Do You Need a Pressure Washer?

The short answer is probably, no, you probably don’t need a pressure washer of your very own. But to be perfectly honest, I find it hard to imagine ever owning too many power tools.

They are exceptionally versatile tools, but there are a couple of things to keep in mind if you are thinking about buying a power washer. The first is that just like any power tool, a pressure washer can be dangerous. High pressure water can do some serious damage to you, your kids, your yard, even the surface you are trying to clean!

This may sound counter intuitive, but getting a more powerful pressure washer may actually be less versatile than a lower pressured model, but more on that later.

The pressure washer will increase the pressure of the water coming out of your garden hose many times over, far beyond what a nozzle is capable of. The heart of the system is a high pressure pump that is fed by your garden hose. The pump is driven by an electric or small gasoline motor. The washer will usually be a “High Pressure, Low Volume” system, which means that a relatively small amount of water will be coming out of the washer nozzle, but it will be coming out with a great deal of force!

The other parts of the pressure washer include the frame which supports the motor and the pump. Especially on the larger, gas powered units, the frame may be mounted on wheels to make it more portable. The pump will be attached to a high pressure hose. The longest hose you can get would seem to be an advantage, but there will come a point where the extra length becomes difficult to manage. On the end of the hose will be the pressure gun. Most washers intended for the home-owner will come with several different nozzles for the end of the gun. Most nozzles spray in a fan pattern- the wider the fan the less pressure or force is applied to the surface being cleaned. Another important feature on a pressure washer is a means to mix cleaning chemicals with the high pressure water. On home-owner units the mixing is usually “down-stream”, after the water has left the pump. This means that there is no danger of the chemicals damaging the pump.

The temptation when you go shopping for a pressure washer is to buy the most powerful unit you can afford. There are a couple of disadvantages to this thinking, besides the outlay of your hard earned cash. First of all, the more powerful handy-man units are usually gas powered. Gasoline engines are generally very reliable, but they do need to be maintained. If a small gasoline engine isn’t used on a regular basis, it can actually deteriorate faster than one that is used daily. An electric motor may not seem as portable because you need an extension cord to use it, but the electric motor is practically maintenance free.

I may get drummed out of the Power Tool Lovers club for saying this, but the most powerful pressure washer isn’t always the most versatile. Professional power washing services find that the chemicals they use actually do most of the work. An over-powered unit can do damage to the surface you are trying to wash. It may take longer to do big jobs like washing the house with a smaller unit, but it can be safely used for things like washing your backyard grill and lawn furniture. You can even use it to wash your car!

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