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Pressure Washer Shopping Guide
Is your porch covered in dirt after a recent thunderstorm? Want to clear your patio in time for your first BBQ of the summer? Watching a pressure washer remove layers of debris from your outdoor surfaces can be one of the most satisfying processes to watch. With a little guidance and know-how, you can find a pressure washer that gets rid of the grime without any effort.
Why Do I Even Need a Pressure Washer?
You’ve just finished planting your favorite flowers, installing outdoor lighting, and assembling a raised flower bed. Everything should look as good as new, except now your outdoor patio and house siding looks dingy and grimy compared to that new soil. Don’t dull those beautiful blooms; instead, clean up those outdoor surfaces so your whole backyard can shine.
A pressure washer is perfect for those outdoor projects, especially as you gear up for the warmer weather. If your goal is to host more parties this year, maybe get a little outdoor fire going, then a pressure washer can help you clean up all the layers of dirt, old paint, pollen, and more that has been collecting on your outdoor surfaces.
What’s the point of having chairs in your backyard if everyone is too grossed out to sit in them? For friends wearing their best summer attire to your party, they won’t want to go near a dirt-covered chair in their pastel shorts.
Renting vs. Buying
In the past, pressure washers were something that you rent for the day, finish your project, and then return to the hardware store. You lose your liberty of power washing a brick walkway on a whim, cleaning one grime spot on the porch, or just taking your power washer out for a spin on a “lazy Sunday.” As soon as you hand back that fabled cleaning magician of a tool, you can’t just reach for the sprayer and take care of years of mildew and grime on your outdoor seating. And if that same hardware store was closed? Guess you’ll just have to deal with sitting on years of filth the next time you and your friends want to relax outside.
Now, as pressure washers become more portable and powerful with smaller profiles, you can easily afford to have one of your own. You and your neighbor can laugh about how their stepping stones used to be a shade of green until it got blasted by your pressure washer. Once you’re known as the guy or gal with the pressure washer, you can be sure that your friends will invite you over for a beer as they clean off their patio.
Save your friends from scrubbing off their porch on their hands and knees. As soon as you get your pressure washer, you’ll be the person that can be called on for almost anything outdoor-related. At prices ranging from $100-$300, you can easily snag a pressure washer and start owning your outdoor projects without a rental time limit.
What to Look for in a Pressure Washer
We can’t all be experts on pressure washers, and most likely, you don’t buy a pressure washer on a daily basis. It’s good to get some guidance on what to look out for when purchasing a new washer, especially if you want it to take on a medley of tasks for your outdoor spaces. From tool parts to pressure ranges, here are some things to look out for when purchasing your new pressure washer.
Cleaning Power Units
One thing you’ll see in the specs of a pressure washer is the “cleaning power,” which is a pretty broad term when you don’t know what it means. Cleaning power actually refers to the mathematical outcome of multiplying the pressure of water (units in Pounds per Square Inch or “PSI”) by the Water Flow Rate (gallons of water per minute or “GPM”). This helps measure the productivity of the water pump along with the power of the engine.
A bigger engine will offer more volume in the combustion chamber, which in turn spits out a higher PSI. The higher the PSI, the more powerful of a water stream you’ll see. This is important for any tough, old stains which needs an extra boost to remove. GPM is the amount of water that is released by the nozzle per minute, and you can visualize this as the water that moves the debris away after its been detached by the high-pressure water stream. The higher the GPM, the more efficient your cleaning will be since dirt and grease will be swept away with more water.
For most residential uses, you can choose a pressure washer that produces anywhere from 2,000 to 8,000 cleaning power units. As context, cleaning off your deck and degreasing your house siding only requires about 1,500 PSI. Multiply that by 2 GPM and you’ve already reached 3,000 cleaning power units. To clean off concrete, you’ll want to use about 3,000 PSI. At 3 GPM, you’re seeing 6,000 cleaning units to get the job done.
You’ll need a machine with higher cleaning power units if you’re cleaning industrial equipment or have large-scale graffiti removal to do, but for smaller-scale and home projects, you should be set with this range. Once you see PSI extend past 3,000, you’ll need to exercise more caution and treat your pressure washer like a cutting tool. The pressure it releases can damage wood and other surfaces, not to mention your hands with too much concentrated exposure. Commercial pressure washers can extend well into 14,000 cleaning units or more.
