Pressure Washer Buying Guide 2020
Are you trying to choose the best electric pressure washer for you? I recently decided to buy a pressure cleaner and as I really had no idea about them I made a list of questions and answers to help me decide which one was best for us. I thought it may be useful to others as well. So I made a bit of a buying guide hope it helps.
What is a pressure washer and how does it work?
A pressure washer is a high powered tool that you connect to your normal garden hose and a power supply. The water passes through a pump which generates pressure. It then squirts the water out of a narrow nozzle at a higher pressure than it went in allowing you to quickly clean surfaces that would have taken hours of back breaking work. You can clean pretty well anything outside. I bit like when you put a nozzle on your garden hose only heaps more power is generated. Some of them look like a barrel or canister vacuum cleaner just a bit more heavy duty and are designed to be upright others have 4 wheels and are more trolley like. They have a rigid wand with a trigger that you squeeze to make it work.
How powerful are they?
There are generally three classes light, medium and heavy duty I know sounds a bit like Goldilocks. The heavy duty ones are generally gasoline powered, cost thousands of dollars and are way to serious for me – I didn’t even look at those.
Medium duty ones also seem to be generally gas powered so I didn’t look at those either.
So that only leaves the light duty ones which are electric powered.
The measurement used on each machine to indicate the size (or power) of the unit is PSI. PSI stands for pounds per square inch. Initially this seemed like a useful measurement to compare individual units.
I spoke to an engineer friend who said the other important measurement is the flow rate. Flow rate dictates how much water will go through the pump. So if the flow rate is low it will effect the overall power of the unit. He said if I multiply PSI by flow rate it would give a pretty good indication of the overall performance of the unit.
The bigger the area is that you want to clean and/or the more stubborn the dirt, the higher the performance required as it will effect the time it takes to get the job done.
I was trying to figure out how much better a pressure cleaner would be compared to my garden hose. Karcher is a well-known brand of Pressure washer they use a “bar” measurement to compare their range of machines. An explanation I found on their website to explain the power of the various machines seemed to be pretty easy to understand. It was something like this. A typical garden hose is 4 bars of power Karcher’s smallest unit which they refer to as K2 can operate as a level of 110 bars which the specs indicate is 1600 PSI. Their K5 is 2000 PSI or 145 bars. K7 unit which is their most powerful can operate at a level of 160 bars. Even the smallest unit is a huge improvement compared to a garden hose. I eventually found somewhere that a garden hose is 30-40psi.
You could probably clean a big area with a less powerful model but it will take you longer so if you are doing a lot of cleaning or cleaning often it’s better to buy a more powerful machine.
What can I clean with a pressure washer?
You can clean nearly any hard surface. I’ve seen warnings about them stripping paint so just be little bit careful especially if the paint is loose. We wanted ours to clean up around the house and pool. To clean windows and occasionally clean the car I’ve seen my neighbor climb on the roof of his house and clean his tiles which caused muddy water to rain down all over our house, pool and yard so I don’t recommend that unless you are prepared to clean your neighbors house as well. You can quickly clean, mold, moss or dirt off most surfaces. Outdoor furniture , awnings, cars boats caravans, bikes, decking, patios, fencing stairs, brickwork, garage floors, concrete, driveways, paths, plastic, metal, bikes – anything that it is OK to get wet. I have read that you shouldn’t use a high powered one on old brick work as the pressure can “blow” the mortar out. They could also have a similar effect on soft stone like sandstone. I don’t think you should clean paving blocks if they have loose sand in the cracks – the pressure washer will blast all the sand out. So unless you are prepared to replace the sand I think you should try another way. On the plus side it would probably blast all the weeds out as well so might actually be worth replacing the sand – just depends on you circumstances.
How are they powered?
As mentioned before, you can get electric, gasoline or battery powered ones. If you go for an electric pressure washer you will need to have ready access to a power outlet.
Gasoline seems like a lot of trouble and they would make about the same noise as a gas powered edger which is noisier than an electric one. I know that I won’t keep the battery charged so I decided to go with an electric one early in my search. I really just wanted something that I could plug in and go.
What else will I need?
