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.

The Fourth of July and what I can’t do.

Well, I tried and couldn’t do it. Couldn’t figure out how to tie the Fourth of July into irrigation systems.

You’d think this would be easy. I’ve tied in zombies, Corvettes, the Bellagio and the Nile river into some aspect of irrigation: stream rotors, insecticides, nozzles and water barrels.

These have, admittedly, been a stretch at times.  Big stretch.  Can’t do it this time.

Instead, the staff at Sprinkler Warehouse hopes that you and yours have an enjoyable holiday. This is the day that started our country. On July 4th, 1776 the Second Continental Congress approved the Declaration of Independence, one of the most important documents in history. It’s the reason we are here. It’s a great day to enjoy and celebrate our freedoms.

Be careful with the fireworks. From experience I’ll tell you that you don’t want to hold bottle rockets in your hand, firecrackers going off in an open palm DO hurt, you don’t want to bend down to see if the rocket fuse is really lit, if you drop your sparkler don’t try and catch it by the wrong end and the best way to enjoy fireworks is to sit back and let someone else do the work.

Y’all have a good holiday.

Pipe Dreams? Or PVC Pipe dreams? There is a difference.

If you don’t know the difference we can’t help you here. This is not that kind of a blog. If you have nightmares about figuring out which pipe to use for your irrigation then we can help.

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. PVC is easier to say. PVC pipe accounts for about two thirds of the water distribution market, including drinking, irrigation and waste. So far the material has been found to be inert, meaning it doesn’t absorb or release harmful chemicals. Unless you burn it. Don’t sniff burning PVC.  It’s no fun, painful and the smoke can be hazardous.

The most common question we get is a two-parter: what size pipe should I use and what kind: Schedule 40 or Class 200? Knowing the differences can help you create an efficient system.

Remember the old “a picture is worth a thousand words” quote? I’ll give you a picture now and you can decide if you want to skip the other 476 words.

Let’s talk about Schedule 40 pipe first. It is the simplest. Schedule XX designates the wall thickness at a certain size. For example, a 1” pipe in schedule 40 has a wall thickness of .133”; schedule 80 has a wall thickness of .179”. Higher schedule = thicker wall.

You will care about this later. It does get more interesting, hopefully.

“Class” pipe is different and the original definitions go back to steam boilers. We’ll skip ahead. Class 200 pipe, the most common class pipe used in irrigation, is rated for 200 pounds per square inch pressure (psi) and has a wall thickness of .063” for a 1” pipe. Notice that is a lot thinner than schedule 40. This is about to become very important. Schedule 40, in comparison, is rated for 450 psi. This is not as important.

The average irrigation system is designed for about 30 to 50 psi. Plenty of safety factor built in. It is not, however, as much as you think. A poorly designed system can experience water hammer and a 60psi line can experience frequent surges of pressure up to about 170 psi. Still within safety range.

Now we can get into the “why do we care” part.  Everything in irrigation ties into gallons per minute. Your spray head puts out a certain number of gallons per minute (gpm). Your design revolves around it. If you have 13 gpm you can put six 2 gpm heads on that zone. Or four 2gpm and four 1 gpm. (Never design to the absolute max gpm.)

Look at the cross section of ¾” and 1” pipe both in schedule 40 and class 200. Check the comparative flows in the picture above. This difference in flow can make a big difference in how you design your zones. There are friction loss/flow charts available to help you.

So what do you choose? The rule of thumb is to use schedule 40 for the main line. Run it from the water meter, through the backflow and to the valves. Then use class 200 for the laterals, or after the valves.

Why schedule 40 when it allows fewer gallons per minute? Because the thick wall makes it tougher, harder to break. Your main is under constant pressure; the laterals are under pressure only when they are active and it is an open-end system. Before real pressure can build in your laterals the water is shooting out the sprays, keeping pressure down. Schedule 40 is more resistant to shovels (its sworn enemy), tent stakes, car tires, kids, dogs and other puncture/crack pressures.

There are exceptions to everything. There are situations where an entire system should be done in class 200 pipes. Same for schedule 40.  Now that you know the difference you can make a more informed decision and start dreaming about better things, like a 1973 Norton Commando.

