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What are Pulsating Sprinklers?

By Lynne William
Updated May 16, 2024
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A pulsating sprinkler is an outdoor appliance, the purpose of which is to spray water into the air for dispersal over the ground. There are five general types of sprinklers: stationary, oscillating, impulse, rotary, and traveling. Impulse sprinklers, also called pulsating sprinklers, are ideal for watering larger areas. The slow, gentle watering they provide is the preferred method of lawn care professionals for watering private lawns, landscaping, and golf courses.

Pulsating sprinklers disperse water from a single jet, and are usually adjustable for watering in full circle and partial circle patterns. Most models are typically adjustable for the distance of throw as well. A freestanding pulsating sprinkler head can be connected to any standard, above-ground hose. These sprinklers come in two basic designs: those with a sled base and those with a spike base.

Pulsating sprinklers with sled bases, also called H-bases, are best suited for smaller areas and where water pressure isn't excessive. For higher water pressure, and for sprinklers that throw the water for longer distances, a spike base will provide greater stability and lessen the sprinkler's tendency to flip over. In-ground systems may also employ the use of pulsating sprinkler heads, though these are usually detachable in order to allow for safe mowing.

Pulsating sprinklers are by far the most efficient type of sprinkler. They can operate on significantly lower water pressure than other types of sprinklers, yet they can disperse more water per hour and cover greater distances. Another benefit of pulsating sprinklers is wind resistance, due to the fact that the throwing mechanism rides low to the ground and the water exits from a single jet. The spring-loaded arm that throws the water does so with such force that it would have to be extremely windy for the water trajectory to be impeded.

Aluminum, brass, stainless steel, bronze, and zinc are among the non-corrosive metals used in the manufacture of pulsating sprinklers. Depending on the design, plastic may also be used for some components. Many models offer special features such as baffle plates that control the height of the throw, allowing the sprinkler to be used under low-hanging trees or tall shrubs. A diffuser pin is another common special feature. This allows the adjustment of the water stream from a full jet to a very fine, localized mist with just a simple turn of a pin.

Prices for pulsating sprinkler systems vary widely, dependent on manufacturer, materials and construction, special features, and the amount of ground that can be covered. They can be purchased online at various outlets, as well as from local hardware stores and national chain home improvement centers. Economy models for smaller lawns can be purchased for under $20 US Dollars.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.

Discussion Comments

By anon232268 — On Nov 30, 2011

geomalo: the water pressure might be reduced due to dirt plugging up the screen. Try cleaning up the screen and see if that helps.

By anon37760 — On Jul 21, 2009

I have the same question as anon31707. Do you answer these on here so the rest of us can see the answers? Thanks.

By anon31707 — On May 10, 2009

How do you set it to work? Mine came with no instructions. I have a Vigoro Sprinkler with a Zinc Spike.

By geomalo — On Mar 11, 2009

What would cause a pulsating sprinkler set up to rotate 300 degrees to stop rotating and to stop pulsing? It gives just a steady stream of water to the lawn.

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