Top 14 Lawn Sprinkler Types

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If you’re seeking to enhance your outdoor space, investing in the right lawn sprinkler is a smart move. There are numerous lawn sprinkler types, each designed to cater to different landscapes and watering needs. From keeping your grass vibrant to ensuring your blossoms and vegetables are well-hydrated, lawn sprinklers play a crucial role in maintaining a healthy and appealing garden.

With a variety of functions and designs, understanding the types of lawn sprinklers available is key to making an informed choice. In this comprehensive guide, we’ll explore 14 essential types of lawn sprinklers, diving into the unique functionalities of each to help you determine the best fit for your garden.

What is a Lawn Sprinkler?

A lawn sprinkler, AKA a water sprinkler, irrigation sprinkler, or simply a sprinkler, is a garden tool designed to spray water into lawn or garden grass and plants. A sprinkler can also be used to irrigate crops, golf course lawns, and other forms of landscapes.

Further, these watering tools can be used to cool and control airborne dust. Lawn sprinklers operate using a network of various parts, including pumps, pipes, and the actual sprinklers. Sprinklers come in various application designs, grouped as agricultural and residential sprinklers. Further, while sprinklers come in various types and designs, they follow a singular working mechanism.

They are designed with perpendicular pipes fitted with nozzles at the top, and connected to a main pipeline. The main pipeline is where the water is supplied across the rest of the pipe network, with water being sprayed from each pipe nozzle across the lawn.

Note: Lawn sprinklers should not be confused with industrial sprinklers. Like motion-detecting sprinklers, industrial sprinklers are used for different applications. Motion sprinklers are used as a security measure on the lawn, keeping unwanted animals, like deer, and intruders out. When activated by animals or intruders, they are activated and spray water to keep them out while alerting the property owner.

On the other hand, industrial sprinklers are typically used as an active fire protection measure. They are used as property protection to protect the building or even stored goods or equipment in case of fire. Like residential fire sprinklers, they are equipped with smoke sensors.

Why Invest in a Lawn Sprinkler?

If you have a large garden or lawn space in your home, it certainly can benefit from a good quality lawn sprinkler. Investing in a lawn sprinkler comes with a long list of benefits. Moreover, there are more than a dozen types of lawn sprinklers to choose from based on your needs.

This guarantees that you will find a sprinkler that works best for your outdoor space. In addition to the consistent hydration of your lawn or garden, you will see the value of your home go up while you save money in the long run.

Here are the common benefits of investing in a lawn sprinkler;

Cost Effective

Investing in a lawn sprinkler offers multiple long term and cost-effective benefits. Using the right system saves you money on the monthly utility bills since you will significantly reduce water usage. This may be confusing for some since you imagine an integrated system running and spraying mist 24/7. Nothing can be further from the truth.

A properly programmed lawn sprinkler system will provide just enough water for your garden or lawn needs, automatically shutting off when the ground is sufficiently hydrated. Expert gardeners advice watering the garden or lawn in the morning when there is less potential for water loss and evaporation.

This allows the grounds to absorb adequate hydration and moisture to keep the lawn and garden well fed all day long. Therefore, you don’t only have to water the ground later on. You avoid doing so during the day when it’s hot and there’s a higher risk of more water uptake by the ground.

As mentioned earlier, there are several lawn sprinkler types. This allows you to choose the ideal sprinkler heads, hoses, and attachments to match the needs of the grass you have on your lawn, plants in your garden, or geographical settings. This means that you can gauge the exact amount of water needed rather than opting for a one size fits all hose.

Taking this direction ensures your garden is properly and adequately irrigated while significantly reducing your water bills. This is because this setup does targeted watering and lowers the output of the hose. Going for smart and automated options further fine-tunes the water output and usage.

Time-Saving and Convenient

Sprinkler systems also save time. You don’t have to waste a significant amount of time manually watering the lawn or garden using a hose. Even the simplest and most basic lawn sprinklers can half the amount of time you use to hose the lawn or garden.

Opting for more automated or smart lawn sprinklers reduces the time even more. After setup, all you need to do is program the sprinkler and let it do the rest. Some smart sprinkler designs even allow for remote settings and programming via smartphones.

