There's a lot that goes into putting together a lawn sprinkler system, including choosing the right sprinkler heads. Making the wrong choice can turn your lawn from a lush, green work of art into a browned-out, patchy disaster. Knowing exactly what to look for can help make your sprinkler head search a much easier one.
Rotary Head or Spray Head?
Which type of sprinkler head should you get? As it turns out, that depends on a variety of factors, including lawn size, layout and pressure requirements, just to name a few. Here are a few key differences that can help you pinpoint the right type of head for your sprinkler system:
Look for a High Pop-Up Height
It's important for the sprinkler heads to clear the surrounding grass. Otherwise, you could find yourself spending a lot of time trimming the grass around your sprinkler heads. To save yourself the hard work, make sure the pop-up height of your sprinkler head is at least three inches above its base. A three-inch or higher pop-up height ensures that your sprinkler heads will clear the top of the grass.
The pop up height may be much higher in areas where particularly thick or tall grasses proliferate, as well as areas where shrubs are present. It's not unusual to see sprinkler heads with six or even 12 inches of pop-up height near flowers and shrubbery.
Always Go For Spring Retraction
A sprinkler head stuck in the upright position is just asking for trouble. Imagine mowing your lawn only to hear the devastating and potentially expensive sound of a sprinkler head being sheared off as you accidentally mow over it. A sprinkler head is more likely to get stuck if it relies solely on gravity to retract back into place.
If you want to avoid this particular problem, you should always look for a sprinkler head that uses a retraction spring to pull the riser stem back into position once the sprinkler is turned off. Retraction springs come in a variety of strengths and it's possible to retrofit an existing sprinkler head with a stronger spring to solve pop-up problems caused by weak springs.
Avoid Bucket-Style Sprinkler Bodies
Certain sprinkler head designs may allow a larger-than-usual amount of debris, including dirt, grass clippings and other organic matter, to fall into the sprinkler body whenever the riser stem ascends. Over time, enough debris can accumulate inside the sprinkler body that it prevents the stem and the sprinkler head from retracting fully into the sprinkler body. Trapped debris can also lead to a rather smelly situation as organic debris decomposes inside the sprinkler body.
Bucket-style sprinkler bodies are commonly found on impact sprinklers, where the entire sprinkler head mechanism pops up during operation. It's best to use a sprinkler design that features a wiper seal around the riser. This feature prevents dirt and debris from getting inside the sprinkler head while preventing water from leaking out of the sprinkler body.
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