In the Time Before Plastic there was Brass.

There was a time when brass nozzles where all you saw in irrigation systems. Why? Well, there were no plastic ones. Hard to imagine pre-plastic, isn’t it?  You had brass, zinc and steel. Brass dominated because of its looks and durability.

The first generation or three of plastic nozzles were rough. Manufacturing technology was not at the level needed to produce a truly efficient, uniform pattern spray nozzle. If you wanted quality and efficiency you went with brass.

Today’s plastic nozzles are very efficient and provide good, uniform coverage. Many of them provide coverage as consistent as brass nozzles. They are also cheaper than brass. Why, then, would people continue to buy brass? There are a number of good reasons.

Normally about now I’d start throwing some numbers and statistics at you to show you why this product is so much better. Not today.  I will note that brass nozzles are available with a 24’ radius. Plastic nozzles tend to stop at 15’.

Our wonderful graphics group had absolutely nothing to do with this graphic.

Why buy brass?

Well, if you are designing a system and can space heads every 24’, as opposed to every 15′,  you save on parts and labor. Parts may be cheap but labor is not. Eliminating heads while maintaining coverage can make a noticeable difference in your costs.

Durability. It’s easy to find brass nozzles 50 years old still in service. Brass is corrosion resistant, withstands hot and cold easily, and resistant to abrasion from debris.  If you see a plastic nozzle 15 or 20 years old you have found an exceptional system.

Abrasion resistance. As clean as it is, your water can still carry sand and other debris. Even with municipal water there can be fine sand and, in some areas, metal particles from inside your old galvanized supply line. When metal pipes break down they tend to do it from the inside out, releasing abrasive metal particles into your water. This fine abrasion can have a cumulative effect on any nozzle. Plastic, being softer than brass, will show wear far earlier. The particles will also adhere to the side more readily, causing a build-up that has to be cleaned more often than brass.

Hot and cold. REAL hot and REAL cold. Extreme temperatures: brass has survived them just fine for centuries. Get cold enough and plastic can get brittle. Fine if no one bothers it until it warms up again, not so fine if someone steps on it.

And the main reason people still buy brass nozzles: they look good. Architects don’t recommend brass for door handles, desk trim, railings, faucets, lighting, fountains and more because it’s the latest thing. They use brass because it looks good and stays looking good for a long time. Brass gives everything a classic, finished look.

You work hard to make your place attractive. Very few parts of your irrigation system show to the public. Shouldn’t those parts reflect the pride and work you have in the rest of your home and last just as long?

The Traveling Sprinklers! Weren’t they a rock group in the 80’s?

 Let’s face it. There are times when an underground sprinkler system just isn’t practical.  If you’re a school with a football field, baseball field, soccer field and track the cost to install a system can be prohibitive. You also lose use of the facility during installation and have to wait for the turf to re-grow.

Have a ranch and you just need to water some areas every now and then? Want to keep the dust down on the horse pens?  Multiple areas with crops on the farm and no irrigation? Neighborhood park dying from the heat?

Traveling sprinklers handle all of these with a song in their heart. Coverage ranges from a low of 54’ x 165’ to a huge 145’ x 595’ with gallons per minute from 3 to 95. That is some serious watering.

Most have hydraulic propulsion so all you add is water. One has a built in drive motor with rechargeable battery. None have MP3 players.

ABI IRRIGATION MICRO 505 The big boy first. The with a Honda 5.5 horse booster pump. This thing can put out 95 gpm and cover an area 131’ wide. With a hose length of 560’ that is some serious acreage on each pull. It handles supply pressure ranges of 35 to 96 psi.

Don’t have that much pressure? Check out the ABI IRRIGATION MICRO 25. It will give you 42’ wide with only 30psi with a hose length of 165’. That’s not bad at all.

What? You don’t even have 30psi to work with? That’s no step for a stepper. Look at the KIFCO E110 ELECTRIC. It has an electric drive motor with rechargeable battery so your supply pressure requirement is smaller. At only 23psi you get coverage 85’ wide with a 280’ hose and around 30 hours per charge. Great for low or fluctuating pressure water supplies.

Each of these can handle terrain that is slightly unlevel or rough, as you would have on a farm or ranch. But what if you have a nice, smooth area that doesn’t need the all terrain capabilities? Maybe a nice, smooth football field?

