Hunter vs Rainbird: A Few Differences Between These Sprinkler Systems

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A well-kept lawn full of lush, properly watered grass is a feast for the eyes and the soul.

Achieving this used to be a real nightmare back in the days. You’d have to break your back day in, day out…

Luckily for us, sprinkler systems have evolved to the point of a plug-and-play experience. The tough part is to nail the initial installation properly.

Hunter and Rainbird are the two big names when it comes to residential lawn care. Most say – and I agree, that you’ll be fine no matter which one you go with.

True. Rainbird’s controllers are popular for their great interface and operation. And Hunter PGP sprinkler heads were probably one of the most breakthrough lawn care products when they came out.

Why did just I mention completely different parts of a sprinkler system?

Because you can actually run an irrigation system that combines parts from both brands. A LawnSite quick survey shows that this is pretty common:

Everybody wants a perfectly functioning lawn sprinkler system. It needs to be reliable and durable, easy to maintain, and if possible – affordable.

Nobody wants to see broken spray heads, timers that have started malfunctioning after 1-2 years of usage, or the dreaded leaks.

A basic fact: both brands will live up to this expectations of quality and convenience.

There are some distinctive things to know about both Rainbird and Hunter, though. I’d like to expand a little bit on that.

Important note! Keep in mind that these things are heavily dependent on your locale/area and the way you want to arrange your lawn! Always make sure you consult with your state laws too!

Rainbird vs Hunter sprinklers

Generally, Hunter offers spray ranges from 15 to 90 feet apart, with a 40° to 360° arc. The sprinklers pop up height can be either 4″, 6″ or 12″ depending on your residential needs.

Rainbird systems usually spray at 13 to 50 feet, a bit closer in terms of range. Even the innovative 5000 series rotors are 25 to 50 feet.

The arc is similar: 40° to 360°, which is the industry standard. The height is also the same as Hunters, you’ll find the same available sizes.

You can see why Hunter gets used a lot in sports facilities like golf courses and stadiums. It just has a significantly longer spray range. At the same time, Rainbird is relatively easy to install and suited to a lot of residential owners’ preferences.

The spray heads are definitely Rainbird’s forte. The secret is the Rain Curtain technology you’ll find with the 5000 series rotor I mentioned above.

Thanks to this proprietary tech, you’re getting an incredibly even water distribution. Yes, even in harsher weather conditions like strong winds or under high pressure. Forget about the spray turning into mist. Here’s a quick demo:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0qXYr5N3jI

As a whole, the heads experience less leaks too. You’ll see a lot of pros or DIY owners choose Rainbird’s sprinklers even if they pick Hunter for the other parts of their system.

I’d go as far as saying the 5000 series might be the best rotary sprinkler heads right now.

Hunter’s PGPs are also top class, but they’re a cut below. Nothing too drastic, but tangible enough to consider going with Rainbird at least for that part of your lawn care equation.

What about the controllers?

Both offer state of the art controllers to tinker around with your sprinkler system. You can’t – and won’t go wrong in this regard.

That said, you should rather focus on what features you want to see in your controller.

Are you looking for an indoor, or an outdoor one?

How many zones do you want to cover? Hunter’s 6 zone controllers are especially great. For Rainbird, their 9 zone devices are outstanding.

Overall, Rainbird’s controllers do have a better interface for complete beginners, though. I prefer Hunter, however.

It really depends on the size of your lawn and how you plan to arrange it. I’d say you should focus on your specifics first and foremost, and then think about the branding. Both Rainbird and Hunter will have a quality solution that’ll be a fit for your case.

A note on nozzles

As expected, both brands have sturdy, reliable nozzles. They might be made of plastic, but it’s tough plastic that will last for quite a bit.

That said, what some professionals do – and recommend, as long as you have the budget, is switching to Weathermatics.

The reason is simple: Weathermatic nozzles are made of brass which will outlive any plastic component.

If you can afford it/fit it into your sprinkler system and can find Weathermatic, this is definitely the best option.

What does a basic setup look like?

Generally, in a barebones residential setup you’ll see:

  • Spray heads/Rotors

  • Valves

  • Spray head nozzles

  • Controller (a.k.a. Control box)

  • Rain sensor

Some people forget rain sensors, but I really advise you to grab one. Saving water is important, not to mention you don’t want to overflood your lawn.

Just choose whether you want a wireless or a wired one. Obviously, wireless sensors – and Rainbird has also got a pretty good one, are way more convenient.

You’re free to check your local requirements and lawn parameters, then assemble your own setup. Or, alternatively, if you’re no the DIY type – you can just hire an irrigation specialist.

A somewhat popular setup on Lawnsite back then was getting Rainbird 1800 series sprayheads, Hunter control valves, Hunter’s Pro-C controller, I-20 ultras and some Rainbird nozzles or Weathermatic’s brass ones.

However, both brands have progressed so much with their products, that this will feel incredibly outdated right now. For example, 1800 series instead of 5000 series.

All I wanted to elaborate on with this comparison is that you won’t go wrong with either brands. Just try and combine the best they can offer you for an even better performance…and an awe-inspiring, well-kept lawn!

If you’re into other water-related DIY projects, check out the guide I have on PEX clamps vs cinches. Another comparison that can hopefully help you out craft your perfect home environment!

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