Healthier Lawn or Garden

Using a sprinkler to consistently irrigate your outdoor space leads to a healthier lawn or garden. Proper watering promotes better growth, choking out weeds and even keeping disease-causing pathogens out. Additionally, the right lawn sprinkler gets to every part of your garden or lawn, even the hard-to-reach areas.

Moreover, sufficient irrigation promotes better soil nutrient retention and garden or lawn productivity. This, in turn, ensures plants get adequate nutrients to boost bigger and healthier growth.

Note: avoid overwatering your lawn or garden. Like under watering, overwatering comes with its downsides. These include watering down and washing off the nutrients from the soil and oversaturation which causes compact soil to choke growing plants and impact or stunt their growth. You can mitigate this risk by investing in smart lawn sprinklers with the ability to evaluate your space and determine the water volume and irrigation frequency needs.

Consistent Lawn Hydration

Using lawn sprinklers guarantees consistent lawn hydration. This is because a watering system lets you provide your outdoor space with the sufficient amount of water needed at any time of the day, no matter the type of plants you have. Sure, watering before sunlight reduces the evaporation rate during the day and the risks of disease and fungi activity.

But, having an irrigation system also fills up gaps in case your favorite plants lose moisture during an extremely hot day. In fact, a more comprehensive watering system even features moisture sensors to determine when the lawn or garden needs water.

Environmentally Friendly

Lawn sprinklers improve the environment and keep your lawn healthy. They do this by absorbing greenhouse gasses through their mist. It also helps to reap numerous airborne particulates.  Further, a long term sprinkler system in the garden creates an overall cool environment, making it more effective than running the air conditioner inside the house.

Increases the Value of your Home

Lastly, long term lawn and garden irrigation will ultimately boost the value of your home. This is because, with a lush garden, bright blossoms, healthy growing vegetables, and a heap of fruits dangling in your garden, your home looks even more attractive, neat, and clean. Now, an attractive lawn and garden are an excellent selling point for a home, especially for buyers looking for curb appeal.

The Downside of Lawn Sprinklers

It’s worth noting that lawn sprinklers also come with their drawbacks. With all their convenience and added lawn and garden utility, lawn sprinklers have a pretty steep installation and set up cost. This includes the purchase of equipment, permits, and professional work.

Furthermore, you will also incur maintenance, repair, and inspection expenses occasionally.  You will pay an even higher bill if you go for more advanced smart and programmable systems. However, while the initial investment is high, it is certainly worth every penny if your lawn needs a sprinkler.

 After all, you do get a return on your investment, whether through upping your home value or maintaining a healthier outdoor environment. Additionally, smart and programmable irrigation systems come with a cost-cutting advantage over time.

Since they are fitted with sensors and programming settings, you can fine-tune them to only consume water when it’s needed. All you have to do is critically evaluate what system you need and if the pros outweigh the cons.

Installing Different Types of Lawn Sprinklers

Generally, installing a sprinkler will cost you anywhere between $500 and up to $10,000. Several factors determine the cost of the installation. These include;

  • Equipment cost
  • Size, shape, and accessibility of the lawn or garden
  • Scope of installation work (is soil excavation required? What permits are needed?)
  • Professional installation and amount of expertise needed

Categories of Lawn Sprinklers

Lawn sprinklers are usually categorized into various major groups. From these groups, you can then deduce the different types of lawn sprinklers.  Here are the most common categories

Agricultural vs Residential Sprinklers

The most basic categories of lawn sprinklers are agricultural and residential sprinklers. Agriculture sprinklers are used as large scale irrigation systems for large fields and extensive farms.  You can also find these large networks of sprinklers on golf course lawns too. 

They normally feature a more advanced installation design, with their pipes and sprinkler heads buried into the ground. You can, however, find more modern mobile options today. These mobile options feature large-wheeled designs attached to large water pipes and sprinkler heads. This allows for more mobile and convenient watering. Once done, you can wheel the machine away for safe storage.

Residential sprinklers are the most common sprinkler categories you mostly observe used in homes, schools, and some commercial places. There is an extensive range of residential lawn sprinklers. Residential sprinklers have become synonymous with lawn sprinklers. So, in many cases, when we discuss lawn sprinklers, we are mostly focusing on residential sprinklers. With the vast range of residential sprinklers, they vary in design, size, functionality, and cost. 