Now comes the Underhill T-400-Tracker. This thing puts out up to 85’ x 400’ of coverage on 85psi and 9 to 15gpm. Another advantage is it only weighs 58 pounds, compared to the 120 to 800 pounds of its big brothers. Running goal post to goal post helps keep the weight down.

Finally we have the Buckner traveling sprinklers, the Rain Coach and Storm Cruiser. The Storm Cruiser is the Rain Coach with a cruiser shaped protective cover. These give you a coverage of up to 145’ x 450’ using a supply pressure of 55 to 75psi. It only weighs 56 pounds, making it easy to handle.Unlike the Tracker, it doesn’t keep its weight down by running the football field. It’s more of a hot-rod.

Look for the Sprinkler Warehouse sponsored Storm Cruiser at the next Traveling Sprinkler International Showdown!

There are more traveling sprinklers than I could show today. Start your browsing at Traveling Sprinklers and you’ll find what you need.

SPF = Some People Fry SPM = Some People Melt

Couple of safety issues to go over today. We want to keep our customers healthy and buying stuff.

Some people fry.

No sunburn. Sunburn = bad. Too much sunburn = cancer = really bad.

I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on sunscreen lotions. I do, however, know how to get a bad sunburn, if that helps. In researching this post I came across the expected advice and two more things  I didn’t know. So use sunscreen, stay in shade, cover your skin, etc.

First thing I didn’t know: SPF probably doesn’t mean exactly what you think and it’s not really mathematical. The really high SPF ratings don’t do what you would expect. Because he sums it up so eloquently I’ll quote Dr. James Spencer as reported on the very useful WebMD site.

“SPF is not a consumer-friendly number,” says Florida dermatologist and American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) spokesman James M. Spencer, MD. “It is logical for someone to think that an SPF of 30 is twice as good as an SPF of 15, and so on, but that is not how it works.”

According to Spencer, an SPF 15 product blocks about 94% of UVB rays, an SPF 30 product blocks 97% of UVB rays, and an SPF 45 product blocks about 98% of rays.”

And now, the best technical summation I have ever read.

“After that, it just gets silly,” he says. ( sunscreens)

The other thing I learned is that, while SPF 45 is not three times as good at SPF 15, many doctors still recommend it and higher but not because of the minor increase in efficiency. It seems most people do not apply sunscreen properly, usually applying far too thin a layer. By recommending higher SPF they hope to compensate for the fact we don’t read instructions.

Oh, and wear a hat.

Some people melt.

If you don’t count holes, snakes, saws, shovels, picks, trenchers, mud, sun, mosquitoes and PVC cutters then there are very few hazards in irrigation work.  So let’s forget those and look at primer and cement.

Working with PVC primer and cement is easy and quick. With any minor precautions at all it’s pretty safe. Even with no precautions it is hard to hurt yourself unless you try. Unfortunately, people seem to try all the time.

You should wear gloves. The primer not only stinks but it will help you find every cut and scrape on your hand and set them on fire. Do you really want that stuff going in an open wound? It also tends to dry out your skin and you lose that ‘satiny smooth’ touch you’ve worked so hard for.   Then you get the great fun of telling everyone why your hand is purple. The cement can take a day or two to come off and you look like you have Rigelian Fever.

The cement is really a solvent. It loves to melt plastic. Get some on your new eyeglasses and you’ll need another pair. Get some on your contacts? Not only will your eye scream in pain but your contact is shot.

Keep cement and primer out of your eyes or your kids will hear those words they aren’t supposed to say.

Now the serious part. Primer stinks. Badly. Primer vapors are bad for you. People will pour it on rags, hold it up to their nose and breathe deeply for a dumb and dangerous high. Dangerous and you end up with a purple nose telling everyone you are less than smart. Make sure you use primer in a well-ventilated area.

Most situations are low risk: the outdoor repair, the quick under sink fix, etc. The danger lies in lots of exposure in confined areas. You will stop smelling it. Your brain will think the nose is lying to it cuz’ nothing can smell that bad that long. The brain stops registering the odor. You can stand there breathing in all the vapors without the built in alarm system your body started with. This is known as ‘not good.’

In 20+ years of working with primer and cement I’ve never known anyone to be harmed during routine use. I have seen people working in small closed rooms get dizzy from the fumes. It’s neither fun nor funny.

