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Types of Pop-Up Sprinkler Heads

By Karen Adams ; Updated September 21, 2017
Spray pop-up sprinklers shower lawns in a fan-shaped water flow.

Sprinkler systems help maintain lawns, keeping them green and healthy. Pop-up sprinklers are preferable to systems that use risers, a type of above-ground sprinkler. The different pop-up sprinkler heads change the way your lawn is watered and how much water pressure you need to operate the system without incident.


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.


About the Author


Karen Adams has been writing professionally since 2003. At the University of Florida, she worked on the school's newspaper while earning her Bachelor of Arts in English. She contributes to many different publications regularly. Currently she lives and works in Florida and is a member of Florida University's Fiction Collective and "Tea Magazine."