Pop-up sprinklers come in spray head styles, where a fan-shaped pattern of water flows out of the sprinkler head. Much like a shower nozzle, spray pop-up sprinklers use nozzles that are easily changed to determine a pattern, such as a half circle or full circle, as well as the radius of the water "throw" or how far the water shoots across the area. Pop-up sprinklers with spray heads use spaces up to 18-feet apart, and they need between 20 to 30 pounds per square inch of water pressure to operate.
Rotor heads for pop-up sprinklers rotate streams of water backwards and forwards over an area. The rotor type moves back and forth, continuously firing off sprays of water in a burst. The rotor sprinkler is known for its sound that it makes as it rotates around shooting water and then ticking back to start. However, quieter gear- driven rotor pop-up sprinkler heads also are available. Rotors space about 15 to 65 feet apart, and they require a higher water pressure than spray heads. However, the space between rotors determines the amount of water pressure. For example, if you space the rotor pop-up sprinkler 35 feet apart, then you need 35 PSI of pressure.
In the late 1970s, brass and zinc were common choices for metal sprinkler heads, but metal pop-up sprinklers are harder to find among retailers. Metal sprinklers usually cost more than plastic models, but you can find hybrid models that use a combination of metal and plastic. Manufacturers claim that plastic nozzles perform better than brass nozzles. However, you can buy nozzles separately such as stick-on nozzles if you have issues with your pop-up sprinkler's performance.
The majority of pop-up sprinkler heads are made from plastic, a cheaper option to the metal sprinkler heads. Sprinkler manufacturers found plastic to be a more cost-effective material than metal, since machined metal parts are more expensive than injection molded plastic. Newer plastic sprinklers also perform better than the older metal sprinkler systems.