All About Rotor Sprinklers

All About Rotor Sprinklers

Apr 9th 2024

A sprinkler system is the most convenient and gentle irrigation method that can provide even coverage to all areas of your lawn. When it comes to maintaining a beautiful lawn, an efficient irrigation or sprinkler system is crucial. Rotor sprinklers can help make irrigating your large yard a low-effort job so you can keep healthy lawns and plants during hot and dry periods. They provide distance and coverage while maintaining efficiency. These sprinklers deliver water in large droplets to your lawn, cover large areas, and save water.

Read on to learn all about rotor sprinklers, including how these sprinklers work and their pros and cons.

What is a Rotor Sprinkler?

Rotor sprinklers are gear-driven or pop-up sprinklers that work by rotating and producing an efficient stream or multiple streams of water over the lawn instead of a mist. They pop up at a predetermined time, are designed to rotate in full or half circles, and do not function with a throw distance (radius) of less than five meters. They have an adjustable turret that rotates side to side or in a 360° circle, depending on the model.

Rotor sprinkler irrigation systems are efficient and high-volume systems that are installed underground. You can install this sprinkler system below the surface, making it an invisible and aesthetically pleasing option to water your lawn and landscape.

Where to Use Rotor Sprinklers

Rotor sprinklers throw water over a far wider radius than spray sprinklers, so they are perfect for medium to large lawn areas. They are also a good choice for slow-draining and sloped yards because they deliver water more slowly than spray heads. Their precipitation rate is between 0.5 and 1 inch per hour. This rate makes them the best solution to irrigate sloped gardens because they give more time for water to be absorbed into the ground. Usually, water applied to sloped areas runs off the hill rather than absorbing into the ground.

If you have a complex and larger landscape, it is best to use a combination of a drip irrigation system with an underground rotor sprinkler system for better coverage and adaptability.

Operating Pressure Range and Radius of Rotor Sprinklers

The optimal water pressure range for a rotor sprinkler is between 45 and 50 PSI, which is higher than spray heads. These heads have an average radius between 18 and 55 feet. Some rotors can be spaced closer than 18 feet. However, they can be expensive because spray sprinklers will cost less and work well at this distance. Also, there are rotors for spacings greater than 55 feet, mainly used for golf courses. The greater the space between them, the higher the water pressure needed. When buying the rotors, keep in mind that the water pressure must be high to make up for the distance between sprinklers.

How Rotor Sprinklers Work

A rotor sprinkler starts with water entering the base of the sprinkler from the water source. From there, it runs through a filter screen and flows through a turbine. The water flow moves the turbine, which powers internal gears in the sprinkler to rotate the nozzle. The water travels up the head and exits in the form of a stream to irrigate your garden. Most rotor sprinklers come with a set of nozzles in multiple sizes to help you balance your irrigation system than a single nozzle. You can remove the nozzle and change it to a different size, depending on the requirement.

Furthermore, there is a radius reduction screw at the sprinkler nozzle which is an essential component of the system. This screw secures the nozzle on the sprinkler. You can use the screw to control the radius and increase or decrease the throw distance the sprinkler can cover.

Pros and Cons of Rotor Sprinklers

Here are the benefits and drawbacks of a rotor sprinkler system.


Large Coverage Area: Rotors work well for expansive gardens and lawns as they have a long range and throw further than a spray body. They are the best option for people with larger properties. If designed and installed correctly, this sprinkler system will cover your entire area.

Water Efficiency: A rotor sprinkler system distributes the water evenly to all areas of your yard, reducing the possibility of under or overwatering some areas. They will equally cover all areas and use water more effectively.

Best for Sloped or Unlevel Landscape: Rotor sprinklers apply water slowly, allowing all areas to absorb it better. This is highly effective on sloped areas or areas with hard or rocky soil.

Less Maintenance: Rotor sprinklers are less likely to become clogged due to their design. They can push clogs through the system and can also be opened, washed, and reused.


Wind Interference: Although rotor sprinklers can cut through the wind, there is less control, and they can overspray on fences, driveways, and other features.

Run Time: Rotors distribute water slowly, so they require a longer run time.

How to Install Rotor Sprinklers

Here is a step-by-step process for installing rotor sprinklers.