Backflow = upchuck? Eeeewww…

Most people know they need a backflow for their irrigation system. They just don’t know why. I’m going to work this backwards. First I’ll show what can happen if a backflow is missing or broken. Then I’ll tell you how they work and why you want one for your system.

From the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources: “One of the most highly publicized cases of a backflow incident occurred in 1969 at Holy Cross University. The football season was canceled due to a large outbreak of infectious hepatitis among the team members. It was determined that backflow through an unprotected lawn sprinkler system at the practice football field caused the epidemic. Children carrying the hepatitis virus routinely played in puddles around the sprinkler heads. Fire fighting demands in the vicinity caused negative pressures at the sprinkler heads backsiphoning the contaminated water into the drinking water supply to the field.

One of the most famous cases of backflow occurred in California. A laborer had been using an aspirator attached to a garden hose to spray a driveway with weed-killer containing arsenic. At sometime during his work, the water pressure reversed. The man then disconnected the hose and unwittingly drank from the hose bib. Arsenic in the waterline killed him.”

Thirsty yet? Try this from the Environmental Protection Agency: “In 1991, an atmospheric vacuum breaker valve intended to protect a cross-connection between an irrigation system and the potable supply malfunctioned, allowing backflow of irrigation water into the public water system. The water system, located in Michigan, was contaminated with nematodes, rust, and debris.

In 1981, chlordane and heptachlor were backsiphoned through a garden hose submerged in a termite exterminator’s tank truck in Pennsylvania. An undisclosed number of illnesses occurred, and 75 apartment units were affected.”

THE BASICS If you lose water pressure to your house, for whatever reason, the water in the house will flow out to the main line. Because pressure is now reversed, going from house to main line, it creates a siphon effect and will pull anything in the sprinkler system and in the puddles around the sprinkler system with it. If your garden hose was on at the same time it becomes a siphon hose. Now all the fertilizer, insecticide, animal waste and many other things you don’t want are pulled into the drinking water.

GARDEN HOSE Notice the two involving garden hoses? How many of us drink from a garden hose when working outside on a hot summer day? Ever use that same hose to put out pesticides or fertilizer? Have a backflow preventer on the hose bib? Cheap, cheap protection.

I think it is important at this time to note that our very talented graphics department has absolutely nothing to do with the illustrations in this article. I stole their work and added my own touches.  I get the blame.

IRRIGATION SYSTEM Same principal. Have another bad drawing. A backflow works by shutting down the irrigation water line when you lose water pressure. The simplest works just like a stopper in your bathtub: a plug falls down, blocks the line. They get far more complicated, depending on application.

Don’t listen to your neighbor, me, anyone else on what type of backflow you should get. Ask your city or county or your water provider. In my area a pressure vacuum breaker is plenty. Two miles away a new jurisdiction starts and they insist on double-checks. Always verify local code requirements first.

To find out the different types of backflows look at the backflow section on sprinklerwarehouse.com. To learn more about how they work check out backflows in Sprinkler School.

And stop drinking from your garden hose until it’s protected. Lemonade sounds better anyway.

Can’t afford a trip to the Bellagio? Stream rotors + your music + your lawn chair = you’re there!

The fountains at the Bellagio, Las Vegas, are world famous. They are designed to take you away from stress and trouble with their combination of dancing water, music and light. They are not, however, designed to keep you from gambling.

Each performance is a unique interpretation of a classic piece of music.  Their definition of classic covers a broad spectrum: Mozart, Glenn Miller, the Beatles and more. I hope they are working on Hank Williams. That might take a while. His work is pretty complicated.

If you can’t make it to the Bellagio, bring the fountains to you. Get stream rotors for your yard. You will enjoy the relaxing show and you will water your yard at the same time. Having a beautiful yard helps you relax even more. You benefit in many ways.

Stream rotors are different from standard rotors in that, instead of blasting a great deal of water out of one nozzle, they produce multiple streams of water of lower volume. These streams come out at different angles, some high, some low, ensuring even coverage. If you have sloped land the slow, even coverage minimizes the chance of water runoff. Blasting gallons of water every minute at sloped land just encourages runoff, as the soil cannot absorb the water as fast as it is applied.