Two Types of Personal Pressure Washers: Gas and Electric
Just like most high-powered appliances, pressure washers use different types of power sources to perform differently. For pressure washers that are used at home, the two pressure washers you’ll find on the market are electric and gas-powered. These two models are in different price ranges, perform at different velocities, and require maintenance specific to the needs of the motor.
Gas-Powered Pressure Washers
Gas-powered pressure washers can handle tougher jobs at a quicker pace like removing stuck-on adhesives or paint from walls. They shoot out water at higher pressures with more volume because they’re typically bigger engines. The pressure of water you’ll see from a gas-powered engine is anything from 2,000 to 4,000 PSI. This is the perfect tool to quickly take care of grime and sludge.
Plus, a gas-powered unit does not require an outlet or power source, so you can take your tool with you to a remote location. For new property owners who haven’t hooked up the electricity to their new fixer-upper, this is a huge benefit. Or, if you just find a random concrete slab in the middle of the woods that you want to clean off, now’s your chance.
Gas-powered pressure washers will land you a few hundred dollars more than an electric pressure washer, but for the heavy-duty job, you’ll be saving time and money using a more efficient tool.
With a gas-powered engine, you should be prepared for more maintenance responsibilities, as well as more caution when it comes to cleaning some surfaces. You don’t want to destroy the wooden deck that you’re trying to restore, so you need to exercise some restraint when cranking up your gas-powered pressure washer to its highest mode. Maintenance requires fuel-mixing, ensuring your fuel doesn’t freeze in the winter, and tune-ups. On top of this, you’ll likely be dealing with a pull-start engine, so if that bugs you, you might want to take a look at an electric model instead.
Electric Pressure Washers
Day-to-day cleanups like small patios, sidewalks, and outdoor furniture can usually be cleaned with an electric pressure washer without any problem. An electric pressure washer will save you money with its upfront cost of anywhere from $100-$300, and its low maintenance is appealing for homeowners who simply don’t want to deal with the hassle of gas.
This convenience makes electric pressure washers a go-to for most homeowners. Without gas fumes, you can use your electric unit in more confined spaces, meaning that you can tackle old tile or linoleum floors as you prepare to replace flooring. These units require no pull-starts, weigh less, and are quieter, so your neighbors will still love you when you get obsessed with all the different cleaning projects you suddenly need to do.
Electric pressure washers will need an outlet to plug into, and you want to be sure that your unit has safety features built-in that protect you from electrocution. This is especially important since you’re dealing with water and plugs while you work.
Compared to gas-powered, you’ll see less cleaning power units, and this comes in the form of lower PSI as well as lower water volume that runs through the cleaning wand each minute. This translates into slower project completion overall, which can be a drawback for anyone low on patience.
Features of a Pressure Washer
You don’t necessarily need to dissect or analyze all parts of a pressure washer until you’re in the market to replace certain parts. However, it’s valuable to understand which parts make a pressure washer work more effectively. When you’re paying a higher price for certain specs, you should be getting everything you can out of those certain qualities.
Depending on the make and model of the pressure washer, you’ll see additional features like extension wands, single-stream functions, and more specialty add-ons that give that pressure washer some extra flair. Keep in mind that the more additional features you get, the pricier the model will be. If your projects include a simple patio clean-up, you can save a few bucks by excluding these features from your purchase.
With any gas-powered model that you shop for, you’ll notice a number of liters associated with each unit. The higher the number of liters, the longer lasting a gas-powered pressure washer can go without needing to be refueled. A tank that holds 3 liters or more can last you 2-3 hours of non-stop work.
Gas-powered pressure washers are going to be heavier due to their fuel tanks and engine components, so you want to make sure that you’re looking at models that are easy to transport and move around. For electric pressure washers, their profile is a little smaller and they can be stored away indoors, making this feature less important. Still, if portability is important to you, keep your eye out for handles, wheels, or weight specifications with the unit you’re looking at.
You will need to be connected to a water source via your water pump, and this will be connected with a heavy-duty hose that comes with your pressure washer. Everyday water hoses don’t hold up to the immense amount of water pressure that is inputted.
Pressure Washers to Compare
Choosing your pressure washer can be a fun and rewarding task that will bring you a satisfying cleaning like you’ve never known. With the amount of affordable pressure washers on the market, you can own a tool that will make chores actually fun. You’ll want your kids to draw on the sidewalk just so you can wash it off later. You’ll even find yourself hoping for rain so you can clear off the post-storm debris. A new pressure washer will have you itching to complete outdoor projects, something that could always use a motivation boost. Compare our top picks and find the pressure washer that will help you tackle your next project in no time.
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