  • Make a layout plan for your sprinkler system and mark the locations where you want to place rotor sprinklers and pipe networks. Measure the distance at which the sprinkler will throw the water and make sure there is plenty of overlap in the spray pattern for head-to-head coverage.
  • Now, dig a trench about 6 to 12 inches deep at the location you marked for the PVC pipe and rotors. Lift the turf gently to keep it as intact as possible.
  • Connect the pipe to the water source and run the water for 2-4 minutes before installing the rotors. This will flush out any dirt in the pipe that may clog the rotors. Ensure connections are secure and watertight.
  • Next, install the rotor sprinkler. You can install it directly on the threaded outlet of the fitting or barbed connector, or you can attach the swing pipe to the threaded outlet of the fitting for greater flexibility. Install a rotor sprinkler from a fitting using barbed connectors.
  • Inspect every sprinkler and connection to ensure the system is leak-proof. After inspection, backfill the soil.

Tip: Install the drain valve at the lowest point of the sprinkler system to prevent the effects of freezing and avoid damage to rotors and pipes.

Head-to-head watering is a crucial technique to follow that helps reduce the risk of dry spots. Sprinklers should be placed uniformly so the sprays overlap 100%. If the water from one sprinkler can hit the next sprinkler from every angle, it means your sprinkler system is installed correctly and will water each area properly.

Rotor Sprinklers Maintenance

The nozzle and internal mechanisms of rotor sprinklers can become clogged with dirt, causing dry spots and sprinkler failure. Therefore, you should perform simple system maintenance once a month or two to prevent sprinkler malfunction. The maintenance steps include:

  • Gently remove any overgrown grass around the sprinkler cap using a trowel. Be careful so you don't damage the head.
  • Remove the rotor nozzle by turning the radius adjustment screw. Check your sprinkler's manual to determine how to lift the head.
  • Clean the nozzle and wash it under water.
  • Hold the center pin with pliers and remove the filter located at the bottom of the internal riser. Clean the filter screen, rinse it under running water, and place it back.
  • Reassemble the sprinkler and readjust the spray pattern.

Always follow the instructions when disassembling your sprinkler to avoid damage.

How to Choose the Right Rotor Sprinklers for Your Lawn

There are numerous benefits to choosing the right rotor sprinkler for your residential or commercial irrigation system. Rotors are best for irrigating large turf areas due to their extended spray range and lower precipitation rate, delivering even coverage, saving water, and lowering costs. However, buying the right rotor sprinkler can be daunting because there is plenty of information available. You need to look at the sprinkler's features to find the perfect for your irrigation needs. Here are the important features you should consider when choosing rotors for your garden or lawn.

Radius: This refers to the throw distance of the sprinkler's spray. Check out the range of radius offered by sprinklers. Many rotors have an adjustable screw that affects radius.

Operating Pressure: This is a pressure range within which the rotor is designed to operate. It's important to note that operating pressure varies from the recommended pressure. So, it is recommended to operate above the minimum pressure and below the maximum.

Flow Rate: This refers to the amount of water that the rotor sprinkler emits over time. Pressure and nozzle choice affect the flow rates. The flow rate for rotors is always denoted in GPM (gallons per minute).

Inlet: Rotor sprinklers are available in ½, ¾, and 1" inlet sizes, each perfect for different lawn and plant needs.

Pop-up: This is the pop-up height of the rotor sprinkler during operation. Common lengths are 4", 6", and 12". Choose the size according to the area you plan to water. There are shrub models of rotor sprinklers that are installed on an above-grade riser and don't pop up. A 12" pop-up works well for taller or medium-height ground covers.

The Bottom Line

Rotor sprinklers are a water-efficient and economical option for irrigating your lawn and garden. Having a healthy and beautiful yard improves the curb appeal of your home and creates a perfect outdoor area for gatherings. If you want to water a large area efficiently and quickly without water loss, rotors are what you need.

DripWorks carries a wide selection of rotor sprinklers for a variety of sprinkler irrigation applications, from small landscapes to large lawn areas. Our collection of lawn sprinklers from established brands will provide the durability and efficiency you need in your sprinkler system.

Explore our sprinklers collection and get the one that suits your irrigation needs. For any queries, feel free to contact us!