Choosing a Pressure Washer

Pressure washers have been used for more than 65 years to clean in every industry, including healthcare, municipalities, agriculture, manufacturing, construction, transportation, oil fields and more. They remove everything from grease, grime, oil and proteins to stubborn dirt, mud and debris. Today, there are thousands of hot and cold-water power washer models to choose from. So, which do you choose?

When choosing a pressure washer, its important to answer a few questions, such as how many hours will you be using your pressure washer per week, what is your budget, what are you cleaning and where will you be cleaning? Once you answer these questions, you will better understand what kind of  pressure washer will best meet your cleaning needs.

For the purpose of this article, the primary focus will be on commercial-grade pressure washers, with some minor comparisons of residential units.

How many hours per week?

Pressure washers are essentially engineered for two types of use – residential and commercial. Residential power washers usage varies based off of the manufacturer’s warranty… some are only designed for up to 8 hours of use per week. Their components, such as their pump, engine and even frame are not as robust and their warranties provide less coverage than commercial-grade units. A commercial-grade power washer is engineered for more than 20 hours per week of operation. Its frame, engine and pump are built for extensive use and typically come with more substantial warranties, such as a 7-year pump warranty and 5-year coil warranty. Residential units are typically used by a homeowner who may be power washing their backyard deck, patio, fence and other smaller household projects. A commercial unit can be found on a construction site, farm, oil field or any other application that requires heavy-duty cleaning of equipment and facilities.

What is your budget?

Just as was discussed in the previous section, residential and commercial-grade pressure washers greatly differ in the ruggedness of their components, and so they differ in price too. The price of a commercial unit can easily be 5 times that of a residential unit. Residential units are offered by many different manufacturers and can be purchased from big box stores, such as Home Depot or Lowes, some can even be purchased from commercial pressure washer dealers. Commercial-grade pressure washer are also engineered by various manufacturers, but these power washers are typically only found at commercial dealer stores. Commercial-grade pressure washers can easily be thousands of dollars, where as residential units are typical hundreds of dollars, with a few being just more than a thousand dollars.

What are you cleaning?

What are you cleaning is one of the most important questions you can answer when purchasing a commercial-grade power washer. They are offered in hot and cold water units. In general, hot water pressure washers are used to remove grease, grime, oil, proteins, caked on mud and help reduce germs. Cold water pressure washers are typically used to remove mud, stubborn dirt and debris. All of them have a HP (horsepower), PSI (pounds per square inch) and GPM (gallons per minute). We won’t go into too much detail about HP, PSI and GPM, it’s just good to remember that your HP, PSI and GPM determine your cleaning power. They vary from one model to another, and your dealer will recommend models with given cleaning power for your particular cleaning application.

Commercial-grade hot water pressure washers can get up to 200-degree Fahrenheit and because of that, they are able to effectively and efficiently break the surface tension, by dissolving and emulsifying grease, grime, oil, hydraulic fluid, caked on mud and animal proteins. Their water temperature is also effective at reducing the presence of germs, and they don’t require the use or as much use of detergents. As a result, they can be used on more sensitive surfaces, that otherwise can’t tolerate greater applied pressure. Hot water pressure washers typically clean 40-60% faster than like sized cold water machines and surfaces heated up by the hot water, tend to dry faster. There are some hot water units that are all electric and can be used indoors, and hot water stationary units can be installed in an enclosed area with an appropriate ventilation system. Generally though, hot water units do have emissions and should only be used outdoors. You can find hot water pressure washers with direct and belt-drive pumps, as portable, stationary, skid and trailer mounted units and electric, gas and diesel-powered. Because of their burner system, hot water power washers do tend to cost more to purchase and maintain than a cold water unit.

Commercial-grade cold water pressure washers are often used to remove mud, stubborn dirt and debris from a surface; however, they do tend to use a greater force to do so, and they often require the use of a chemical or soap. They are not always recommended for more sensitive surfaces, as the cleaning pressure or force could damage certain surfaces. All-electric cold water units are versatile, in that, they don’t have emissions and can be used outdoors and indoors. You can find cold water pressure washers with direct and belt-drive pumps, as portable, compact, modular (cart to skid), hand-held, wall and trailer mounted units and electric, gas and diesel-powered. Cold waters units tend to be less expensive to purchase and maintain because they don’t have a burner, like a hot water unit.

Where are you cleaning?

These questions can help you figure out if you need an electric, gas or diesel-powered commercial-grade pressure washer, and if the unit must be portable, stationary or trailer mounted. These questions will be the kind of questions you will encounter with a dealer who sells commercial-grade power washers:

-Is the site local or remote?
 For instance, a restaurant or a school vs a mining site or an oil field.

-Is the site noise sensitive?
Such as a hospital, nursing home or a resort.

-Are you cleaning one area of the site or multiple areas, and how big is the area being cleaned?
A parking lot can have an extensive surface area to clean or construction sites might have multiple sites nearby that require cleaning at each.

-What is the access of the area you’re operating on / in?
Is it a paved area, such as grocery store or a facility, that’s easy to transport your pressure washer, or is it unpaved, uneven terrain, such as a construction site or mining operation.

-Is the object or surface you’re cleaning indoors or outdoors?
Wash bays can be enclosed or open. Food processing plants require indoor and outdoor cleaning.

-Is there an outlet?
If you are operating an electric-powered pressure washer, you’ll need an outlet that provides proper voltage / plug.

-Is there a water source?
Pressure washers require water, if there is no water source, then you will have to consider a water tank to accompany your pressure washer.

When purchasing a commercial-grade pressure washer, it’s always important to seek out an authorized commercial pressure washer dealer. Their sales and service staff are experts in the cleaning industry, and they can help walk you through these questions and can recommend equipment suitable for your application, as well as, soap, and accessories that are appropriate for your machine and cleaning task.

One last topic to cover… How will you care for your machine? Commercial-grade pressure washers are an investment, and while they may not be the primary piece of equipment or focus on a site or in a facility, they are important in keeping heavy equipment up and running or a facility or farm free of slip and fall hazards, contamination, disease and much more. So, its important to keep your pressure washer properly maintained throughout the year. Maintenance prolongs the equipment’s life, helps to provide safe operation, identifies potential issues and resolves them before it’s a problem, and maintains manufacturer’s warranties. A downed pressure washer has cost some construction companies hundreds of thousands of dollars because it was not available to keep heavy equipment clean and free from overheating.

You depend on your pressure washer, and an authorized commercial pressure washer dealer provides certified and factory trained technicians who ensure your pressure washer is running at factory specs. An authorized commercial dealer will also work with you to find accessories and detergents that will enhance your power washer’s performance, saving you cleaning time and labor costs.




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