What Is the Difference Between a Smart Sprinkler and an Impact Sprinkler

Smart digital and traditional impact sprinklers both deliver water in a circular pattern but are very different. A smart sprinkler is an advanced, efficient, and sophisticated version of the rotary sprinkler controlled via smartphone.

Traditional impact sprinklers were a mainstay in early residential irrigation, but they have fallen to the wayside (at least in residential applications) with the advancement of smart digital sprinklers. Today’s systems rely heavily on smart rotary sprinkler heads because of their water-use efficiency and smart technology capabilities.

What is a Smart Sprinkler?

A smart sprinkler is an automated, digital irrigation system that optimizes water usage, resulting in lower utility costs and improved lawn health. Smart sprinklers are controlled via an app on a smartphone or tablet. The user can adjust watering schedules based on weather or soil moisture data, reducing water waste and promoting sustainable landscaping.

They are sophisticated, sustainable, smart technologies designed to adjust watering to maximize water use efficiency.

Smart sprinklers are typically rotary sprinkler heads. They are often called gear-drive (or gear-driven) heads and are standard in the current automated lawn sprinkler systems. Like all technology, though, they have roots in very simple sprinklers, e.g., the impact sprinkler.

Internal gears drive these heads, and water emits through an opening or series of holes around the head’s perimeter. As they rotate 360°, they deliver a single water stream or multiple streams, watering a section of lawn.

  1. Inside the head, the water runs through a filter and then flows through a small turbine.
  2. The flowing water moves the turbine, causing the gears to rotate and the head to turn.
  3. As water flows into the smart sprinkler from the water source, its force pushes the head up out of the ground.
  4. The smart sprinkler then emits water and sprays across the lawn.

Advantages of a Smart Rotary Sprinkler

  • More efficient than other sprinkler heads because you can carefully control how much and where the water is distributed.
  • Different smart sprinklers emit a different radius, allowing you to customize your irrigation system.
  • It can be fully automated and controlled through a smartphone or tablet app, enabling instant access to your sprinkler, no matter your location.
  • Incredibly uniform water distribution throughout the entire irrigation area, from the head to the outer edge.
  • Works well and throws water the specified distance, even when the water pressure is below 40 PSI.
  • Quiet operation—can run a rotary sprinkler any time of day and not be bothered by the noise.

What is an Impact Sprinkler?

An impact sprinkler is also considered a rotary sprinkler since it sprays water in a circular pattern around the sprinkler base.

Unlike a smart rotary sprinkler, it contains no gears or electronic components. A smartphone app cannot control it, nor can you adjust watering for weather conditions or soil moisture.

It is a straightforward, effective way to water, consisting of a sprinkler head with a spray nozzle and an arm (or arms). Because of their effectiveness and simplicity, impact sprinklers are instrumental in irrigating orchards and agricultural fields. They are not used often in residential sprinkler systems.

With an impact sprinkler, the outgoing water force and the arm(s) rotate the sprinkler around in a circular motion, pivoting on the base via a bearing.

Getting a little more technical—as its name implies, an impact sprinkler operates via impact and the resulting motions.

  1. Once water flows to the sprinkler, a curved arm moves into the water stream coming through the sprinkler nozzle.
  2. The water stream pushes against the curved arm, forcing the arm away from the stream.
  3. The arm moves rapidly away from the water stream, but a large spring arm slows its movement and eventually stops it as it stretches.
  4. The large spring then shrinks back to its contracted or relaxed form, pulling the curved arm back into the stream of water.
  5. As the arm is forced back into the stream, it hits a “stop” on the sprinkler frame and rotates the head slightly in a clockwise direction, changing where the spray pattern falls.
  6. The process repeats itself, providing the sprinkler rotation and the familiar “chk-chk-chk” sound common to impact sprinklers.

Benefits of an Impact Sprinkler

  • More extensive coverage area than a head from an in-ground system. Most rotors can spray up to 75 feet, giving them a coverage radius of 150 feet. A rotary sprinkler can typically reach 30 or 35 feet at most.
  • The water spray typically comes out with considerable force and stays low to the ground, so it’s relatively wind-resistant and doesn’t get blown around.
  • An impact sprinkler has a straight-through water flow design and can handle well water, irrigation water from a canal, or hard water without clogging.
  • Metal sprinkler bodies come in brass or zinc. These materials make them long-lasting, so they don’t need to be replaced or repaired often.

Downsides to an Impact Sprinkler

  • Does not operate as precisely as gear-driven sprinklers.
  • The spring mechanisms can be noisy and may annoy residential neighbors.
  • Water output is often concentrated in a donut pattern around the sprinkler head instead of evenly distributing water across the entire area.
  • Does not work well with lower water pressure.
  • It cannot be controlled via a smartphone or digital controller.
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