Have lots of ventilation when gluing pipe. Outdoors is best.

The bright spot is if you are at risk of sunburn doing repairs it’s not likely you are in a small closed room.  Keep your hat on, use sunscreen.

How we picked our team. Irrigation supplies, major league

Ever wonder why a company picks certain products to carry?  Sometimes it is obvious: if you are going to sell groceries you need to sell Kraft products. Sometimes it is not, like the Tabasco flavored tequila now on the market. Don’t try that one. Seriously.

Choosing the product lines for Sprinkler Warehouse involved both the obvious and the lesser known. The major requirement of each brand was that it was reliable, did what it said it would do and would show our pride in our company.

The obvious. You cannot discuss irrigation without involving Hunter and Rain Bird. Both of these companies are dedicated to irrigation and produce a full line of products. It would be extremely difficult to think of an irrigation requirement that they cannot fulfill.

There are a few others.

The one you’ve heard of but didn’t think about for irrigation.

The Toro Company. Ever wonder why it’s named “Toro”? I did. Seems it was started in 1916 to build tractors for Bull Tractors. Fits right in there, doesn’t it?  Toro is most famous for its commercial and residential lawn and tractor equipment, snow blowers and utility vehicles.  Not as well known is the fact Toro has been in the irrigation business since 1962. They produce a full complement of irrigation supplies and have one of the most innovative controllers on the market, the battery operated and waterproof DDCWP. They also produce the highly efficient Precision Series spray nozzle.

Some you may not have heard of but need to.

The K-Rain Corporation.  It’s not often you find a company started by a rocket scientist. This one is. It was founded 1974 by Carl Kah, a former manager of the U.S. Air Force’s reusable rocket engine program. According to Carl, “Thespace program set an example for all of us in business to follow. There is always something that needs to be improved.”  K-Rain keeps improving, having over 90 patents so far, including one for the Indexing valve, a Kah invention that reduces the need for five valves down to one. Their continuing quest for improvement enables them to bring quality products to market with prices noticeably lower than many of their competitors.

The DIG Corporation. DIG was founded in 1981 to do one thing and one thing only: provide efficient, cost effective low volume irrigation systems. “Low volume” is commonly known as drip or micro irrigation. That’s all they do and they are very good at it. They have anything you can think of for a drip system, whether it’s in your garden, your flower pots, under turf or in plant nurseries. They drip, spray, fog, mist and stream. They also provide the LEIT controllers. Powered by ambient light, LEIT controllers are much more sensitive than solar power, giving you more options for controller locations.

Cyber Rain Inc.  No other irrigation controller out there is as versatile, flexible, high-tech and just flat cool as the Cyber Rain Cloud controller. Need shade, order up a cloud, no problem! (sorry, couldn’t resist.) The Cyber-Rain Cloud controller does everything you can ask for and you control it from anywhere. Whip out your Android, iPhone or Blackberry phone, check your system performance, make changes and, instead of Zone 1 or Zone 4 you see a picture of the area. Why remember zone numbers when you can see what it covers? It checks the weather and automatically adjusts your irrigation schedule to match and, since Cyber-Rain uses the internet, weather updates are always free! Now folks, that’s pretty hard to beat.

Every member of our team was drafted after careful consideration. We’re glad to have them and look forward to the upcoming series/bowl.

Don’t listen to your sprinkler repair man. Better yet, don’t ask.

I’ll start by telling you that’s what I do. I repair sprinkler systems. This does cause a problem, as I’m telling you not to listen to me. Luckily, that’s handled by quantum metaphysics and we can skip ahead.

We are frequently asked: “What’s the best —?” Truth is, we usually don’t know. What we do know is what works for us. We have two basic requirements: we want to make a profit on the repair and we want the product to be good enough that we are not called back for warranty service. This defines our ‘best’ product.

We lose money on warranty repairs. This is bad.

We are also a conservative bunch. We don’t want to be the first one to try the new product and see if it lasts. We go with what we know.  We use the same rotors, the same controllers, the same pop-ups time and again.  I’ll go over a few of those and what might be better.

Pop-ups and nozzles

The Rain Bird 1800 series is one of the most popular popups out there, if not the most popular. It’s my default purchase. Why? Because in the years I was training my supervisors told me to go with the 1800s. Who am I to argue with the boss? Therefore it’s what I know and what I recommend.

