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Remember these tips next time you’re looking for irrigation rotors.

October 4, 2013
Anne Michelsen

Many landscaping contractors fall into the habit of consistently relying on familiar equipment models for every installation. This is not always a bad thing; however, in the case of irrigation rotors, doing so may cost you time and money.

Irrigation rotors fall into several general categories, including pop-ups and multi-stream rotors for small areas; old-fashioned impact rotors; the popular and quiet gear-driven rotors; and the large turf rotors used on athletic fields and golf courses. There are many factors to consider when selecting the proper rotor type(s) for any given site. Some of these include the size and shape of the area to be irrigated, soil type, slope, available water pressure, water quality, type of landscaping and general location – residential, commercial, etc.

• Look for sturdy construction. Depending on size, brand, and type, rotors can run from about $5 to well over $20 each. Most gear-driven rotors on the market today are made of plastic, but remember, you usually get what you pay for. While some plastic rotors are flimsy and wear out quickly, many are well built and will last for years. Good quality brass or stainless steel rotors can last for decades.

• If you are using a gear-driven rotor, make sure it has a well designed and constructed wiper seal. This is the soft plastic piece that keeps dirt out. “(The wiper seal) is the most important part in determining how long the sprinkler will last,” says Jeff Stryker of Poorly constructed wiper seals can cause no end of maintenance hassles.  

• For pop-ups, choose an appropriate height for the area. Four inches is standard for lawns; this height provides clearance for mowing and is relatively safe. Taller shrub rotors are best used on slopes and in garden areas where they are unlikely to be a trip hazard.

• Most standard rotors come with multiple nozzles in order to keep precipitation rates consistent throughout the installation. When you change the arc you will have to switch to the appropriate nozzle. If you have a complex installation you might want to choose a model with a greater selection of nozzles. Otherwise, look for the spray pattern you need for the specific terrain and landscaping you are irrigating.

• Speed of installation and ease of adjustment matter. “Some rotors are more easily adjusted than others,” says Robert Wong of Robert Wong Landscape in Long Island, N.Y. Wong suggests choosing easy to adjust rotors to reduce time and labor costs on installation. Ask your salesperson to demonstrate or explain how to install and adjust the rotor. If you possibly can, buy from a dealer who has several models in stock, so you can try them out and compare ease of adjustment for yourself.

• Keep in mind that for optimal water use and uniform irrigation it is best to use matched precipitation rate nozzles. Also, in most cases you should avoid mixing stationary sprinklers with larger rotors in the same system. Multi-stream sprinklers are a better choice. Multi stream rotors also have matched precipitation rates so there is no need for multiple nozzles.

• Some additional handy features available on some models include pressure regulation and self-flushing ports to reduce maintenance. Lynn Dwyer of Dwyer Greens and Flowers, Inc. in New Castle, Colo., also recommends looking for rotors that contain a built-in check valve for installation on slopes.

Next time you need to purchase rotors for a job, think twice before reaching for your old standby.

While the tried-and-true may well be the best choice, it doesn’t hurt to consider other options, too. You may find yourself saving both time and money.


The author is a freelance writer based in Foosland, Ill.