How to buy a pressure washer
A pressure washer buying guide
A pressure washer is a power tool that performs tough tasks with ease. With so many types of pressure washers on the market, it's important to consider the types of projects you want a pressure washer for, the amount of pressure you need, the washer's water efficiency and its durability.
>> Where will you use your pressure washer?
The best pressure washer to buy depends on where you plan to use your pressure washer.
If you plan to do any tasks indoors with a pressure washer, the best pressure washer to buy is one with an electric motor that uses AC power; gasoline-powered models usually require too much ventilation for indoor projects. Some common indoor pressure washer projects include cleaning basements or showers and removing grime from basement floors. For such projects, make sure that you have appropriate pump system in place and that you are in compliance with local regulations regarding disposal of wastewater into storm drains. If you're planning on using your sewer connection to get rid of the water, check the recommended flow rate, which is usually a maximum of 20 gallons per minute (GPM).
If you will use your pressure washer outside, gas-powered models are probably the best pressure washers to buy, so that you don't have an extension cord getting in the way of your work. Common outdoor pressure washer projects include cleaning driveways, aluminum siding or garages. Gas-powered pressure washers come in a variety of strengths, from the light (cleaning a patio deck) to the heavy-duty (for stripping paint).
>> Think about light-duty vs. heavy-duty jobs
Dividing jobs into can also help you decide how to buy a pressure washer that fits your needs.
Light-duty jobs for these popular home improvement tools include washing your car, cleaning your basement, cleaning a shower, washing a bike, cleaning aluminum siding or cleaning dirt from your driveway. Heavy-duty jobs include removing oil from concrete, chipping paint off a garage or house or removing graffiti.
>> How much water pressure do you need?
Light-duty jobs require much less water pressure for their intended jobs than heavy-duty jobs, and therefore, different types of pressure washers. The force that a pressure washer can deliver is measured in pounds per square inch (PSI). The most popular consumer models deliver 1000-3000. Even lower-pressure models of 1000-2000 PSI will take care of most household cleaning needs, such as cars, decks, house siding, patios, patio furniture, BBQ grills, bicycles and driveways. 2,500 PSI can strip paint from metal surfaces. "Pro-sumer" models deliver up to 5,000 PSI and are appropriate for contractors dealing with large homes, farms and other job sites.
>> Consider how much water the pressure washer uses
Another important pressure washer feature to consider as you determine how to buy a pressure washer is how much water it will use. This is measured as a flow rate, in gallons per minute (GPM) The average outdoor water hose uses 8 GPM, while pressure washers typically use between 1.2 and 4 GPM. For many people, this efficiency is one of the most appealing pressure washer features.
>> Think about storage room
Size can be an important pressure washer feature to consider. Some pressure washers are quite small - about the size of a canister vacuum cleaner. Other types of pressure washers can be as large as a lawnmower or larger. Size becomes important also if you plan to transport your pressure washer, say to a vacation home. Lower-pressure models can fit in a trunk or an SUV. Larger models are likely to require a pickup truck.
>> Consider pressure washer features
Consider customizable features as well when deciding which pressure washer to buy. Some types of pressure washers have interchangeable nozzles or specialized attachments, such as that for cleaning broad surfaces, like decks and driveways. Some attachments allow you to spray soap or solvents and water at the same time (with lower PSI for each). This allows for heavy-duty cleaning. For example, you can use this pressure washer feature to removing tar from machines or cars.
>> Think about durability
In addition to differences in PSI and GPM specifications, the quality of pressure washers' parts varies. Generally, as the PSI of a washer increases, so does the quality of the parts. In part, this is to handle the higher pressures. The other part is that heavy-duty washers must be designed for frequent use in professional situations. Don't buy a higher grade of pressure washer than you need.
>> Pressure washer safety concerns
Rocks, dirt and other small objects will go flying when hit with pressurized water, so always wear goggles and work gloves when you use a pressure washer. Some pressures washers automatically reduce water pressure when they reach dangerous levels, and others have self-lubricating pumps and engines, which reduce overheating. If you plan to perform heavy-duty jobs, consider buying models with these types of safety features when deciding how to buy a pressure washer.
When thinking about how to buy a pressure washer, consider the jobs you will be doing, where you will be doing them, how much water pressure you need and other pressure washer features, including safety features.