Whats the best type of pop-up sprinkler?

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 26 January 2022 

When it comes to installing a pop-up sprinkler system in your home lawn, there are many different types of pop-up sprinklers that you can choose from, each ranging in cost, efficiency and performance. So how do you know which type to choose?

It’s a good question and one we get asked often, so I want to spend some time explaining the differences so that you can make an informed decision when it comes time to install a system in your own lawn.

All pop-up sprinklers deliver water to your lawn, and in that way, any pop-up system is better than no system at all. There are differences though, in cost, adjustability and efficiency. Choosing the right type for your circumstances is an important step in getting the best results for you and your lawn.

Types of Pop Up Sprinklers

There are three common types for home lawns, including the traditional pop-up, stream rotors and gear drive sprinklers.  

Traditional pop-up

  • Range in price from $2 to $6 ea
  • Sprays water in a solid pattern
  • Can spray up to 4 metres
  • Can be fixed or variable radius
  • Use a high amount of water to operate

These are the types of sprinklers that come to mind for most people when they think of pop-ups. They’ll get the job done and do it for less money. There are some compromises, though. Because of their short throw, you’ll use more of them. They aren’t as versatile in how you adjust them, either. While you can adjust the radius with some brands, there is only limited function to adjust the arc (how far they throw). This can lead to overspray into areas where you don’t want water. The biggest issue is that they use more water—significantly more, which can result in more watering zones and more water wastage.

Stream rotor

  • Range in price from $12 to $16 ea
  • Sprays water in rotating streams or fingers 
  • Can spray from 2.5 to 8 metres
  • They are adjustable in their arc
  • They are adjustable in their radius
  • Use a low amount of water to operate
  • Can operate well in low-pressure situations

Similar in physical size to a traditional pop-up, stream rotors include products like Hunter MP rotators and Rainbird RVAN’s. They are more versatile and more water conservative, but this does come at a cost. At $12 to $16 each, they’re at least double the cost of a traditional pop-up. The extra cost translates into a better sprinkler though, with stream rotors offering layers of function and technology that traditional pop-ups can’t bring.

Their biggest advantage is that they deliver water slowly and evenly. As a general comparison, a traditional pop-up set on a half-circle radius can use up to 4 litres per minute, while a stream rotor can use as little as 1 litre per minute. This is really significant! It allows the water to soak in slower, leading to less runoff, you can run more of them at the same time resulting in less watering zones, and you can operate them in low pressure/low flow situations. 

The other thing that makes them so good is that you can adjust both the radius and the arc, meaning you can fine-tune them to fit the area you want to water, even when you have a tricky lawn shape. This leads to less overspray and less water wastage. 

Domestic Gear Drive

  • Range in price from $12 - $20 ea (domestic types)
  • Sprays water in a single rotating jet
  • Can spray from 6 to 12 metres
  • They are adjustable in their arc
  • They are adjustable in their radius
  • Typically for larger areas


Gear drive sprinklers such as the Rainbird 5000 or the Hunter PGP are ideal for larger areas. Due to their ability to throw large distances, you’ll use less of them, and in that way, they can be an exceptionally cost-effective way to water your lawn. When set to throw long distances, they can be thirsty, making them better suited to properties with ample flow and pressure.  

As I mentioned earlier, all of these sprinklers will do the job, and in that way, there is no right and wrong. The one you choose will largely depend on your circumstances and how much you want to spend.  In my opinion, I’d spend the extra and use stream rotors. After designing watering systems for many years, these types of sprinklers offer long term value when you consider the water savings. There is nothing else like them for delivering water only where you need it and in a way that is best utilised by your lawn. 

If you have any questions regarding irrigation, please give us a call on 8298 0555 or send an email to water@paulmunnsinstantlawn.com.au. We'd be happy to help!

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