Pressure Washer Buying Guide
Pressure washers are great tools for cleaning a variety of outdoor items. Not only are they ten to fifty times more powerful than a garden hose, they use up to 80% less water. But before you go run out and buy a monster washer, use our guide to help you make the right choice.
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Questions to ask yourself
Pressure washer are available for all levels of use, from the weekend handyperson to heavy-duty commercial applications. Before you purchase, decide:
What are you planning to clean? Grills, outdoor furniture, decks, cars, houses, driveways and dog kennels are all candidates for pressure washing. However, each does not share the same cleaning requirements.
Cold or hot? Cold water pressure washers are less expensive, but not as effective for cleaning extremely dirty or greasy spots.
How often will you use the pressure washer? An occasional weekend cleanup does not require the long-term durability of a regular user.
Are mobility and portability important? Where will you be using the pressure washer? Gas-powered pressure washers are more portable but must be used outside. If you'll be using the washer indoors or in an unventilated area, use an electric washer. Gas-powered units can produce carbon monoxide in lethal doses.
Is time a factor? A heavy-duty pressure washer cuts some cleaning times in half.
Do you have adequate storage space? A heavy-duty pressure washer requires more space than a compact unit.
Speaking the Language - Some Definitions for Comparison Shopping
An electric pressure washer is the only choice for indoor or unventilated use.
Pounds Per Square Inch (psi) is the measurement of water pressure. The greater the psi, the better the cleaning efficiency.
Gallons Per Minute (GPM) refers to the water flow rate. Look for a combination of psi and GPM to deliver cleaning power. High pressure with little water flow is not effective.
Cleaning Unit (CU or UCE) is the water pressure multiplied by the water flow. A higher number means more power.
Gasoline engines are measured in horsepower (HP). Electric motors are measured in amperage (amps). More HP or amps means more power.
Pressure washers are available in a choice of two pump drive methods: direct drive and belt-driven. Heavy-duty belt-driven pumps offer more durability and efficiency.
The core of any pressure cleaning system is the high-pressure pump. Some pressure washers use plunger type pumps because of their high- pressure capability and compactness. More plungers result in smoother flow.
The actual cleaning is done by the nozzle or tip of the washer. The spray angle of the nozzle is adjustable to fit the cleaning need. The wider the spray, or fan, the lower its ability to cut through dirt. A zero-degree nozzle provides intense power. Fan angles of 15 to 25 degrees cover larger areas, combining stripping and washing power. Fans of 40 degrees or more are generally used for simple washing. Rotating nozzles are used for some cleaning applications.
Pressure Washer Safety
A gasoline powered pressure washer offers more freedom and maneuverability.
Depending on what you're cleaning, each application has its own specific procedure. Here are some general things to remember:
Always use the right nozzle. Using a nozzle that concentrates too much power can harm some surfaces, especially wood.
Use the chemical recommended by the manufacturer. Most manufacturers have detergents and waxes approved for use in their equipment. Different formulas are available for houses, decks, degreasing, and car washing/waxing.
Cleaning a house is best done from ground level, rather than on a ladder. Use accessories such as spray arm extensions and brushes for this type of project.
Cleaning results vary based on:
Whether or not you use detergent.
How far you are from the surface being cleaned.
How high the water pressure is.
How wide you set the spray angle.
Pressure washers are equipped with safety features designed to reduce pressure buildup. Unloaders and thermal relief valves prevent heat and water pressure from reaching dangerous levels. An oil-level indicator ensures that the washer stays properly lubricated.
CAUTION: Do not use gas-powered pressure washers in an enclosed or non- ventilated area.