Most lawns need 1 to 2 inches of water per week to thrive. While rainfall can help provide that needed water, often Mother Nature alone won’t be able to meet every healthy lawn’s needs. An oscillating sprinkler can supplement the needed water and help maintain a beautiful and lush lawn.
Unlike other sprinkler types that distribute water in a circular pattern, this type of sprinkler has a sled base that supports a long sprinkler head fitted with up to 20 nozzles that shoot water in a square-shaped pattern. With its ability to cover nearly 5,000 square feet, an oscillating sprinkler is ideal for watering lawns. The coverage of these sprinklers also is adjustable, allowing the user to efficiently water gardens and flower beds without wasteful overspray.
In this guide, you’ll discover the features to consider when shopping for these watering devices and then discover some of the best oscillating sprinklers on the market.
- BEST OVERALL: Eden 94116 3-Way Metal Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler
- BEST BANG FOR THE BUCK: Aqua Joe SJI-OMS16 Metal Base Oscillating Sprinkler
- BEST WITH TIMER: Melnor 65021-AMZ XT Turbo Oscillator
- BEST FOR SMALL LAWNS: GARDENA ZoomMaxx Oscillating Sprinkler
- BEST FOR LARGE LAWNS: Melnor 65078-AMZ XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler
What to Consider When Buying the Best Oscillating Sprinkler
Lawn size, the adjustability of the spray pattern, water pressure demands, and the construction of the sprinkler are some of the important factors to consider when choosing an oscillating sprinkler for a yard or garden. Keep reading to learn more about these and other factors to consider when shopping for the best oscillating sprinkler.
Lawn size will help determine the best sprinkler, as it’s helpful to purchase a sprinkler that will minimize the number of times it must be moved to cover the entire yard. To determine the area of the yard or garden, multiply its length by its width. Then use the area to shop for the appropriately sized sprinkler. For example, a lawn that is 50 feet by 75 feet would need a sprinkler that can cover at least 3,750 square feet.
Since oscillating sprinklers have a square-shaped coverage area, nonrectangular yards will require multiple sprinklers or a rotating sprinkler for full coverage. A larger yard also may need multiple sprinklers to cover the entire area in one watering session. Keep in mind that homes with water pressure below the standard 30 pounds per square inch (psi) won’t have enough pressure to meet the sprinkler’s maximum coverage standard.
Oscillating sprinklers consist of either plastic or metal parts, and each material has its pros and cons. Metal sprinklers will better endure accidental impacts from a lawn mower or errant soccer ball and serve as a sturdier base for the oscillating sprinkler head, but they are more prone to corrosion and rust. Sprinklers with plastic parts are more affordable but won’t hold up as well to impacts.
Oscillating sprinklers use a mechanism that moves the head back and forth slowly. Sprinklers that keep this mechanism in an enclosed chamber are more durable than models that have a drive exposed to the elements. Though this design is less expensive, the gears in the exposed drive can clog with dirt and debris, preventing the sprinkler from oscillating. With that in mind, a sprinkler with an open drive should be stored during inclement weather to protect these moving parts.
Unlike other sprinkler types, sled bases are not rooted to the ground by a stake, which can damage the yard. This design also makes it easy to maneuver them around the yard to cover multiple watering zones. Most sled bases are made of metal or plastic with an attachment for a standard garden hose and controls that adjust the range on one end.
Most oscillating sprinklers have a long sled base that measures about 15 to 17 inches long and 5 to 6 inches wide, although some oscillating sprinklers use a sled base with a circular design that measures about a foot in diameter. This large base provides a stable foundation that keeps the sprinkler steady as the head oscillates back and forth.
Oscillating sprinklers have a series of jets typically set in a line across an oscillating bar that sprays water up into the air. The jets are set at different angles to cover the watering area evenly. Most sprinklers have between 16 and 20 jets, with the latter providing the greatest amount of coverage. These jets oscillate back and forth at a consistent speed to allow for even watering across the entire coverage area.
The spray also is adjustable. Most oscillating sprinklers have an adjuster that controls how far the sprinkler head oscillates in either direction. Higher-end sprinklers usually allow the user to adjust the coverage area’s width, and some include a zoom knob that controls the size of the coverage area’s footprint.