What about the Hunter Pro Spray, Toro 570Z, and K-Rain 7800? All good, all in the same price range. The one you’ve never heard of, the K-Rain, might have the best seal in the bunch. Looks that way in drawings and specs. However, I install 1800s and don’t want to experiment.  See the problem here? I’m passing on a potentially better popup available at the same price just because I don’t want to try it and risk a warranty call.

How about nozzles? Rain Bird, Hunter and K-Rain are all extremely popular, pretty much same precipitation rate, all in the same price range. Which is best? Might be the Toro Precision nozzles. In a 12’ full circle spray they use about 1.3 gallon per minute less. Other sizes have similar savings.  Minimizes run off, helps with low gpm systems, and has an efficient pattern.  Why don’t I use and recommend them? They cost twice as much, if not more, than the others. People don’t want to pay for something they really can’t see and one nozzle spraying water looks like any other.

A quick note about something you’ve never heard of: K-Rain. K-Rain makes good products, has 90+ patents in the industry, is very competitively priced and apparently has one of the worst marketing programs around. Have you ever heard of it? People who don’t have irrigation systems know of Rain Bird, Hunter and Toro. There are many pros who don’t know about K-Rain. It’s hard for someone to recommend something they’ve never heard of.


The most popular rotor out there is the Hunter PGP. Sells by the tens of thousands. Is it the best? Don’t know.  I sure put in a bunch of them. To be honest I like the Rain Bird 5000 “Rain Curtain” spray coverage better. The Toro T5 and the K-Rain 11000 series are in the same price range but you get a 5” pop-up instead of a 4”.  An extra inch for nuthin’. But people know Hunter and it works so I stay with it.


I like and install Hunter. Good and reliable. That’s not the main reason I install it. Look at the face of Hunter controllers. They all look the same. I don’t have to worry about going to service a system and having to remember different brands or carry manuals with me. And, of course, I tend to recommend Hunter for the same reason.

Now look at  K-Rain series. Their controllers  are usually lower than both Rain Bird and Hunter, they also have a standard front and they are reliable. I could save you money by installing them if I were a bit more adventurous. Unfortunately, I’m a coward when it comes to money and warranties.

The point to all this is that your repairman will give you a safe answer. He works in the field all day, knows what works for him and  makes his life easier. The product might or might not be the best but it will be safe for him to recommend and it will work.

There are a lot of products out there that don’t get the exposure they should. Check our site for ideas. At Sprinkler Warehouse we try to give you all the details along with links to different manuals. A lot of information there to help you make a better choice and far more variety than many repair people have ever seen.

It’s the little rotors’ turn to turn, turn, turn…hmmm…I should put that to music.

Like the Little Engine that Could, some rotors just refuse to accept limitations. There is a whole bunch of over-achiever rotors available for smaller systems or smaller areas just eager to show you what they can do. Retro-fitting an old system? Need to cover a smaller area? Only have a ½” supply line? Listen! You can hear them yelling “Pick me! Pick me!”

Take a look at the K-Rain MiniPro, the  Hunter PGJ, the Toro Mini-8  and the Rain Bird 3500. Designed for smaller areas and retrofits these rotors fit areas too small for standard rotors but too large for standard spray heads. Coverage on these range from a low of 15’ to a high of 37’. Since most spray nozzles stop at 15’ and most rotors start at 25’+/- this fits right in.

Since they use a ½” connection you don’t need to run new pipe to get the same type coverage as their bigger siblings and you can match their precipitation rate. Have an older system that no longer provides the head to head coverage it should? Simply use these to regain coverage and possibly eliminate a head or two. For example, if your spray heads are 15’ apart you can replace each head with one of these set for 15’ or you could replace every other head with one of these set for 30’, eliminating the middle head.

For mid-range coverage they do everything the bigger rotors do and do it just as well.  And they are far more enthusiastic.

Once again I want to say that our talented graphics department had nothing to do with these graphics. Don’t want to embarrass them.

Specialty nozzles to nuzzle.

Ok. Not nuzzle. Couldn’t think of a good title. Some people say I never do.

I’ll get down to business. Most people know about the average, used everywhere nozzles. If you don’t then check out sprinkler nozzles. These generally do the job and are all most people will ever need.

