Have you ever gone to the store to purchase a new tool or appliance and while examining your options realized that you had no idea what half of the words or phrases meant? Don’t let that happen to you when you go to purchase a pressure washer, which is likely going to be a fairly costly investment. Brush up on your pressure washer vocabulary with the list below:
Axial cam & Triplex: These are both types of pressure washer pumps. If you are buying a model for light and/or residential use, you will likely be getting a product that has the axial cam type of pump. Commercial units and higher-end professional systems usually have the triplex pump, as it is more efficient and lasts longer. (It is also more expensive)
PSI: Stands for “pounds per square inch” and it is one way of telling how powerful a pressure washer is; they can range anywhere from 1000 PSI (the lightest models) to 50,000 PSI (used for huge industrial projects, like bridges). It is a measure of the maximum amount of pressure that a washer can provide.
GPM: Stands for “gallons per minute” and it tells how much water is outputted by the pressure washer within the span of one minute. GPM is closely related to PSI, as models with a higher PSI will also have a higher GPM.
Cleaning units: The cleaning unit rating is a way to tell overall how powerful a pressure washer is. It takes both the PSI and GPM into account and multiplies them together. The resulting total is that model’s cleaning unit rating.
HP: Stands for horsepower and is a measure of the power of the gasoline engine.
Amps: Stands for amperage and it is a measure of the power of an electric motor.
Wand: The wand is the instrument out of which the pressurized water shoots. There are two types: adjustable and interchangeable. Adjustable wands allow the user to change the type of spray without switching nozzles or wands. Interchangeable wands are a set of different wants that each allow for a different spray type.
Interchangeable nozzle tips: Most, if not all, pressure washers will come with a set of interchangeable nozzle tips, which are basically predetermined settings for the pressure and flow of your spray. A higher number or degree measure, such as 40 or 40,° indicates a lower amount of pressure, but a wider area of coverage. The lowest number a nozzle will have is 0, which indicates an incredibly strong stream of pressurized water that should only be utilized when no other setting has worked.
Chemical/Detergent Injection: This feature allows cleaning products designed for use in pressure washers to be used either through a tank or siphoning tube.
Unloaders& thermal relief valves: Two safety features that you definitely want your pressure washer to include. These two mechanisms help the reduce pressure inside the machine and alleviate heat buildup.
- NEVER point or spray the pressure washer hose at another person or at an animal. Yes, it is “just water,” but it is highly pressurized water in a concentrated stream and it can cut through skin.
- Always keep the nozzle moving. Keeping the water aimed at one place for too long can cause damage to the surface. Just like with skin, pressurized water can cut into siding, plastic, and other materials.
- Use the lowest power setting possible. Your pressure washer will come with several different nozzles, usually color-coded and labeled according to how powerful a water stream they produce. You want to use the least-powerful one that will accomplish your task, due to the risks involved with handling and using water at higher pressures.
- When using an electric pressure washer, be careful to make sure that the electric current powering it and the water you are spraying do not come into contact. Unless you are looking for a “shocking” experience be extremely careful and take all necessary precautions when using an electric pressure washer. If you have small children or pets, keep them away from the area until you are done.
- Angle the nozzle and spray at a distance. Once again, this precaution is taken to avoid damaging the surface you are cleaning. Spraying straight at the surface increases the risk of cutting into it, so angle it down whenever you go to spray. For a similar reason, stand at least 4 feet away from the surface you are cleaning to allow the force to decrease a bit before hitting whatever you are cleaning.
- When storing the machine over winter, use a pump preservative. Winter can do horrible things to your skin, hair, landscaping, and now, since you have purchased a pressure washer, it can damage that too. Use a pump preservative to keep your pressure washer from freezing or becoming corroded.
- When doing your pressure washer test, pick a concealed area as your testing zone. Don’t pick the middle of the front of your house as a test washing site. If something were to go wrong, it’d be extremely noticeable and a constant source of irritation. Pick a spot in the back of your house, or a spot that is concealed by bushes or shrubbery.
- Watch out for items that should not be pressure washed. Avoid windows, lap siding, electrical outlets, soffit vents, attic vents, light fixtures, and air conditioning equipment. None of these things mix well with pressurized water, so be careful and mindful of what you are doing. It is for this reason that it is not a smart idea to allow children to “help” you pressure wash the house—there is just too much that can go wrong that would be extremely expensive to fix, not to mention the dangers of pressurized water.
- If you have a gas-powered pressure washer, never use it inside or in an area that is not well ventilated. Unless you want carbon monoxide poisoning, use your gas-powered washer in an area that is either out in the open or well-ventilated.