A Homeowner’s Guide To Sprinkler Heads

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Having the right irrigation system is essential to keeping your lawn and plants looking lush and healthy. Among the crucial components of any irrigation setup are the sprinkler heads. These small but important devices come in various types, each designed to meet specific watering needs and landscape requirements. 

Understanding the differences between these sprinkler head types can help you make informed decisions when designing or upgrading your irrigation system. Join the Little John’s team as we explore three common types of sprinkler heads.

Rotary/Rotating Heads

Rotary sprinkler heads, also known as rotor heads, are characterized by their rotating action. They typically feature multiple streams of water that are propelled in a circular or semi-circular pattern. These are common, in-ground sprinkler heads that are often utilized by professional lawn care and irrigation companies for both residential and commercial properties. 


  • Suitable for larger areas: Rotary heads are ideal for covering large lawn spaces or expansive landscapes due to their ability to distribute water over a wide area.
  • Adjustable range and pattern: Many rotary heads offer adjustable spray patterns and distance ranges, allowing for precise customization to match the shape and size of the area being irrigated.
  • Resistant to wind interference: The rotating action of rotary heads helps to minimize the impact of wind drift, ensuring more efficient water distribution.
  • Suitable for uneven terrain: These sprinkler heads are capable of delivering consistent coverage even on uneven terrain, making them suitable for sloped or irregularly shaped landscapes.
  • Can handle higher water pressure: Rotary heads are designed to withstand higher water pressure, making them suitable for use with well systems or areas with varying water pressure levels.

Multistream Heads

Rotary stream sprinklers, also known as multistream rotors, are designed to deliver water in multiple streams or jets over a wide area. These sprinklers feature rotating nozzles that emit water in a spiral pattern, covering large swaths of land with minimal overspray. Rotary stream sprinklers are highly efficient at distributing water evenly, and they are a popular alternative to traditional rotor sprinklers. They are often used in combination with other irrigation components, such as controllers and valves, to create efficient watering systems for various applications.

Gear-Driven Rotary Heads

Gear-driven rotary heads utilize gears to distribute water in a controlled manner over a designated area. These sprinklers feature single or multiple streams of water emitted from rotating nozzles, resulting in a consistent and even distribution pattern. These sprinklers offer adjustable spray distances, arc settings, and flow rates, allowing users to customize irrigation based on specific watering needs. Gear-driven rotary heads are known for their quiet operation and ability to provide reliable performance over extended periods.

Impact Rotary Heads

Impact rotary heads, though not true “rotary sprinklers,” are recognizable by their distinctive clicking sound and back-and-forth rotating motion. These sprinklers feature a spring-loaded arm with a nozzle that releases water in powerful short bursts as the arm rotates. Impact sprinklers are highly effective at delivering water over long distances, making them ideal for large open spaces such as agricultural fields, golf courses, parks, and larger lawns. They offer customizable spray patterns and can withstand harsh environmental conditions and high winds. 

Spray Heads

Spray sprinkler heads and rotor sprinkler heads differ primarily in their method of water distribution and coverage area. Spray sprinkler heads emit water in a fixed pattern, typically in a fan-shaped or circular spray, covering smaller areas with a consistent spray pattern. They are suitable for watering flower beds, shrubs, and small to medium-sized lawn areas. They are installed on risers or pop-up bodies and are available in various spray patterns, such as full-circle, half-circle, or quarter-circle, allowing for precise water distribution. 


  • Precise watering: Spray heads are known for their ability to deliver water with precision, making them suitable for irrigating smaller or more intricate areas such as flower beds, shrubbery, or narrow strips of lawn.
  • Adjustable spray patterns: Many spray heads come with adjustable nozzles that allow users to customize the spray pattern to suit specific watering needs, whether it's a full circle, half circle, or quarter circle.
  • Low profile design: The pop-up design of spray heads allows them to retract into the ground when not in use, minimizing the risk of damage from lawn mowers or foot traffic.
  • Uniform coverage: Spray heads are designed to provide uniform coverage within their designated spray radius, ensuring that all areas receive adequate water distribution.
  • Water conservation: These sprinkler heads are typically designed to minimize water waste by delivering water directly to the target area without overspray or runoff.

Pop-Up Spray Heads

Pop-up spray head sprinklers are a popular choice for residential and commercial irrigation systems due to their discreet design and efficient water distribution. These sprinklers are installed flush with the ground and feature a retractable nozzle that pops up when activated and retracts when not in use. Pop-up spray heads are available in various heights to accommodate different types of grass and landscaping features. They are well-suited for watering small to medium-sized areas with a uniform spray pattern, and homeowners often appreciate their seamless design into the landscape. 

Fan Spray Heads

Fan spray head sprinklers, also known as micro sprays or fan jets, are designed to emit water in a wide, fan-shaped pattern. These sprinklers are commonly used in gardens, flower beds, and other landscaped areas where precise watering is required. Fan spray heads typically consist of a flat nozzle that disperses water in a gentle, even manner, covering a broad area with minimal runoff. They are suitable for irrigating delicate plants, seedlings, and areas with irregular shapes. 

Soaker Heads

Soaker heads, also known as drip irrigation heads or drip emitters, deliver water directly to the roots of plants through a network of drip tubing or hoses. Drip lines emit slow, steady droplets of water that are perfect for watering individual plants and trees. They are installed on the ground and buried a few inches beneath the soil surface. This type of sprinkler head aims to consistently saturate the soil for new seedlings. 


  • Water efficiency: Soaker heads are highly efficient in water usage since they deliver water directly to the plant's root zone, minimizing evaporation and runoff.
  • Customizable watering: Drip irrigation systems can be customized to deliver precise amounts of water to each plant based on its specific water requirements, resulting in healthier plants and optimal growth.
  • Weed suppression: By delivering water directly to the plant's root zone, soaker heads help reduce weed growth by depriving weeds of the moisture they need to thrive.
  • Suitable for all soil types: Drip irrigation systems can be used in a variety of soil types, including clay, sandy, and loamy soils, making them versatile options for gardeners and landscapers.
  • Ideal for slope and irregular terrain: Soaker heads are well-suited for use on slopes or uneven terrain where traditional sprinkler systems may struggle to deliver consistent water distribution.

Bubbler Heads

Bubblers are another type of drip irrigation system that is ideal for watering large areas such as trees, shrubs, and rock gardens. They emit water in a slow, drip-like fashion delivering water directly to the base of the plant, which is perfect for watering plants with deep roots.

Water The Way You Want

Selecting the right type of sprinkler head for your irrigation system is crucial for achieving optimal watering efficiency and maintaining a healthy landscape. Whether you opt for rotary heads, spray heads, or soaker heads, understanding their features and suitability for different applications will help you design a more effective and efficient irrigation system tailored to your specific needs. Call Little John’s or an irrigation specialist near you to find the system that best suits your needs today!