Emitter Buying Guide

There are so many emitters on the market today, with many of them being very similar, it is almost impossible to choose which ones to buy. This guide will describe the differences between emitters and help you make the right choice for your irrigation system.

What is an emitter?

An emitter or dripper is a small device that is placed on a mainline or at the end of a 1/4" micro tubing that delivers water to your plants. These watering devices will have a set flow rate (GPH or GPM) and a safe operating pressure range. Most emitters have a 1/4" barbed inlet and are one directional flow rate. There are two types of emitters: Basic emitters (non-pressure compensating) and Pressure Compensating emitters. If you have an elevation change within your system of more than 5', DripWorks would suggest that you use pressure compensating emitters for even watering.

Basic Emitter

A Basic emitter has a flow rate that will change as the pressure changes within a system. As pressure increases, the flow will increase, and vice versa. Basic emitters are great for small garden spaces, containers, and gravity fed systems. It takes 2.31' of elevation change to increase or decrease 1 PSI. If you have a gravity fed system, raising your tank will increase your pressure.

A popular basic emitter is the Take Apart Emitter by Tempo. This emitter works down to 4 PSI and has a maximum pressure rating of 40 PSI. These emitters come in three flow rates: 1 GPH, 2 GPH, and 4 GPH. These flow rates are listed for 15 PSI, so at 4 PSI the flow rate will be lower and at 40 PSI it will be higher. A great feature of these emitters is that you can change out the flow rate of the body by swapping out the flag. These emitters can be used in the mainline or at the end of a 1/4" micro tube.

The non-Plugging emitter by Bowsmith is another great basic emitter. This emitter has a 1 GPH flow rate at 20 PSI. It requires a minimum of 15 PSI to function properly and has a maximum pressure rating of 40 PSI. These emitters are specifically designed to flush out any debris that may enter them, greatly reducing filtration needs and clogged emitters. These emitters are non-directional, meaning the outlet and inlet are interchangeable so water will flow out from either barb.

Mini Inline Emitters are small disc shaped emitters that are used in 1/4" tubing to create customized dripline. The water outlet on these emitters is a small hole on the disc. The two barbed ends must be attached to 1/4" tubing, with the end of the line being plugged by a goof plug. These emitters do not have a directional flow. The operating pressure range for these emitters is 10-30 PSI. The Mini Inline emitters come in a 0.5 GPG, 1 GPH, or 2 GPH flow rate and can be mixed within a line to customize the needs for each individual plant.

Lastly, the Pot Dripper, is a great little emitter on a stake. These come in either a 0.5 GPH or 1 GPH flow rate when used at 15 PSI. These staked emitters do require a transfer barb and section of 1/4" tubing to connect them to a mainline. The stake makes them a great choice for use in pots or for plants that are farther away from your mainline.

Pressure Compensating Emitters

A Pressure Compensating emitter will have a consistent even flow rate even with changes in pressure or elevation. Pressure compensating emitters are great for sloped gardens, terraced beds, or anywhere you would see a significant change in elevation from one point in the garden to another.

The Woodpecker emitter is a tried-and-true reliable choice from Netafim. This emitter has an operating pressure range of 7-58 PSI. It comes in four flow rates: 0.5 GPH, 1 GPH, 2 GPH and 6 GPH. This emitter has a 1/4" barbed inlet and outlet, making it possible to attach 1/4" line on the outlet to direct water to far away plants. The emitter does have a directional flow, so it must be inserted properly on the mainline to release water. The Woodpecker has the largest diaphragm available in the market making it the least likely to clog from dirty water and only requires 120 mesh filtrations.

A near relative of the Woodpecker is the Woodpecker JR emitter. These emitters come in three flow options: 0.5 GPH, 1 GPH and 2 GPH. They are also one directional for flow and the colored side is the inlet. Both inlet and outlet have a 1/4" barb to attach tubing to if needed. Unlike other emitters, these emitters have a built-in check valve that shuts the water off at 1.7 PSI to ensure even watering. All the emitters on the system will also start at the same time once the operating pressure is reached in the system. They are continuously self-flushing to decrease the risk of clogging and only require 120 mesh filtrations.

The CETA emitter by Antelco is another great option. These have a pressure range of 15-45 PSI. They come in three flow rate options: 0.5 GPH, 1 GPH, or 2 GPH. These are color coded to easily identify the flow rate as well as the inlet barb. The inlet barb will be the colored side. Both inlet and outlet have 1/4" barbs. A unique feature of these emitters is that they can be taken apart for cleaning.

The Pinch Drip emitter has a unique shape to make inserting it into your mainline easy, and the emitter sits flush with the tubing for less chance of damage. The operating pressure range for these emitters is 15-45 PSI. They also come in three flow rate options: 0.5 GPH, 1 GPH and 2 GPH. The inlet filter on these emitters has a built-in filter to reduce clogging inside the emitter. The outlet has an insect baffle to minimize blockage from entering the outlet.

The Cobra Stake Drip Emitter comes as one piece with a stake for use in pots or to stake near plants away from the mainline. These have a pressure range of 10-50 PSI. Because they come on a stake, they do require a 1/4" transfer barb and section of 1/4" tubing to install them. They are a great option for hanging baskets, or pots on patios of different sizes where your pressure may fluctuate. They also come in three flow rates: 0.5 GPH, 1 GPH and 2 GPH. These emitters have a turbulent self-flushing flow path and are UV-stabilized for long life expectancy.

The Netafim Self-Piercing emitters are the last emitter in this category. The operating pressure for these emitters is 10.15 to 58 PSI. They come in two flow rates, 1 GPH and 2 GPH. They are color coded for easy identification. The inlet barb and outlet barbs are 0.160", so slightly smaller than our standard 1/4". The inlet barb is sharp enough to pierce the mainline tubing, so a punch tool is not needed for installation. An insertion tool does make it easier to pop them into the mainline.

In conclusion, there are many emitters to choose from and choosing the right one isn't that difficult with the correct information.

If your planting space is relatively level, or exact even watering is not a top priority for you, a basic emitter will work great. If you have plants in a range of elevations and need them to get even water, then choosing a pressure compensating emitter is your best option.

For very dirty water situations, you may want to use either the non-plugging emitter or the Woodpecker emitter. You could also choose to use the Take-Apart or the CETA emitters that can be taken apart and cleaned in case they clog.

At DripWorks, with either type of emitter, basic or pressure compensating, we have an option that will match your needs.