In traditional stream rotors the Toro 340 is the answer. Designed to replace impact or gear driven rotors with a ¾” inlet it covers from 15 to 30 feet. It also has 9 easily set patterns to cover most any area. Great coverage, great application.

Don’t have a commercial application? Looking for the Bellagio effect at your home? No problem. In the last few years a number of manufactures have developed stream rotors that fit standard pop-up spray assemblies. The stream nozzles simply swap out with the standard spray nozzles and you are in business. Rain Bird and Hunter have every situation covered.

Not sure why you want to get rid of your old nozzles? Two good reasons come to mind. First, the stream nozzles cover up to 30 feet, where spray nozzles stop around 15 to 17 feet. This means that in many systems you can have the same coverage while eliminating a number of heads, saving water. Second, stream nozzles are not as sensitive to breezes as spray nozzles. The droplets are bigger and heavier; they go where they should when standard sprays are being blown away. Wait, I’ll add a third, no charge.  A zone with stream rotors can use 30% to 40% less water for the same coverage. Less water = less money.

The reason for their efficiency lies in their pattern. Small streams, slow application and constant, even movement add up to  more consistent, usable irrigation.Take a look at the spray pattern below.

Notice how closely it matches the Bellagio fountain pattern? Quality knows quality.

So turn on the stream nozzles, add music, sit back and enjoy the show. You can charge your neighbors admission if you wish. After all, look at the money you saved them by bringing the Bellagio to them.

And How Did You Tie Corvettes Into Sprinkler Nozzles?

Life is good. You just bought your first Corvette with all the features: 6.2 liter 430-hp LS3 V8, Bose® audio system, head-up display and, to top it off,  Mickey Thompson Baja Claw TTC radial tires for off-road mudding! Race track here we come!

Life gets better! You just moved into your dream home: ocean view, indoor pool, master chef kitchens (two, so you don’t have to walk too far), a personal theater furnished by Home Theater Gear, a private elevator and, out back, your own personal outhouse!  Time for a party!

In any system all parts must work equally to achieve the desired results. Let’s trade the Baja Claw tires for Goodyear Eagle F1 Run-Flats and see if we can’t get some plumbing into your new mansion.

Nozzles are the final and one of the most critical parts of your irrigation system. It does not mattop of a sprinkler nozzleter how good the system is; putting in the wrong nozzle will make it ineffective and a money waster.

Understanding nozzles is simple. For one, the notes you need are written right on top. It’s like having the answers to your history test on the same line as the question.

Look at the top of a standard nozzle. You’ll see three things: a number, a letter and some lines. On this sample the “10” means 10 foot radius, the “H” means Half Circle, or 180 degree coverage, and the line indicate the spray area. This notation is standard throughout the industry. A full circle nozzle has the distance and pattern but no line marks.

Specialty Nozzles

There are nozzles designed just for gardens and small areas. These are strip nozzles. Their patterns are as shown below.

sprinkler nozzle strip pattern diagram

Variable Nozzles

Variable nozzles are just that: variable. They can adjust spray patterns from 00 to 3600. Marking on these are usually the radius and either A for adjustable or VAN  or simply arrows pointing in both directions. These are excellent for small or unusual angles. To adjust you just turn the top ring or the side ring, depending on manufacturer.  Extremely versatile.

variable arc nozzles spray pattern diagram


Every manufacturer has specialty nozzles. Some are low angle, some are low flow, some have different nozzle design. Each has its benefits.  All, however, fall back to the same basic descriptions: they all have a radius/distance marking, they all have a pattern description.


There can be a great deal of difference in the amount of water two nozzles from different companies put out. For example a Hunter 15’ full pattern standard nozzle at 30psi puts out 3.72 gallons per minute (GPM). A Toro Precision series, same radius, pattern and pressure, puts out 2.31gpm.  That is a difference of 1.41gpm per minute.  Both fit a need and have a specific purpose. However, you do not want to mix the Hunter and the Toro on the same zone. You will either over or under water one area.

It is important to stay with the same manufacturer on nozzles to keep the same precipitation rates.

