that in mind, let’s discuss the various sprinkler head types along with their pros and cons.

1. Pop-up Sprinklers


Often called in-ground sprinklers, pop-up sprinklers are among the most common sprinkler head types. Many homeowners are fond of this sprinkler head because of its high efficiency. Pop-up sprinklers offer an even water distribution and spray, despite low angles.

It comprises an underground irrigation system with a sprinkler head that's slightly fixed underneath the ground surface. So, pop-up sprinklers rise from the ground when activated and go back underground once the system is turned off. It is perfect to use if you're a homeowner or you plan to stay in the property for a long time– given its expensive installation and stressful removal process.

Most suitable for any yard (regardless of size), gardens, and side yards.

Pros:

  • These are hidden whenever they are not in use
  • Available in different types

Cons:

  • Unable to do well in really wet areas
  • It may have to be replaced regularly

2. Traveling Sprinklers


This refers to a specialized tractor sprinkler type that moves via the strength of the water pressure. However, it doesn't require electricity or gasoline to move around. It also doesn't need to be manually pushed. As such, it eliminates the stress of having to move around just to water the entire vast area strenuously. You can just let it drive around the yard and water the lawn for you.

Best suited for large lawn areas.

Pros:

  • Suitable to use anywhere portable, unattended irrigation is needed
  • It eliminates the need for electricity

Cons:

  • Not ideal if you have an inlet pressure outside of the 30-60 PSI range

3. Rotary Sprinklers


Rotary or rotating sprinkler heads spray a continuous water stream in a circular pattern. It spreads the water more gradually than a standard spray sprinkler head. Given that its rotation speed can force the water farther than its usual reach, it is suitable for rather extensive-sized gardens. They are also ideal for lands that take a while in soaking up water, such as clay lands.

Most suitable for medium or large-sized lawns and side yards.

Important note: Most rotating sprinklers will require high water pressure– between 40 and 50 PSI.

These sprinkler heads stream water with less runoff and wasted water. Even strong winds also do not blow the water away that easily. Rotating sprinklers can be broken down into three main types. (Related: Selecting The Best Rotor Sprinkler Head For Your Yard)

  • Stream rotors – It sprays multiple rotating water streams in different directions simultaneously
  • Gear-driven rotors – This is designed with gear-driven heads that use the flowing water's pressure to spin the head and spray streams of water continuously
  • Impact rotors – This rotating sprinkler operates using the pressure from when the nozzle water stream comes in contact with the spring-loaded arm

Pros:

  • Water can travel long distances
  • Allows you to penetrate the soil deeply
  • Different options are available (full or partial coverage)

Cons:

  • Its power may be damaging towards young lawns
  • Frequent maintenance issues

4. Oscillating Lawn Sprinkler


Oscillating sprinklers consist of a long tube with several holes in the head. Although it takes a while to build sufficient pressure once turned on, it sprays water in a rectangular pattern once the pressure is enough. This is due to the pressure forcing the water to sway back and forth.

Pros:

  • Perfect for standard backyards with rectangular grass areas
  • It can handle a wide range of sizes (as long as it's uniform)
  • Can perform well with low and high water pressure levels

Cons:

  • Not recommended for curved or irregularly shaped lawns
  • Cheap models may create puddles and have an inconsistent performance

5. Stationary Lawn Sprinklers


True to its name, stationary sprinklers work in a fixed position– so they cannot move around. Its water sprays take on a specific pattern, but it may be sprayed in a full circle or half. It is suitable for lawns with straight edges, as they can be placed at the straight edge facing inside to spray a half-circle pattern.

As fixed sprinklers have less pressure than their rotary counterparts, they can only spray water in a small area at a time. Hence, these are ideal to use for small to medium-sized gardens. If your water pressure at home is weak, they work fine with it as well.

Pros:

  • Cost-effective
  • Highly durable, as they don’t have moving parts
  • Does great even with low water pressure

Cons:

  • Not suitable for large-sized lawns
  • Low versatility; only waters in one pattern

6. Misting sprinklers


Often called micro-sprinklers, misting sprinkler heads deliver tiny amounts of water per hour on smaller areas. These are recommended to use if you have plants at home that require delicate and more precise watering patterns, such as flower beds. It’s also suitable in areas with compacted soil.

Fortunately, misting sprinklers do not require high water pressure. Even low water pressure households can use these sprinkler heads at ease.

Pros:

  • Energy and water-efficient
  • Easy installation

Cons:

  • It may not be suitable for properties with low water pressure

7. Sprinkler Hose


Some professionals do not consider a sprinkler hose part of the sprinkler head systems. But, we decided to include them in this list as they prove to be a blend of both hoses and sprinklers.

Generally, sprinkler heads can be attached to hoses to be sprayed across the lawn. They can be manually used or set at a particular angle to cover a small area. These lawn sprinklers do not have high pressure, so it's more fitting for flower beds or small pots. Use this if you only need small area water coverage.

Key Considerations Before Choosing a Sprinkler Head Type


You need to consider several factors in determining the best sprinkler type for your lawn.

  • Area size – The actual size of your garden or yard will determine the right sprinkler head type you need. Homeowners with larger areas to cover will need a far-reaching sprinkler type, allowing them to spray at great distances. Doing so is considerably cost-effective, as they won't have to install numerous sprinklers in place. Those with smaller land areas can use sprinklers with a shorter reach. (Related: How To Determine Sprinkler Heads Per Zone For Optimal Residential Irrigation)
  • Water pressure – Your current water pressure will also influence the sprinkler head type you need. If you have considerably high water pressure, you can choose from several sprinkler heads. On the other hand, you will have limited options if you have low water pressure.
  • Your lawn’s shape – Try to determine if you have a square land or land with curved borders. Knowing the shape of your lawn can help you identify the best sprinkler type for you to use. You may have areas around your property that must not be sprayed, so you must look for the sprinkler type best suited for your land's shape.
  • How your sprinkler looks – Ask yourself about your sprinkler preference. Would you like to see your sprinkler above the ground? If not, you may opt for underground sprinklers, which can be barely seen above ground.
  • Automatic or manual sprinklers – Automatic sprinklers are the type you can install and have time to water your lawn whenever you like. They can water your property even before you wake up or when you're away on vacation. On the other hand, manual sprinklers do not have timers, and you must have to be present to handle the irrigation.

Final Thoughts


Undoubtedly, different sprinkler head types are more suitable for certain situations than others. You may benefit more from a specific type of sprinkler head, especially ensuring you are spraying different amounts of water.

Your chosen type of sprinkler head will also determine the amount of water you can conserve on average, as well as the extra work you need to put in on your end. Each lawn sprinkler type has different costs and processes when it comes to installation, but we strongly advise hiring a local professional to ensure the job is done correctly. (Related: Sprinkler System Cost and Consumer Guide)

Kenneth Wilson
February 12, 2022
Yard & Garden

Kenneth Wilson

Retired contractor. Currently residing in Southwest Florida. Now in semi-retirement, I write and manage this blog focused on helping home owners make savvy decisions when it comes to finding contractors and getting their projects done. I also operate remodeling design service for homeowners.

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