Pop up sprinklers or sub surface drippers?

Author: Stefan Palm   Date Posted: 20 April 2021 

If you're thinking about putting in a watering system for your lawn, you may find yourself asking the question, “should I use underground drippers or sprinklers?” It’s a good question and of course there are pro's and con's to each.

Let me start by saying that both will do the job of delivering water to your lawn and both can be installed as a DIY project – even if you don’t have much irrigation experience. Both work, both have been proven and successfully used for decades. It isn’t so much a question of which one is better but rather which one suits you and your circumstances the best.

So what are the things to consider when deciding on which is right for you?

Sub Surface Drippers: 

This is a system where you install a network of dripper pipe underneath your lawn. The drippers are built into a special type of poly pipe. There us usually a dripper every 300mm along the pipe and they each emit around 2 or 3 litres per hour of water (depending on the brand you use). Sometimes you'll hear that underground dripper systems don't work and are unreliable. We've heard this a lot too however this sort of opinion comes from instances where the system hasn't been installed properly or the wrong type of pipe has been used. It is often the case where less expensive above ground drip pipe is used instead of the type that is designed to be buried. I can assure you that when done properly, sub surface systems work extremely well. 

Pro’s

  • Drippers are more water efficient. This type of system uses less water than sprinklers to do the same job as water is delivered straight to the root zone
  • Better in windy areas 
  • Better for sloping areas because there is no runoff 

Cons

  • Dripper systems are more expensive to buy upfront than sprinkler systems – up to  twice as much. This can be a deterrent to choosing this type of system but if you consider the savings you’ll make in the amount of water you use, a dripper system will eventually claw back that extra upfront cost. 
  • The drippers can get clogged with lawn roots over time. This is called root intrusion and happens because the lawn roots will always want to hunt down the water source. The traditional way to prevent this is by injecting chemicals down the pipes to kill off the roots.  Because we don’t like the idea of this, we sell a brand of dripper pipe called Rainbird Coppershield. Through its innovative design, they guarantee it against root intrusion without the use of chemicals.

Have a look at our video on How to install Underground drippers

Sprinklers

Using pop up sprinklers is the traditional method to water your lawn. There are a few different types of sprinklers that are available today including:

  • Regular spray sprinklers   
  • Rotator type sprinklers
  • Gear drive sprinklers

Pop ups are typically installed around the outside of your lawn and spray water from overhead to water your lawn. The most efficient and versatile are the Rotator type sprinklers such as  Hunter MP rotators and  Rainbird R-Vans. These types of sprinklers deliver water slower than traditional popups and also require less pressure and flow to operate meaning you can have more of them operating at the same time. 

Pro’s

  • Are cheaper to install than drippers (about 1/2 of the cost)
  • Because they spray water from the top, it's easier to water in fertiliser and chemicals

Cons

  • Use more water than drippers. Because water is sprayed from overhead, the water can be blown around, it can evaporate and it can run off.
  • Can over spray into areas where you don’t want water (decks, paths , pools, driveways etc)

Have a look at our video on How to install sprinklers

When it comes to DIY installing an irrigation system - were here to help. Have a look at our extensive online resources to help you get your project started. We stock all the major brands at competitive prices and can provide you with a free design and quote when you're ready. More importantly, we'll back you up with all the help you need to get your system installed, even if you've never installed an irrigation system before.