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Soaker Hose or Drip Line - What's Best?

Posted by Sean on

A Guide to Soaker Hose & Drip Line

We get asked this question quite often, and it already features in our Frequently Asked Questions page, but we thought we'd dive in deeper to give you a much better look at the differences between soaker hose and drip line. So, what's best?

Why would I use either? For those not in the know, both soaker hose and drip line can save time and money when installing a new automatic watering system, and can help you stop wasting water. Both seep water directly into the soil, putting water exactly where it's needed - the root zone of plants. Precise watering is ideal for a plants health and great for the environment. Installation is quick and easy - all you need to do is lay the pipe through planted areas (flower beds, borders, hedgerows, etc.), cap off the end, connect to a garden tap and you're set to go.

Each performs roughly the same job but do so in very different ways. Both types have their advantages, so picking one over another as the best choice isn't straightforward for the uninitiated. In this product guide, I'll explain what each can do, why one may be better than the other and ultimately try to help you pick the right one for your requirements. Read on to find out more about each product type and their respective pros and cons.

Soaker Hose Overview

Soaker Hose Close Up
Soaker Hose Close Up

A favourite with many gardeners and the go-to choice for lots of automatic watering installations, it's been around for as long as I can remember. Typically made from recycled rubber and polyethylene, a soaker hose is porous along its entire length allowing water to release slowly and provide a deep soaking for the surrounding area. The internal dimensions are the same as the irrigation supply pipe (13mm), allowing you to use the same fittings and connectors as you'd use with other types of micro irrigation systems. This allows you to completely customise a system to your exacting needs.

The drawback to using soaker hose is that the release of water is unregulated. This causes issues when installing for a larger irrigation system or when you require precision watering. The reason this causes an issue is because as the water travels through the pipe it is losing pressure and flow. The further the water travels through the soaker hose, the less water there is available to be released until you get to a point that there is no more water left to release. Typically I only recommend using up to 20-30 metres per length, and only using 50 metres in total per irrigation zone. This can be limiting, but does not detract the usefulness of soaker hose.

Product Summary:

  • Great for small areas requiring a good soaking.
  • Run in lengths up to 20-30 metres.
  • Use a maximum of 50 metres in a single zone.
  • Unregulated release not as efficient (roughly 4lph per metre).
  • Use with a pressure reducer.
  • Use any Hozelock compatible micro irrigation fittings.
  • Can be covered with mulch to help retain soil moisture.
  • Degrades over a short period of time (4 years).

Drip Line Overview

Rain Bird Drip Line

The preferred choice of professional installers, drip line is a much more advanced method for drip irrigation systems. Made from the same material as irrigation supply pipe (LDPE), it has pressure compensating drip emitters pre-installed along its entire length spaced every 33cm. The built-in pressure compensating drip emitters allow precise calculation of flow requirements, resulting in efficient watering and easier installation.

Drip Line Emitter Cutaway

It is less susceptible to UV damage, algae growth and provides more efficient watering than soaker hose. Designed to be used in long runs, you can run a length of drip line up to 100 metres, and use anywhere up to 150 metres in a single irrigation zone. Great for watering hedgerows and large areas.

The drawback to using drip line is the cost of the fittings required to make the connections. We recommend using anti-leak fittings to ensure a secure connection when installing. These can be a bit more costly than the standard fittings, but do provide a much better connection and overall more reliable installation.

Product Summary:

  • Great for long runs and large areas.
  • Run in lengths up to 100 metres.
  • Use a maximum of 150 metres in a single zone.
  • Regulated release provides reliable, efficient distribution (2.3lph per emitter).
  • Pressure compensating emitters spaced every 33cm along length.
  • Works best with Claber Anti-Leak Fittings.
  • Can be covered with mulch to help retain soil moisture.
  • Long life of up to 20 years.

We hope this guide has helped you to choose what's best for your requirements. If you have any questions, feel free to drop us a line. If you need help planning an irrigation system, head on over to the help & advice section of our website where you can learn more about planning and installing irrigation systems. 

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  • Hi, great advice very easy explaining make my life easy to choose. thanks

    Ismail on
  • Useful advice . Helped me decide to avoid a soaker hose. We have only 20 metres to irrigate, but a 4 year life isn’t sufficient for purpose. Have use drip line before and know that works well

    Paul on

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