When is it antisocial to use a sprinkler? Expert advice on the timings and potential rules to watch out for

We reveal the best time of day to run your sprinkler to maintain harmony with your neighbors

Sprinklers on a lawn in front of suburban houses
(Image credit: Getty Images / ImagineGolf)

For some people, the sound of a sprinkler running means summer has arrived. It's the quintessential sound of an early morning, a gentle swishing as the neighborhood keeps its lawns healthy and looking their best.

However, others may find being woken up by the very same noise can be pretty irritating. If a sprinkler is broken, that gentle sound can become an annoying tapping that has the potential to start arguments with the neighbors.

I spoke to a lawn care expert about the best time to run a sprinkler to keep everyone in your neighborhood happy.

Sprinkler head watering a lawn

(Image credit: Getty Images/Nenov)

When is it antisocial to run a sprinkler?

The most pro-social time to run a sprinkler isn't necessarily the best time for your grass. For lawn health, the best time is in the early morning, between 6am and 9am. This is because temperatures are cooler, which means less water evaporates after watering, so your grass can absorb more water and is healthier. Conversely, watering at night means that grass roots stay damp overnight, which can encourage rot and fungal growth.

To add to this, cheap plastic sprinklers are good for saving money, but they're particularly bad for low-level clicking and grinding noises, which can quickly become antisocial. In the rare occasions that something goes wrong with your sprinkler and air backs up in the hose, sprinklers can make incredibly loud whining sounds.

It's often best to turn sprinklers on in the early evening for the sake of neighborhood harmony. It's cooler, so water is less likely to evaporate than earlier in the day, but there's still time for some evaporation to take place, so you won't encourage fungi.

Lawn expert Kody Ketterling told me 'We always suggest running the sprinklers after the cool down - which is 6pm - and then make sure we are finished running them by about 9pm. We suggest that if you run them while people are sleeping that you check them every couple weeks to once a month to make sure they are operational and working correctly. If the sprinklers malfunction or have any issues late at night this may disturb the neighbors, so be mindful to make sure the system is fully operational.'

If anything goes wrong, you're also less likely to disturb anyone. If you know your neighbors have young kids and aren't getting much sleep, or if things are a little tetchy for some reason, evening watering can stop arguments before they start.

Kody Ketterling head shot
Kody J Ketterling

Kody is the founder and CEO of K-IT Products, a company that makes sprinkler systems and other irrigation products.

Are there any laws on when you can run a sprinkler?

Neatly clipped lawn with flower beds in background

(Image credit: Getty Images/kodachrome25)

On top of the sociable hours, you may find that local laws mandate when you can and can't use your sprinkler. These can vary hugely from county to county and are often put in place to ensure that people run their sprinklers at sociable times.

Kody Ketterling told me that 'A lot of areas have put in ordinances such that you cannot run sprinklers during the daytime hours of 10am through 5pm. Cities may set restrictions where odd-numbered houses can run sprinklers on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday, and even-numbered houses on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday, all with set hours of watering.

'We have also seen split hours, allowing some to water late at night and some in the morning. It really depends on the city rules and regulations,' he continues.

However, Kody told me that there are some exemptions. He told me that if you're sourcing your gardening water from a well on your own property, you're exempt from the city laws regulating water use. There are also different rules if you use drip irrigation for your plants. Kody says 'A lot of places will allow you to run drip every day because drip is usually a lower volume of water for bushes, pots, hanging baskets, and trees.'

Can your HOA tell you when to run a sprinkler?

Front of house with a driveway and lawn

(Image credit: Imagenet/Alamy Stock Photo)

In addition to local ordinances, there are also rules from homeowners' associations to bear in mind. HOAs often have rules about when and where you can run your sprinkler.

Kody says 'We have seen fines and other penalties enforced by HOAs if guidelines are not followed. If fines are not paid HOAs can seek legal action or put a lien on your property. I know of homeowners who have tested the guidelines but usually have lost in the end. Some HOAs have their own holding ponds or water and they control when they run the pumps to have water for the yards.'

The good news, however, is that HOA rules make it an even playing field. If you run your sprinkler during the times mandated by your HOA, it may annoy a neighbor, but you're well within your rights, so it's an interpersonal issue rather than a legal one.

What can you do if your neighbor's sprinkler system is waking you up?

If your neighbor's sprinkler system is disturbing you, your first port of call is to let them know. Sprinklers tend to make noise if they're broken, so your neighbor will probably appreciate the heads-up that there's something they need to fix. If the sprinklers are running on an automatic system, your neighbors may not have noticed that they're making noise.

Even if the issue is a sprinkler that's loud as it's running, most people are happy to make small accommodations like changing their watering schedule a little. However, not everyone is open to this.

Kody says 'If you can't reach a resolution you may need to involve your HOA or take legal action. I have never heard of it going that far, but I'm sure it happens. Usually, the nice approach works and homeowners strive to be good and friendly neighbors. Make sure it is definitely the neighbor's sprinklers causing the disturbance before you bring it up to them.'

Sprinkler FAQ

How much does it cost to install a sprinkler system?

Depending on the size of your lawn and local prices, installing an automatic sprinkler system can cost between $1500-$3500. However, a simple sprinkler device that you connect and control starts at approximately $25.

For more help with watering and lawns, take a look at our guide to fixing a waterlogged lawn, or how long to water a lawn.

Alex David
Head of eCommerce

As Head of eCommerce, Alex makes sure our readers find the right information to help them make the best purchase. After graduating from Cambridge University, Alex got his start in reviewing at the iconic Good Housekeeping Institute, testing a wide range of household products and appliances. He then moved to BBC Gardeners’ World Magazine, assessing gardening tools, machinery, and wildlife products. Helping people find true quality and genuine value is a real passion.