What to Look For In Pressure Washers
Spring cleaning time is here and many are considering getting a pressure washer to help with a lot of outdoor spring cleaning. Whether you’re a professional looking for a pressure washer on the job or a homeowner wanting to clean stains off of your driveway, the staff here at Toolbarn have some tips about what to look for when choosing a pressure washer.
Photo Courtesy of Generac
Before choosing a pressure washer, ask yourself how much power you need for the job you have in mind. Are you going to haul this piece of equipment wherever you go? Are you working on professional jobs or are you looking for something to help you at home? Once you determine that, then you decide whether you need a gas or an electric washer.
Pressure washers can use a gas or an electric motor. Gas powered pressure washers tend to be more powerful and are more effective than their electric counterparts. However, gas powered washers can emit fumes and should not be used in a small or confined area. Electric powered washers are best suited for home or private use. Professionals are advised to steer clear from electric.
Pressure washers are also available in hot or cold water-only as well. (Note: You can also turn the heater off so your heater can spray cold water if needed.) Cold water washers are very useful when it comes to cleaning natural debris away like mud, dirt, driveways and patios. Cold water washers are also effective at aggressive material removal, such as wet sand blasting or paint stripping.
However, hot water pressure waters are ideal when its time to clean heavy equipment or machinery like work trucks, tractors, trailers or for blasting things like grease stains off a concrete floor. The heating units make hot water models heavier, more expensive and more complicated to maintain. Simply put, cold water pressure washers are good if you just need force and hot water washers are best for deep cleaning applications. Homeowners rarely need hot water models.
Before You Buy
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Once you’ve figured out the basics and before you purchase a pressure washer, there are three specifications you should consider before buying one. Those are horsepower, volume and pressure. Horsepower should be your biggest concern. The engine’s HP is what creates volume and pressure. Some manufacturers often increase the PSI without increasing the actual volume or power of the washer. This doesn’t provide any real benefit.
However, if you have sufficient HP, GPM and PSI…you should have everything you need. Homeowners who want to clean siding, sidewalks and driveways should find washers that are around 5 HP or 110v. Professionals should get a gas pressure washer with at least 6.5HP.
Volume measures how many gallons of water the pressure washer uses per minute. It allows you to figure out how quickly the washer will wash away substances from all surfaces. PSI is the least important of these three, but manufacturers tend to market it as the most important feature.
Don’t fall for this. They can create a high PSI by simply making the hose smaller, resulting in a very low volume of water. Even with high pressure, the low volume means it will take longer to finish any cleaning job.
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Quick Hits For the Pros
If you’re a professional looking for a washer with professional application in mind here are some things to consider. Before you make a purchase, always check a pressure washer’s pump. Most pressure washer manufacturers buy their pumps from companies that specialize in this technology.
Pumps from the top manufacturer (Karcher, Legacy, AR, Comet, General, etc.) have excellent performance, and they also have spare parts available for repairs. If you can’t find the name of the pump, it’s likely cheaply made and low quality.
Another way of gauging the quality of a pump is by its component parts. Pumps made with industrial-quality components like brass heads, ceramic plungers and thermal relief valves will be more durable and should be easier to service in the future.
Another specification to keep in mind is the direction of the engine shaft. Vertical shafts tend to be cheaper, but are less durable and have a shorter product life. Horizontal shafts are more expensive, but last longer. If you use your pressure washer more than three times a year, it’s a good idea to stick to horizontal shaft machines.
Photo Courtesy of Generac
Many ask what kind of nozzle they should get with their pressure washer. Most washers come with a vario nozzle which is fine for household applications like washing cars and siding. There are also several job-specific nozzles and attachments that can make your pressure washer more effective. Here are some of the more popular attachments.
Rotary Turbo Nozzles: Also known as a “dirt blaster” nozzle. These are necessary for aggressive cleaning of concrete or brick surfaces, sidewalks, driveways and patios.
Extension Wands: Lets users clean high places like roofs and gutters without using a ladder. They can be up to 24 feet long.
Sand Blast Attachments: For aggressive material removal or paint stripping.
Concrete Surface/Flat Surface Cleaners: They work like a vacuum or floor polisher. Once the attachment is on your pressure washer, you simply push the machine along and it cleans the floor as you go. They are much more efficient than spray nozzles for large spaces like warehouses.
While this just covers some of the basics when it comes to pressure washers, there is a lot of great information out there. You can check out Toolbarn’s pressure washer buying guide right here! Thanks for reading and keep an eye out for future content from all of us here at Toolbarn!