Most oscillating sprinklers base their maximum coverage on 30 psi of water pressure, which suits the city water standard of about 30 to 50 psi that most homes use. If the available water pressure is less, the sprinkler won’t be able to reach the stated maximum coverage. If the water pressure is too low, the water may not generate enough force to turn the oscillating sprinkler head. Those with homes with water pressure that falls below this 30 psi threshold may consider a sprinkler designed for low pressure.
High water pressure also can have a negative impact on sprinkler performance, causing the water to mist as it exits the nozzles. A pressure regulator attached between the hose and the sprinkler can reduce this pressure. The best way to determine a home’s water pressure is to use a water gauge or flow meter.
Since an oscillating sprinkler can use about 17 gallons of water per minute, it’s important to look for features that help direct as much of that water to nourishing the lawn as possible. Oscillating sprinklers cover a fairly precise area, making it easy to position them to water desired areas and only those areas. This helps conserve water and prevents wasteful watering of driveways and sidewalks.
Some sprinklers include built-in timers. A sprinkler with a timer allows the user to set the sprinkler to shut off after a set amount of time, making it a great solution for preventing overwatering for those who don’t have a sprinkler control system.
Some oscillating sprinkler models include features that make them more convenient to use. This includes adapters that attach to the hose end, which makes attaching and detaching the sprinkler easier. They eliminate the need to screw and unscrew the connector when it’s time to store the hose or the sprinkler.
Most oscillating sprinklers also include built-in strainers, which prevent debris from entering the sprinkler and clogging the nozzles. Higher-end oscillating sprinklers also have flow controls that allow the user to adjust water output.
Some sprinklers include built-in timers, which will shut off the sprinkler after a preset period of time, preventing overwatering.
Our Top Picks
The top picks below are selected based upon the above considerations. These are some of the best oscillating sprinklers in their specific categories, and any of these models is a worthy choice for irrigating a lawn or garden.
With its durable construction, broad range, and adjustability, this model from Eden is one of the best all-around oscillating sprinklers on the market. With its 20 nozzles, it boasts unparalleled coverage of 4,973 square feet. Three adjusters allow a user to turn sets of nozzles off and on to control width, suiting yards and flower beds of different sizes. Two independent slide adjusters located on the side of the sprinkler head allow the user to set the range, while a flow control knob allows for adjustment of the size of the watering area.
A dirt-resistant turbo drive ensures the sprinkler operates smoothly for even coverage, and a sturdy metal base provides durability and prevents the sprinkler from shifting while in use. A built-in cleaning tool makes clearing the nozzles easy, while quick-connect adapters for standard hoses allow for faster set up and take down.
- Easily adjusts width and flow
- Can cover nearly 5,000 square feet
- Quick-connect device for standard garden hoses
- Doesn’t withstand extreme summer heat
The Aqua Joe is a worthy option for those who don’t need all the adjustment options that come with a high-end oscillating sprinkler. This oscillating sprinkler features a steel base, giving it the durability of some higher-end sprinklers. It covers a respectable 3,600 square feet with its 16 nozzles, making it suitable for medium-size yards and gardens.
While it may not have the control features of more expensive models–it does not have width or area controls–it does include two slide controls on the side that allow for range adjustments from either side. A turbo drive motor allows for smooth oscillation, while a leak-resistant connection ensures the maximum amount of water pressure goes to the sprinkler.
- Hose connector resists leaks
- Width and flow adjustable
- Nozzle cleaner included
- Smaller nozzles allow less flow
With a timer that automatically turns off the sprinkler after a set amount of time, this sprinkler eliminates accidental overwatering. The built-in mechanical timer will shut off the water flow up to two hours after it begins watering. This model also boasts a sizable range with 20 nozzles that provide enough coverage for up to 4,500 square feet.
Adjusters for width and range allow the user to fine-tune the watering coverage area, while a quick-connect adapter that works with any standard garden hose makes it easy to attach and detach the sprinkler. This model uses Melnor’s enclosed turbo drive to move the sprinkler head, ensuring it won’t get stuck or water inconsistently while protecting the drive mechanism from dirt and debris.