Above vs In-Ground Sprinklers

Above-ground sprinklers refer to sprinkler systems installed and connected to a water source above the ground. In-ground sprinklers are installed and connected to a water source via an underground water source. Due to their design, above-ground sprinklers are easy to install yourself and most can even be moved around the yard.

Further, due to their minimal installation needs, above-ground sprinklers are significantly cheaper than in-ground sprinklers. However, since most aren’t permanently installed, you will have the extra work of connecting the hose to the water source every time you want to water the yard.

On the other hand, in-ground sprinklers come with the advantage of a permanent installation, so you don’t have to plug anything before use. They also reduce injury risks that may be caused by tripping over sprinkler heads. 

But, in-ground sprinklers tend to be more expensive due to their extensive installation. Furthermore, they are difficult to remove when you don’t want to use them or are moving houses. Plus, you need a professional to install and maintain an inground sprinkler system.

Manual Vs Smart Sprinkler

A manual sprinkler system requires you to manually run it. Different types and designs come with varying running mechanisms. The simplest manual system will require turning the water on and shutting it off.

If you have a pre-connected and pre-installed system, you will have to do the turning on and off manually. But, you can also find some programmable designs that let you set timers to automatically turn the water on and off.

A smart sprinkler system allows you better convenience and reduces redundancies. Depending on the design, you can enjoy a wide range of programmable features, including controlling the entire system from the comfort of your smartphone.

Further, most smart sprinkler systems are designed to be as efficient as possible – including saving you money on monthly water bills. These systems even come with interactive apps where you can track, analyze, and compare water usage on sprinklers from different months. These sprinklers also feature local weather data and or moisture sensors to control water output.

They use the information from these resources to automatically turn on and shut off the water or adjust the water schedule. With the right smart sprinkler system, you will be required to do very little. Some models even feature built-in diagnostic tools that alert you when there is something wrong with the system and you need to call a technician.

14 Common Types of Lawn Sprinklers on the Market

Here are the essential lawn sprinklers available on the market;

In-Ground Lawn Sprinklers

1. Pop-Up Sprinklers

Pop-up head sprinklers are a common underground sprinkler system. While fitted into the ground, the sprinkler nozzles are lifted into the air by a riser when in use and retract into the ground when not in use. A popular option for watering lawn grass, they keep the lawn safe and useful when not in use. They also prevent possible damage during mowing and potential injuries to children and pets running around the lawn. You can also use pop-up sprinklers to water flower beds and borders.

2. Fixed Head Sprinklers

Also known as static or shrub spray heads, fixed head sprinklers tend to be taller than pop-up head sprinklers. This, in turn, allows them to disseminate water to cover more plants and against obstacles. These fixed head sprinklers produce a tight and constant fixed pattern water flow.

But, the actual pattern and radius vary based on the nozzle type. Unlike pop-up head sprinklers, fixed head sprinklers don’t lift and retract. They remain stationary. These sprinklers are ideal for ground-covering plants, smaller lawns, and shrubs.

3. Multiple Stream Sprinkler Head

Multiple stream sprinkler heads feature a single sprinkler head or nozzle with multiple holes that produce small streams of water spray.  This design makes multiple stream sprinkler heads more efficient than fixed spray sprinkler heads. This design also allows them to produce water at an even and slower rate, making them ideal for ground-covering plants, uneven ground, slopes, and medium-sized lawns.

Above Ground Lawn Sprinklers: Spray

4. Stationary Sprinklers

Stationary sprinklers are a type of spray lawn sprinkler built with a base and nozzle head attached to a long pole. The nozzle sprays out water in a circular pattern. Stationary lawn sprinklers are among the most common types. Due to their circular spraying pattern, they are great for watering a wide spray area. They are also very easy to set up, but, as their name suggests, they remain at the same location.

You have to manually move them from one place to the other. Moreover, stationary lawn sprinklers produce a high water pressure, making them great for areas with high-volume water needs.  They are also an excellent option for people who want to irrigate a large area.

