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Deciding on the proper type of sprinkler is important to the maintenance and aesthetic qualities of a lawn. Different types of lawn sprinklers are available to suit every lawn and every budget. Lawn sprinklers fall into about five categories: stationary, oscillating, pulsating, traveling, and rotary.
Stationary lawn sprinklers are arguably the most common. They are usually connected to the water source through a system of underground pipes. While the installation of these systems is expensive and involved, the sprinkler heads themselves are cheap and easy to install. Their spray comes through a pattern of holes in the top which direct the water outward. They can operate even with low water pressure, given the small size of the spray openings.
Oscillating sprinklers are also a popular choice. They usually consist of a plastic base which attaches to a garden hose, and have a curved tube with holes through which the water is sprayed. This part oscillates back and forth, covering a rectangular area with a fan-shaped spray of water. Lawn sprinklers like these are ideal for newly seeded areas or soils that absorb water slowly. They are quite common and widely promoted, so price points vary accordingly.
The most versatile and efficient lawn sprinklers are the pulsating type. Rain Bird® sprinklers are a well-known example of this variety. Their spray is strong and low to the ground, making it wind-resistant. The mechanism of a pulsating sprinkler uses the water pressure to progressively turn the spray of water in a semi-circle pattern and back again. They are highly adjustable to work well on lawns of many shapes.
Some sprinklers are self-propelled, using only water pressure and a system of gears. Two rotating arms spray water in an adjustable circular pattern, slowly moving the unit across the lawn, guided by the path of a garden hose. These are best suited to large or oddly-shaped lawns, and can be left unattended for hours. Traveling sprinklers tend to be expensive, but also well-made.
Rotary sprinklers are like a stationary version of the traveling sprinkler. They have two or three spray arms that water the lawn in a circular pattern. They work best for small, flat lawns. Sandy or sloped areas are not suited to watering by a rotary sprinkler because these throw water down very quickly. Some models allow the spray to be adjusted to expel water at a slower rate, or in a different diameter.