One Final Note

Most nozzles are female thread and will swap brand to brand without a problem. Some nozzles are male thread and are for certain brands only. Female thread tends to dominate the industry but make sure of what you have before you purchase replacements.

sprinkler nozzle threads

Every thing is good. You have the right tires, an actual indoor privy and perfect coverage for your yard.

Valve Manifolds and Why You Want Them

Think about your average irrigation system. Say five zones made up of spray heads and  rotors. Front yard, back yard, side yard. Pretty much what you see everywhere.sample diagram of where to place valves in a property This means that there are five valves in the system. Now, there are two ways you can install valves. Both work. You can install them in each zone, as illustrated:

This works fine but someday, when you need to find the valve for repair, it may be overgrown, have a dog house on it or have simply disappeared.  Plus you are spending money on seven valve boxes and all that wire to go to all those valves.

sample diagram of where to place valves in yard
This is another way to place your valves. This keeps all the valves in a simple to find and maintain area and you would only need two valve boxes. This is called clustering. It makes long term maintenance far easier. You can also cluster them in out of the way, low traffic areas, minimizing risk of damage.

The easiest way to install this is with pre-made manifolds. Two of the most popular are the Action Machine and Dura brands. They are both available in different sizes and are expandable for future growth.

So what’s the difference? Why is one labeled Premium and one Standard?  There are two main differences. The first is the pressure rating. The Premium has a pressure rating of 235 psi @73o. The standard has a rating of 150 psi. Again, either will work for the vast majority of installations.

The second difference is more practical. Understand that once these are installed you don’t touch them again until something goes wrong, usually years down the line. At that time they will be dirty, wet, muddy and possibly underwater. Now you want anything that will make it easier to work on the system. The Action Machine coupling has a much larger and more defined grip on the ring. The larger grip makes a world of difference when it’s wet and slippery. Saves time, skin and frustration.

Either manifold will work fine.  You might wonder at this time why you can’t just build your own. After all, PVC is cheap and you will be working with it already.  No reason you can’t and it will work. However, the premium manifolds are made of Schedule 80 PVC, much stronger than the Schedule 40 you will be working with. Add the fact that the manifold backbone is one piece and you gain both rigidity and a guaranteed straight line.  Finally, the time and effort you spend measuring, cutting and gluing your parts together is worth something. Save that time for relaxing after the job is done.   Pre-made is best by far.


For any irrigation system questions please visit us at Sprinkler Warehouse.

Why Just Florida? Are they the only ones that can index valves?

What does Florida know about irrigation that the rest of the country doesn’t? Why do they use more of a surprisingly simple and effective device than any other state? Especially when you consider how much money this device can save? Do I sound like a late-night infomercial yet?

Take a look at the K-Rain Indexing valve. This valve lets you irrigate up to six zones without installing and wiring six different valves.  Each time the waters turns off and back on the valve waters a different zone.  There is a really smart disc inside that advances to the next zone when pressure drops. Water zone one, stop water for a few moments, start water, water zone two, etc. Automatically.

Yes, it looks strange. We don’t care: it works great.  These are commonly installed either on a direct feed from a pump or downstream of a single solenoid valve. The way it works is simple. Say you are using a solenoid valve. The valve comes on. Zone one on the index valve opens and water goes to zone one. The solenoid valve turns off. The index resets to zone two. The master valve comes on, zone two waters. Repeat for three through six. These are available with either four or six outlets; a six outlet is shown.

If you are working off a pump then each time the pump cycles the valve advances.  This completely eliminates the need for a solenoid valve and the related wiring and controller.  These valves work with flows as low as 10 GPM and at pressures of 25 to 75 PSI.

A great feature is the possibility of future expansion. Say you only have two zones but plan on expanding. You can get the four outlet model with a two zone cam. Down the line you can change the cam out to allow for three or four zones. Just keep the two future outlets capped off until then. The four zone outlet pattern is shown; the six zone is similar.

Here we have one valve that eliminates the need for any solenoid valves if working directly off a pump and eliminates the need for all but one if working off a municipal system supply. No wonder Florida loves it. Money saved on valves and money saved on wiring. Labor saved by not installing the other valves and wiring. Labor saved = money saved.  Order now. Operators are standing by. Or the website is, anyway. And if you order in the next 10 minutes you’ll have plenty of time to do something else today! So hurry!