- Includes adjustable timer
- Covers up to 4,500 square feet
- Split adjusters to target directional spray
- Oscillator can break down due to plastic parts
By eschewing the traditional long and narrow design of most oscillating sprinklers for a compact sprinkler head with multiple rows of nozzles, GARDENA’s sprinkler is suitable for watering smaller spaces. With its 2,300 square feet of coverage on 16 nozzles, it offers about half the coverage of other sprinklers. However, the design has a smaller minimum coverage area—as little as 76 square feet—than a typical oscillating sprinkler. This small footprint allows it to water small yards, gardens, and flower beds without wasteful overspray.
The GARDENA uses a sizable 11-inch diameter round sled base that provides a sturdy base for the sprinkler head. Adjusters allow the user to set the range between 10 and 60 feet and the width between 10 and 40 feet. A sealed drive unit protects the sprinkler’s moving parts from dirt while ensuring an even distribution of water.
- Adjustable between 76 and 2,300 square feet
- Compact size for smaller spaces
- Several customized spray options
- May begin to leak after several uses
This sprinkler boasts a coverage area of an impressive 4,500 square feet with its 20 nozzles, giving it one of the largest coverage areas of an oscillating sprinkler. It’s not just its ability to cover such a large area that makes this model so impressive; it also features a wide range of adjustments. Independent slide range adjusters control how far the sprinkler oscillates to each side, while a width adjuster allows the user to adjust the sprinkler to water a broad lawn or a narrow garden bed. A zoom control adjusts the overall coverage footprint of the sprinkler.
Melnor uses its Infinity turbo drive in this model, ensuring it operates smoothly for even coverage without puddles. A quick-connect adapter that attaches to a standard garden hose allows for fast connections between the hose and sprinkler.
- Width, range, and flow are controllable
- Covers up to 4,500 square feet
- Split adjusters to target directional spray
- Oscillator can break down due to plastic parts
Oscillating sprinklers are helpful for watering a large lawn or garden, so we chose the durable, high-capacity Eden 3-Way Metal Sprinkler as our top pick. For smaller areas, opt for the more compact Gardena ZoomMaxx.
How We Chose the Best Oscillating Sprinklers
These recommendations for the best oscillating sprinklers come with a number of coverage capacities to suit a variety of lawns and gardens. Each one comes with the ability to make adjustments to the flow, and some include extra customizations to more carefully target the specific watering area. We included choices with plastic bases as well as metal for those who prefer a more sturdy base.
We further narrowed down our choices by price, water conservation, and hose connections. Buyers have a number of price options to choose from, and some of the lower-priced units seem to provide more careful water flow. Finally, these recommendations have great hose connection capabilities, including leakproof and quick-connect options.
FAQs About Oscillating Sprinklers
If you’re wondering how to best use an oscillating sprinkler, then read on for answers to some of the most commonly asked questions about these irrigation devices.
Q. What kind of sprinkler covers the most area?
With its ability to cover 4,500 square feet, the Melnor 65078-AMZ XT Turbo Oscillating Sprinkler provides some of the broadest coverage of this sprinkler type.
Q. How long should you water the lawn with an oscillating sprinkler?
Most oscillating sprinklers will produce about 1 inch of water per hour. At that rate, you should water your lawn for one hour, once a week, as most lawns need between 1 and 2 inches of water per week to stay healthy.
Q. How do I adjust my oscillating sprinklers?
Oscillating sprinklers have adjusters that allow you to adjust how far the sprinkler head oscillates back and forth. After locating the adjusters on the sprinkler, slide the adjusters toward the sprinkler head to shorten the range or farther away from the head to broaden the range.
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Tony Carrick is a freelance writer specializing in home improvement, landscaping, and design. A recipient of a degree in journalism and a Master of Arts in English, he spent ten years writing for a variety of local newspapers and business publications before becoming an English teacher. Mr. Carrick now works as a freelance writer from his home in North Carolina. When he isn’t furiously typing away on his laptop or working on his latest home improvement project, he enjoys spending time with his family and cycling through the beautiful North Carolina countryside.