5. Oscillating Sprinklers

As their name suggests, oscillating sprinklers feature nozzles or heads that move or rotate back and forth, producing water in a circular pattern. You can also find a few models that let you set a full rotation or half cycle. In essence, they are just like stationary sprinklers, although their nozzles or heads move.

These types of sprinklers are ideal for an even larger space, like a lawn or garden. Compared to stationary spray lawn sprinklers, they cover a larger area and allow you to adjust the spray width. Yet, they can be a little difficult to set up and move around once you set them up. Additionally, oscillating sprinklers don’t always provide a consistent spray pattern.

6. Traveling Sprinklers

A traveling lawn sprinkler is built especially for gardeners who don’t want to spend time manually watering their lawns or gardens. These sprinklers are built to move back and forth across the lawn or garden, watering your space evenly.

They allow you to set the specific time you want the lawn watered so you don’t have to worry about manually turning it off. Due to this incredible design, traveling sprinklers tend to be more expensive.

7. Sprinkler Hoses

Sprinkler hoses look just as they sound. They feature a large garden hose with tiny holes across its length through which water is sprayed from. These types of sprinklers are designed to irrigate a rectangular area and come in various sizes to suit the area’s sizing needs. Additionally, sprinkler hoses can also be used for narrow lawn areas with curves or irregular shapes.

They also work great in small border gardens, around a circle of newly planted trees. Unfortunately, these hoses usually come with a shorter lifespan and tend to get easily clogged on their already tiny holes. Plus, sprinkler hoses are designed for narrow spaces.

8. Pulsating Sprinkler

A pulsating lawn sprinkler operates by using water pressure to water through the sprinkler. This water dispensing mechanism is responsible for producing the pulsating pattern from which the sprinkler gets its name. The pulsating water effect also allows the sprinkler to produce even watering across the lawn.

Pulsating sprinklers cover a large area pretty quickly. Yet, it uses very low water pressure, making it ideal for most lawn and garden watering needs. The pulsating effect created by the sprinkler can be quite noisy, however.

While the sprinkler uses low pressure, the pulsating water pressure can still easily damage delicate plants and lawns.

Above Ground Lawn Sprinklers: Flood

9. Bubbler Sprinklers

Whether it’s localized watering for ground covers, flower beds, or shrubs, bubbler sprinklers never disappoint. Also known as flood sprinklers, these lawn sprinklers are also great for deep watering large planted areas.

They are designed to flood the surface rather than spray it. This, in turn, gives them a low flow rate, allowing water to be absorbed as needed. This water-absorbing mechanism also makes the sprinklers perfect for targeting individual tree and shrub root systems.

10. Drip System

MIXC 226FT Greenhouse Micro Drip Irrigation Kit Automatic Irrigation System Patio Misting Plant Watering System with 1/4 inch 1/2 inch Blank Distribution Tubing Hose Adjustable Nozzle Emitters Sprinkler Barbed Fittings

A drip system or sprinkler comes in a series of holed tubes to create networks of sprinkler heads. They are designed as low-pressure and low-volume watering systems for gardens and lawns that deliver water using a stream, spray, or drip mechanism.

Built for gardeners and growers alike, drip systems provide just enough water to keep the roots moist without soaking them.  Whether you have a flower bed or you are growing multiple vegetables and crop foods, a drip sprinkler system is an excellent idea.

In addition to the variety of sizes to choose from, drip systems also let you customize or build them from scratch as a DIY project. However, unlike most sprinklers, they are not the best for large areas as they have to physically cover the area with their tubing.

Furthermore, drip systems are susceptible to tubing damage on the field and even pest damage. If you are using hard water, the tubing can also get easily clogged. Plus, due to the multiple equipment used, drip systems usually require frequent maintenance.

Above Ground Lawn Sprinklers: Rotor Head

11. Rotary Sprinkler

A rotary lawn sprinkler is built with a motor that rotates the sprinkler head at the central base. Available in manual and electric models, these sprinklers boast enough power to cover large spaces fast. But, due to their design, they may be difficult to move in uneven terrain. They also produce high pressure, causing water to spray outside the lawn or garden into paths, when not used correctly.

12. Impact Sprinkler

An impact sprinkler produces a powerful water pressure it uses to move its sprinkler arms in a circular motion. The high pressure of the water creates a reasonable force to make water sprays from this sprinkler wind resistant. Therefore, it works impressively well for large areas and distances. But, the water spray is usually directed toward the ground instead of upward.

