How to Adjust Your Sprinkler Heads

how to adjust sprinkler head

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Are you having issues where your sprinkler heads aren’t reaching the part of the lawn the sorely needs it? You might also be dealing with water pressure that is too low or high, which is causing issues with your yard. If you’re in either of these situations, you need to know how to adjust sprinkler heads to get things back on track.

This article will walk you through how your sprinklers work, what the different types of sprinklers are available, and how to handle adjustments if something goes wrong. We’ll also look at how to replace a sprinkler head, and talk about the pros and cons of doing it yourself. First, though, let’s look at how sprinkler systems work.

How a Sprinkler System Work

Before you start doing anything with your sprinkler heads, it’s best to have an idea of how the system itself works. In most cases, a system will include the following:

  • Water Supply Pipe – This connects to your primary source of water.
  • Ground-Level Valve Box – This is divided into a selection of unique underground irrigation zones.
  • Zone Valves – These control each of the irrigation zones.
  • Electronic Controller – This manages the duration of the sprinkler spray as well as what time it comes on.

Irrigation zones are parts of your yard, so for example, you might have one that covers the front lawn, another that covers the flower beds, and one that is set up for the backyard. The configurations of your sprinkler head are going to vary based on your yard and the unit you have.

When a zone valve opens, water flows through pipes and into the sprinkler head in the right zone for whatever amount of time is programmed in before the controller will shut off.

Sometimes people run into issues with their sprinkler, and while these can vary, the most common include:

  • Sprinkler zones not activating
  • Zone valves that are leaking
  • A sprinkler head with a low spray distance
  • A specific head not working like others

How to Adjust Sprinkler Heads

Sometimes, fixing a sprinkler head requires you to do nothing more than adjust a spray head. In other cases, you may have a more significant sprinkler head issue that needs professional assistance. However, the most common reason a sprinkler head isn’t working is that it has been damaged. This can often be seen through damaged housing or even a spray nozzle that was broken off.

In some cases, you might notice that water is coming out in a wild stream or that no water flow is coming from the sprinkler head. For those with a pop-up sprinkler head, the head may not pop up as expected. If your sprinkler has been damaged, replacements may be required. However, without signs of damage, cleaning out any debris, and making a quick adjustment of the spray pattern could help.

When it comes to how to adjust a sprinkler head, it depends on what kind of sprinkler head you have. The most common types of sprinkler heads are rotor, stationary, pulsating, and pop-up sprinkler heads. We’ll share how to adjust each of these below:

  • Pop-Up Sprinkler Heads – These are among the most commonly used in yards across the world. As the name suggests, the head rises out of the ground when water pressure is present. If you have Rain Bird sprinkler heads or a Hunter sprinkler head, this is the process you will need to adjust your head and attached screw.

So you might be wondering how to adjust Rainbird sprinkler heads or sprinkler heads Hunter. The good news is that the process is more straightforward than you might expect. You want to be sure the sprinkler system is on so the head is visible, and you can make adjustments to it. A small screwdriver can be used to adjust the head and its screw in this position.

Depending on whether you want high or low water pressure, you’ll turn the adjustment screw clockwise or counterclockwise. You also need to consider the arc of rotation with a pop-up sprinkler head. For example, a semicircular rotation will need a rotation angle of 180 degrees. You can adjust this by looking at the top of the head and turning it to the right and holding it.

  • Rotor Sprinkler Heads – The model of sprinkler that you have is going to determine how to adjust it in many cases. With a rotor sprinkler head, you can adjust both the radius and the arc. Essentially this means you can decide how far it sprays as well as how much it turns when on.

adjusting sprinkler heads

On the side of the stem, you will find an adjustment screw that helps keep the rotor nozzles in place. While adjustments vary between products, that doesn’t mean you are on your own. You can take a look at the instructions that come with a rotor sprinkler to see how to adjust it in the ways you need.

  • Stationary Sprinkler Heads – One of the simplest types of sprinklers to adjust is the stationary one, which will have an adjustment screw located on top of the nozzle. Adjusting it can point the water spray in the direction you want for your yard or garden. Turn the screw clockwise to lower the water pressure or turn the screw counterclockwise to increase the level of water pressure.
  • Pulsating Sprinkler Heads – There is no need for extra tools to adjust this kind of sprinkler, but you want to look for any damage on the heads and map out where you want the sprinkler to hit the yard. You can adjust the speed the water comes out by pushing tabs on the nozzle to whatever level you like. Next, make sure to turn on the sprinklers to ensure they all work.

You can also adjust spray distance on each pulsating sprinkler. As these go in a full circle, you’ll need to adjust the degrees by which they turn, especially if they are located near a sidewalk or a driveway.

No matter what kind of sprinkler heads you use, remember that you can screw clockwise for one option and screw counterclockwise for the other. This may affect the amount of water that comes out or the way the sprinkler spray falls, depending on the actual sprinkler head.

The Process of Replacing a Broken Sprinkler Head

When a sprinkler head can be repaired, it’s usually relatively inexpensive and easy. All you need is a new sprinkler head and a few tools. Your first task is to determine what kind of head it is, including the make and model, as well as the nozzle size. You must buy a new head that fits your specific sprinkler.

Sprinklers with a rotor head for spray come in various rotation patterns. Some rotate all the way around, and others in a half-circle. You’ll need to be sure you choose a replacement that rotates the spray in the direction the current one does. Otherwise, you could get additional spray you don’t want or less spray than you currently have.

Most heads with any spray pattern are affordable. Stationary heads might range from a couple of dollars to $15, while pop-up sprinklers are about the same price. Rotor and pulsating heads tend to cost a few dollars more.

After you have the new head and the proper tools, you’ll want to dig carefully around the sprinkler to avoid hitting the waterline. Once you’ve moved the dirt, you can unscrew the head using a counterclockwise motion. At this point, you screw in the new item and fill the hole back in with dirt.

You can set up the nozzle by lifting the cap and threading it onto the stem. After you’ve done that, make sure to run that zone on your system to make sure it works the way that it should. If the water pressure is wrong, you may need to adjust the head, or you may have purchased the wrong one.

On the other hand, you can save time and avoid issues by hiring an expert for a job of this kind. While adjustments to the heads are easy to do on your own, replacing a broken sprinkler head is going to take a bit more expertise. It’s up to you in the end what you are most comfortable doing.

Wrapping Up

At this point, you should be aware of how to handle adjustments of sprinkler heads and when you need to do so. It’s not nearly as difficult as you might think, and almost anyone can handle the process. Whether you have a rotary sprinkler, an impact sprinkler, or a simple sprinkler, you can now handle adjustments all on your own.

All you need to do is follow the steps above to get your watering back to the way it’s supposed to be!

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