There are a number of specialty spray nozzles available for increased water efficiency, problem areas or special applications.  Normally I avoid naming particular brands and products, preferring to give general information. This is the exception.

The first is the Toro Precision Series spray nozzle. While this is not technically a specialty nozzle it has some advantages over competing spray nozzles. The Precision Series has something they call H²0 technology which puts an oscillation on the spray . I’m sure the H20 name has nothing to do with the scientific name for water. Pure coincidence.  Anyway, quoting Toro, “Using patented H²0 chip technology – and no moving parts – each Precision Series Spray nozzles creates one or more high frequency oscillating streams to achieve the desired arc and radius with 1/3 less water usage.”  Yup. Sounds cool. But looks even better.

Ok. Pretty pictures and lots of marketing fluff don’t mean much without the facts. Comparing the Toro Precision nozzle to two major competitors:

Radius/ Feet Pattern GPM @ 30 psi Difference GPM
Toro 15 Full circle 2.31 —–
Brand A 15 Full circle 3.72 +1.41
Brand Z 15 Full circle 3.70 +1.39
Toro 15 Half circle 1.16 —–
Brand A 15 Half circle 1.86 +.70
Brand Z 15 Half circle 1.85 +.69

You might ask “If these are so good, why aren’t more people using them?”  Good question. Thanks.  The only downside to these nozzles appears to be the price. The Toro Precision sells for roughly 2.5 times the cost of standard nozzles. That can make noticeable difference in installation costs for an entire system. However if you are in a retrofit or repair situation and need to have better control over your precipitation, fix a zone that has been expanded beyond capacity, or control run off on slopes they offer you some valuable options.

Let’s talk about Rain Bird Rotary Nozzles.  These cover a radius of 13 to 24 feet. Their big advantage is the ability to match these to the Rain Bird 5000 rotor series and get the same precipitation rate.  Let’s say you have a large area that will be covered by rotors and a small area next to it, say 20’ x 20’. Normally the smaller area would require its own zone using spray heads on pop ups. With Rain Bird Rotary nozzles you can now cover the area with one zone and get the same precipitation rate. Use the 5000 rotors for the large area, the rotary nozzles for the small one. You’ve eliminated one valve, the wiring and one zone requirement on the controller.

Because of their low precipitation rate they are very good for watering slopes. The slower precipitation rate gives the soil more time to absorb the water, minimizing run off.

Next is the Rain Bird U-Series.  In a perfect system you have head to head coverage. Most sprays do well on the far  coverage but lack real coverage in the first couple of feet out from the nozzle. Head to head coverage means that the area missed by head A is now covered by head B. In many cases, due to poor design, changing landscape or deteriorating systems, this no longer occurs and you get dry areas around the head. The U-series has a second nozzle for greatly improved close in coverage. While not as good as head to head coverage it sure comes close.

This is beginning to sound like a Rain Bird advertisement. Not intentional, it’s just the way the nozzle sprays…

Now we have the lovely and talented Rain Bird SQ series nozzles. The SQ stands for square pattern. These put out a true square or rectangular pattern with edge to edge coverage. Most square pattern nozzles aren’t. On that I can speak from experience.

The SQ offers two settings so one nozzle throws 2.5′ or 4′, changeable with a simple twist of the top ring. It has a pressure compensator built in and fits standard pop ups and risers. It is also pretty low flow, using only .46 gallons per minute at its largest setting. Having a square pattern helps eliminate the waste that occurs when you try to match half and quarter circles to cover a narrow rectangular pattern.

And remember, if you are getting enough rain you need to muzzle your nozzles. Get a sensor.

Why didn’t the soil sensor want to party with the rain and rain/freeze sensors? BECAUSE THEY WERE ALL WET! Hahahaha…get it? All wet? Huh? Never mind….

I could have said “because he was well grounded and they were stuck up!” Would that have been any better? No?  Ok. I’ll stop.

Today’s controllers can do a number of things: multiple programs and start times, rain delays, soak cycles and more. They do it routinely, day in and day out, like nice little robots. But what happens if the conditions change? What if you don’t need more water? Tropical storm comes through and drops six inches of rain and your system is still running? What if your grandma is showing her favorite ice hockey moves on your frozen driveway? Need more ice?