Only get the impact sprinkler if you don’t mind the constant clicking sound created by the sprinkler arm’s consistent rotation. Depending on the model of the sprinkler, you can also adjust the water spray pressure, how high and far the spray goes, and the circular pattern’s coverage. However, proper adjustment comes with a steep learning curve, depending on the model design.

Impact sprinklers are great for large lawns and low-hanging trees. But, you want to avoid using it on delicate flower and plant gardens due to its damaging high water pressure. Plus, you need to connect the sprinkler to a water source that delivers high water pressure for optimal effectiveness.

13. Gear Drive Rotor Sprinkler

A gear drive rotor sprinkler uses the water it dispenses to run it. It uses its water spray to spin the turbine or wheel, which causes its internal gears to rotate. This, in turn, results in a smooth exterior sprinkler nozzle rotation which distributes water evenly and uniformly.

Due to this design, gear driver rotor sprinklers are great for large area applications. Different models accommodate different nozzle sizes for varying coverage and control.  Whether you have a large lawn or farm to irrigate, this sprinkler system is an excellent choice. 

In fact, this type of sprinkler is among the few that covers a large area without producing damaging water pressure. So, if you have a newly seeded lawn or garden with clay soil, you can use it fairly well. Yet, their coverage isn’t as expansive as impact rotors. Gear driven sprinklers commonly experience water pressure issues. If you have this problem, you may have to call a professional to help fix it.

14. Misting Sprinklers

As the name suggests, misting sprinklers produce small volumes of water or mists over small areas. These types of sprinklers work great for flower beds and other garden instances where you need delicate watering. They also work great in areas with compacted soil. These sprinklers are designed to produce a small amount of water at preset time intervals.

Due to their small water volume needs, they can also accommodate low water pressure sources. Misting sprinklers also come with the advantage of optimal humidity and temperature control, keeping the outdoors cool. They can also tackle dust and minimize airborne pollen and other tiny particulates.

Common questions about sprinklers

What Type of Lawn Sprinkler is the Cheapest?

Oscillating Sprinkler watering lawn

Most above-ground sprinklers tend to be the cheapest. They usually feature the simplest equipment network, using hoses and above-ground sprinklers, keeping the equipment, installation, and maintenance costs at a minimum. But, the actual costs vary based on the subtype and features you go for.

What Lawn sprinkler should I Use for an Irregular-Shaped Lawn?

Pop up sprinkler watering lawn

The best lawn sprinkler for an irregularly shaped lawn is a pop-up sprinkler. This is because these sprinklers are designed to easily access and adequately water hard-to-reach areas. With an irregularly shaped space, you are guaranteed 100% accessibility.

What Type of Lawn Sprinkler Should I Get for an Extensive Lawn?

Gear driven rotor lawn sprinkler watering lawn

A gear driven rotor lawn sprinkler is perfect for extensive lawns. This is because this sprinkler boasts enough power and effortlessly moves to cover large yards effectively.

What Type of Lawn Sprinkler Should I Use in a Dry Climate Area?

Impact Rotor sprinkler watering backyard

The best lawn sprinkler for dry climate areas is the impact rotor sprinkler. This is because these sprinklers are designed to lose less water to evaporation. Further, their watering mechanisms penetrate deeper into the soil, ensuring adequate hydration, even for extremely dry soil. These types of sprinklers are also a perfect option for homes with heavy watering needs.

Alternatively, you can use flood above ground sprinklers, such as bubble sprinklers or drip systems. These types of lawn sprinklers create a flooding mechanism, allowing your plants to adequately absorb as much water as they need to the root level. Unfortunately, flood above ground lawn sprinklers don’t work as great for extensive lawns or gardens.

The Verdict

Different lawn sprinkler types don’t just exist to give you a variety of styles and designs to choose from. Each type is specially designed to cater to particular needs. Therefore, you can take advantage of this list and use it as a guide to find a suitable sprinkler for your garden and lawn needs. Whether you have a small garden, extensive lawn, or minimal watering needs, there’s always the right type of lawn sprinkler for you.

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