Drip Emitter Buying Guide

Drip Emitter Buying Guide

Aug 28th 2023

Drip irrigation is the most advanced and efficient water-saving solution to irrigate your garden, landscape, or farm. And drip emitters are the heart of any successful drip irrigation system, as they supply a consistent flow of water to individual plants. Emitters control the water flow and force out the water slowly to ensure water penetrates the soil without overwatering your plants. But you should know what type of drip emitter or dripper to use that best suit your irrigation needs.

This drip emitter buying guide will discuss everything about emitters, including each crucial factor you need to consider for choosing the best emitter for your project. Let's get started!

What are Drip Emitters?

Drip emitters or drippers are one of the main components of a drip irrigation system that control the flow rate and volume of water from mainline tubing to plants. They are inserted directly into tubing and placed where needed or at the end of a ¼" line to reach nearby plants. They will deliver water onto your plant's root zones. There are two types of emitters, the pressure compensating emitters and basic or non-pressure compensating emitters.

Drip emitters are well-suited to water vegetable gardens, trees, shrubs, flowers, hanging baskets, and more. Normally, a single plant requires one or two emitters. However, there are two main categories of drip emitters: Pressure Compensating and Non-Pressure Compensating. Let's see how both types differ from each other.

Pressure Compensating vs. Non-Pressure Compensating Emitters

A pressure-compensating emitter delivers the same amount of water regardless of pressure changes throughout the drip irrigation system due to uneven terrain or long rows. Most PC emitters are diaphragm-type emitters that control water flow and tend to flush particles from the irrigation system.

On the other hand, non-pressure compensating emitters or basic-type emitters are unable to compensate for changes in pressure and to keep a uniform rate. Therefore, they don't emit the same amount of water to each plant. Also, these basic-type emitters don't have rubber diaphragms. These emitters are great for low pressure systems.

If your irrigation area has elevation changes or your irrigation system is large with long runs, you should use pressure-compensating emitters. PC emitters are popular among gardeners and landscapers because they deliver a precise amount of water to each plant.

Some most popular among landscapers and recommended pressure-compensating emitters are Woodpecker Emitters, Ceta Emitters, Cobra Stake Emitters, and Woodpecker Jr. Emitter.

Pros and Cons of Pressure Compensating Emitters

Although pressure-compensating emitters are super helpful in the irrigation system, you should also be aware of their few cons. Here are the pros and cons of these drippers:


Precise Watering: PC emitters ensure uniform water distribution to each plant, preventing overwatering or underwatering.

Flexibility: The PC emitter has a flexible diaphragm inside. These emitters can be placed over terrain with slopes or elevation changes. These changes don't affect the emitter's performance; rather, they keep a uniform rate even if the pressure changes drastically.

Water Efficiency: These emitters conserve water by reducing wastage due to pressure changes.


Cost: PC emitters are generally more expensive than non-pressure compensating emitters. They're not so cost-efficient for small-scale landscaping work.

Maintenance: Most PC emitters are self-flushing and self-cleaning. However, some PC emitters don't have this property, so they require occasional cleaning to prevent clogs.

At DripWorks, our PC emitters are designed to be self-cleaning and have the ability to remove particles from the system by automatically flushing itself after the system is turned off. Some affordable and high-quality PC emitters are Cobra Stake Emitters, Pressure Compensating Shrubbler, Pinch Drip Emitters, and Woodpecker Jr. Emitters. At DripWorks, we have a collection of all these emitters .

Flow Rates and Pressure Requirements of Drip Emitters

Drip emitters or drippers come in various flow rates that determine how much water is delivered to each plant. You can adjust the flow rate by changing the pressure in the irrigation system if using the non-pressure compensating emitters. The colors of emitters indicate the flow rate of water they will output. However, you should consider some essential factors in choosing the correct flow rate, such as emitter spacing, plant type, area elevation, soil type, and drip tubing length.

In terms of pressure, most drip emitters operate effectively between 10 to 40 psi (pounds per square inch). If water pressure exceeds 25 psi, we advise using a pressure regulator to lower the pressure to 20 or 25 psi to stop emitters from blowing out of the tubing due to excessive pressure. Still, it is best to discuss your requirements with your drip irrigation supplier to make sure you buy the right dripper for your system.

Uses of Drip Emitters

Drip emitters are commonly used in both commercial and residential landscapes. Some common uses of drippers include:

Home Gardens: Emitters are perfect for delivering water to individual plants at a uniform rate. To offer you everything in one place, we have made a convenient individual plant irrigation kit that includes Take-Apart Emitters, allowing you to water plants of any size.

Greenhouses: Drip emitters provide controlled and efficient irrigation for greenhouse crops, which leads to enhanced yield and reduced risk of diseases.

Landscape Plantings: Landscapers also prefer this drip emission device as it effectively targets specific areas and reduces water runoff, as a result enhancing the aesthetics of the landscape.

Agricultural Farms: Emitters are gamechanger for row crops, vineyards, and orchards as they precisely deliver water to root zones of plants and minimize weed growth.

Gardeners, landscapers, and farmers love drip emitters. These emission devices are perfect for water-sensitive plants, containers, sloped or uneven terrain, and to establish new plants.

How are these irrigation devices different from spray emission devices? Which one is the most effective for plants' health? Let's find out!

Spray Emission Devices vs. Drip Emission Devices

Spray emission devices, also called sprinklers, disperse water in the form of mist over a large area. These devices have rotating heads that spray water into the air before falling onto the plants and soil. They wet the entire plant, which may lead to fungal diseases and water waste. The common spray emission devices are rotor sprinklers, spray sprinklers, pop-up sprinklers, misting nozzles, and multi-stream nozzles.

In addition, drip emission devices deliver water directly to plants' root zones in a controlled manner through emitters, hoses, or tubing. They drip water near the base of plants, allowing it to penetrate the soil and nourish the roots. Also, these devices are perfect for areas with uneven terrain or limited space. The most common drip emission devices include drip emitters, bubblers, soaker hoses, pressure compensating emitters, drip tape, and drip lines.

It's important to note that both emission devices are suited for different irrigation systems, the needs of your plants, and the layout of your garden or landscape.

The Bottom Line

Pressure-compensating emitters are drip emission devices that deliver water precisely and efficiently to plants, conserving water and promoting plant growth. Selecting the right drip emitter for your drip irrigation system is crucial for designing an effective and efficient irrigation system. Consider the factors such as flow rates, your plants' needs, and landscaping area to buy the right one. The right choice of emitters will help you achieve healthier plants, save water, and give you peace of mind.

Whether you're finding pressure-compensating emitters or basic-type emitters, DripWorks has a wide range of drippers and drip emitters. Explore our collection of Drip Emitters here and find the right one that suits your application.