Sensors are the answer. A sensor will turn your system off when there has been enough rain, or a freeze hits or if your soil just doesn’t need the water. This saves money on your water bill and, in the case of freezing, can prevent that lawsuit from when Grandma misses the goal and the puck flies across the ice into your neighbor’s window.

The simplest is the rain sensor. Easy to set, almost maintenance free. The rain sensor connects to your controller, either in a direct wire or wireless connection, and stops irrigation after a certain amount of rain has fallen. You mount it in an open area, such as the eaves of your house. You determine the amount of rain that causes the shut down, usually from 1/8” to 1”. To set the sensor you simply turn the top to the proper setting. That’s it. Rain comes down, sensor gets wet. When it gets wet enough it stops irrigation. Some rain sensors suspend irrigation immediately during rain events without need for rainfall accumulation. It rains, they stop.

Rain/freeze sensor. A rain/freeze sensor handles rain just like the standard rain sensor, either on accumulation or immediately upon rainfall. They add the advantage of shutting irrigation down before the water sprays and icicles and ice patches form on your yard and drive. The most common sensors stop activity when the temperature reaches about 37 degrees. Some models let you choose the shut off temperature, ranging from 35 to 45 degrees. The irrigation remains off until the temperature warms to above the freeze cut off settings. The rain/freeze sensor looks pretty much like a standard rain sensor.

The moisture sensor is a different kind of creature. The moisture sensor is buried in the ground, not up high. It doesn’t care if it rains or freezes. All it cares about is keeping the correct amount of water in the soil. If the soil has sufficient moisture it interrupts the irrigation cycle. Too much water in the soil can be just as harmful as too little. The moisture sensor aims for the proper range of moisture.  When the soil gets too dry it turns the cycle back on. With a direct read on soil moisture you don’t worry about wasting water through unnecessary irrigation.

With the proper sensors you can save water and money by watering only when needed. You also decrease liability by preventing icicles  and hazardous ice patches on the drive and walk.  The only downside is that Grandma might be upset you took her ice rink away.

The sprinkler rotor keeps moving and the spray head won’t budge. Which one is right?

Congratulations. You just bought a football team. Now you have a football field to water. You decide to use pop up spray heads with a 15’ radius. You can get a very efficient pattern of coverage with only 147 spray heads. Of course, you’ll constantly repair them as the players will stomp them into the ground. If, after a tackle, a player comes up with a spray nozzle in his nose I extend my sympathies to you.

How about planting a flower garden? Oh, about 6’ wide x 20’ long. Now I’ll use a rotor to irrigate it. For highest efficiency I’ll plant the rotor about 20’ past the end of the garden, spraying back in. I’ll also set it’s rotation to the standard minimum 40o angle, which means it also waters an extra 21’ of yard at the end of its arc. Hope that doesn’t hit your sidewalk.

People get confused about which type of sprinkler to use. On the one hand rotors put out a lot of water and move all around. Must be good, right?

Spray heads have a fixed radius, usually 15’ or less, and just serenely apply this efficient fan of water. No wasted movement, no back and forth agitation. Must be good, right?

The decision on which to use is simple. Answer these questions and the answer falls into place.

1. Is your distance less than 25’? If so, go with popup spray heads. The most popular rotors can’t get any closer than 22’, usually 25’ plus.

2. Wide open area? More than 25’ each direction? Rotors would work.

3. In a planter? Spray head

4. Following the curve of a walkway? Spray head

5. Narrow strip between houses? Spray head

6. Open area now, as in question #2, but you intend to put in planters later? Spray head

7. Football/baseball/soccer field? Rotors

8. Around your deck and pool in back yard? Spray head

The differences

Rotors are designed for open areas. They spray a large volume of area in a back and forth motion, either full or partial circle. Typical distances for residential are 22’ to 50’. There are some that will go down to 15’ but these aren’t normally used in good efficient designs. They are usually used to fix a problem somewhere or to help compensate for a bad design.

Spray heads are usually used on pop up bodies. They spray a consistent amount of water over a fixed area. They are available in various radii and patterns, along with adjustable pattern spray heads. This makes them very adaptable to any situation. In the eight questions above, notice that only two indicate rotors. Also that #2 and #7 are essentially the same thing, so only one situation fits rotors. After that, it’s spray heads.

Or drip. But there is already an article on that.