Nov. 27 2020 06:00 AM

Find the right sprinkler for the job to handle increasing efficiency regulations.

Sprinklers come in many different shapes and sizes, ready to fit for many different irrigation applications from residential to commercial. While the variety of available sprinklers continues to increase, some types have seen more of a focus than others, based on trends in the last few years.

“In general, more attention is being paid to proper operating pressure either through pressure-regulated sprinklers, pressure regulation at the valve or even both for increased system efficiency,” says Kelsey Jacquard, senior product manager, Hunter Industries, San Marcos, California.

Some of that interest in high-efficiency options comes from widespread regulations, regional droughts or a perception that irrigations systems are using too much water, says Jessica Case, product manager, Rain Bird, Azusa, California. Both Vermont and California saw laws go into effect this year mandating that new spray sprinkler bodies have integrated pressure regulation, says Case. Colorado, Hawaii and Washington will have similar laws starting with the new year.

“It’s quite possible we’ll see this trend continue in other states in the future,” she says.

More than 13 states, mostly in the West, have adopted some form of requirements for pressure regulation, says Brodie Bruner, executive vice president, Weathermatic, Garland, Texas.

One design trend to be noted is toward taller sprinklers to clear taller turf heights, says Jacquard.

“While 4-inch sprinklers are still popular, there is a trend toward 6-inch rotors and spray sprinklers for improved coverage in taller turf applications,” she says.

Bruner is seeing a long-term and gradual change to reduced turf areas with an emphasis on xeriscaping and low wateruse plantings, which has an impact on the type of sprinklers being used to fit those areas. That trend has resulted in lower volume sprinkler output and fewer rotors per project, he says.

“The trick is to achieve lower volume output for efficiency without extending water windows outside of mandated time of day watering restrictions,” he says. “In some cases, an efficient, but higher-volume application is required to compress watering into a defined water window.” That leads to more of a reliance on run-and-soak cycles to reduce runoff compared to lower sprinkler application rates.

Facing these kinds of regulations, irrigation contractors have had to strike a balance between efficiency, compliance and cost when choosing sprinklers, Bruner says. Factors like performance efficiency, product application and pricing are the major drivers in play on new projects.

Rain Bird has seen a record number of contractors purchasing rotors because of an increase in landscape projects nationally, says Jeffrey Johnson, senior product manager, Rain Bird. “It’s clear this trend goes back to the fact that people aren’t traveling as much and are instead finding ways to enhance their homes and landscapes,” he says.

Some contractors are also positioning rotary nozzles as an affordable premium compared to standard spray nozzles, as the unique rotating spray gives an appearance that homeowners appreciate.

As homeowners continue to see water costs increase, they’re also more apt to push irrigation professionals for more water-efficient designs, says Bruner. While most of the emphasis there has been on weather-based and online controllers, conversions to drip and microsprays are becoming more popular as well.

As a result of the pandemic, more home and lawn improvement projects have gotten started, meaning sprinkler purchases have remained steady, says Jacquard.

“The long-term effects of COVID-19 on the industry are still unknown, but we have seen an increased appreciation for usable outdoor spaces,” she says.

The author is editor-in-chief of Irrigation & Green Industry, and can be reached at kylebrown@igin.com.