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What are Sprinkler Heads?

By Carol Francois
Updated May 16, 2024
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A sprinkler head is a distribution device attached to the end of a water pipe or hose. The head is the device through which the water of a sprinter system is discharged. There are different types of sprinkler heads available, depending on where the sprinkler will be used, with a special design for fire suppression sprinkler heads.

The sprinkler head is fairly small in size and is attached to a sprinkler mount with a central ring for water flow. The top of the sprinkler head is a circular shape with a series of fins or thin blades arranged in a circular pattern. When the sprinkler is activated, the water passes through the sprinkler head and changes the water flow from a steady stream to a circular arc shape. The water dispersion is designed to maximum the surface area that is reached by the water.

There are two common applications for sprinkler heads: lawn sprinkler systems and fire suppression systems. In both uses, the requirements are the same; the water needs to be distributed without any human intervention or adjustment. Through careful planning and design, it is possible to ensure that the total required area is covered.

Lawn sprinkler heads can be recessed into the ground and forced up by the pressure of the water when the system is activated or they can be fixed in place above ground. In a lawn sprinkler system, there are two types of sprinkler heads: spray and rotor. A spray sprinkler head is designed to distribute a heavy discharge rate in a short period of time. The sprinkler head is often designed with an intermittent directional arm that forces the water to follow a circular path. This type of sprinkler head is most commonly found on flat ground.

A rotor sprinkler head discharges water at a slower rate and covers a wider area over a longer period of time. This type of system is most commonly found in large areas that require frequent watering due to soil and climate conditions. The selection of the type of sprinkler head requires some thought to the conditions over a long period of time and the amount of maintenance that will be required.

In a fire suppression system, the sprinkler head is attached to the ceiling, with the top of the head facing down. Built into the sprinkler head is a heat-sensitive bulb or a two part metal link that is held together with an alloy. The bulb or metal lies across the top of the head and acts as a plug to keep the opening closed.

The bulb or metal link is designed to break when a predetermine temperature is reached. When that temperature is reached, the bulb breaks or the alloy link melts, releasing the water within the sprinkler system automatically. Each sprinkler head operates independently, relying simply on the ambient temperature to activate.

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