Well the obvious thing is a garden hose that goes as far as you want to go with the pressure cleaner. You may also need an electric extension cord – depending on how far away your power outlet is. Some units can suck water from other water sources like a dam or a bucket which may be useful to some people but it seems like a lot of trouble to me. Most brands also sell extension hoses that will extend your range without having to move the unit. We managed easily with our normal garden hose and an extension cord but is something worth checking that everything will reach at your place.
How noisy are they?
I couldn’t find any indication of noise levels in any of the specs I reviewed.
Sound is measured in decibels, testing by Choice, a consumer group in Australia found the pressure cleaners they tested to be between 77 and 88dB. As an example a vacuum cleaners comes in at about 70dB so they are pretty noisy. The general consensus is that you should wear hearing protection when using them. The electric ones are quieter than the gasoline models the battery ones and the electric would be about the same.
How much water do they use?
Another consideration for me is how much water do they use. We live in an area that often has water restrictions and we pay a pretty hefty price for water usage so I didn’t want to be using too much water. Most of the pressure washers on the market have a flow rate measurement indicated as gallons per minute GPM or in some cases litres per minute l/min. This indicates how much water is pumped through the machine per minute. While it is difficult to compare it apparently is less than a garden hose and if you are doing the same job the pressure washer will get it done a lot faster. Most of the areas I want to clean are next to a garden or grassed area so the run off won’t be wasted. My conclusion is they use less water than a garden hose and a garden hose on it’s own could never get the results you get with a pressure washer.
Do I need any chemicals?
Most of the units I looked at had some way of adding detergents to the machine. I just would prefer not to use chemicals if I can get away with it. Of course the manufacturers recommend that you only use the detergent that they sell with their machine. When we first tried ours we decided to try it without detergent. The last thing we want is suds in our pool. It worked perfectly – the pressure alone cleaned everything in sight. I really don’t think I will ever need to add detergent. I guess the car attachment might work better with if you add some sort of wash and wax stuff but I haven’t done that either so I don’t know for sure.
How heavy and bulky is it to move around and store?
I don’t have a huge shed. Anything I buy needs to fit in. This alone could be the deciding factor for me there is no point buying it if I don’t have anywhere to put it. All the models I considered have wheels except the AR Blue 1350 PSI hand held model so they are pretty easy to move around.
There are some that just have the unit the hose and electrical cord wraps around the machine or just hangs over the handle for storage others have a hose reel. Like the one at the start of this post. The hose reel units are more bulky simply because a hose reel takes up more space. I think if you decided to get extra pressure hose you may need to get a hose reel model just to keep it all neat. The picture of a Sun Joe with a hose reel from the back it shows how the hose and the power cord are stored.
What attachments does it have?
Most of the jobs I have are pretty straight forward cleaning flat surfaces but I would like to be able to buy attachments if I need something extra down the track. There are lots of accessories available. You can get different nozzles, hard surface cleaners, brushes for cleaning your car and nozzles with variable pressure selectors to name just a few. You can also get extra lengths of high pressure hose which you can use to extend your range. Here is a link to pressure washer accessories so you can take a look yourself at whats avaialble.
What is the nozzle like?
Karcher claims it is all about the nozzle. They say that their nozzle cleans quicker and better than the competition.
How much do they cost?
Anything from under $100.00 to thousands.
I really didn’t look at every Pressure washer on the market. I don’t have time for that. I looked at the most popular the most familiar brand name and then a few others that seemed to be good value for money or seemed different in some way to the others.
Like this AR Blue hand carried one it has no wheels is 1350 PSI but it $449.00 and says it is industrial grade I just wanted to understand why it is so expensive. Doesn’t seem to make sense so I had a closer look at that.
I mainly looked at the Sun Joe models – because they are clearly the most popular brand. The Sun Joe SPX3000 is by far Amazons best selling Electric Pressure cleaner it has over 5000 reviews so it was pretty easy to find out how good or bad they are. They also have heaps of accessories the price looked to be OK as well.
Karcher because I had heard of that brand before and really associated them with pressure cleaners in my mind.
AR Blue Clean range because they are the next most popular after Sun Joe. The units seem to be more powerful for less money so could be good value for money.