How Much PSI Do I Need in A Pressure Washer?

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More is always better right? Well, not necessarily when it comes to pressure washers.

The last thing you’ll want to do is pressure wash your car with a 4000 PSI pressure washer, well unless you want to strip the paint off of the vehicle! So how much PSI do you need in a pressure washer? Well let’s find out.

How Much PSI Do I Need in A Pressure Washer?

This is the first question that you should ask once you decide to get a pressure washer for your external washing needs.

Cleaning grimy and dirty concrete surfaces, including driveways, patios, and oil-stained garage floors are completely different from washing your car.

However, in both cases, it will no longer take copious amounts of elbow grease and man-hours to get the job done.

All you need is a pressure washer. It will not only require less time and effort, but it will also ensure that all of your outdoor spaces look as good as new.

However, a power washer should not be taken lightly.

It is, after all, a very serious piece of equipment, especially if we consider the fact that it forces the water stream out of the nozzle at a pressure which is around 60 times the pressure of the regular garden hose.

If you are not careful, it can damage a lot of delicate stuff ranging from garden furniture to car paint.

This is why it is of paramount importance to choose the right model, as well as the best techniques, to get excellent results that are as safe as they are superior.

For example, it will take much less pressure to clean dirt and dust, and salt residue from your car than it will take to clean the hard-packed oil stains from your car parking area.

Different Types of Pressure Washers Available Today

Broadly defined, there are two different types of pressure washers available today. They come in gas-powered as well as electric models.

The latter can cost as low as $100 and require less frequent maintenance. They are also light and portable, leading to a hassle-free experience. But they do not pack the power of a gas engine-powered pressure washer.

This means that they may not have the required PSI (pounds per square inch) to punch through the really hard grit of most hard surfaces.

This is especially true if these surfaces are continuously exposed to the sun and the grime has solidified and baked right into the surface itself.

Generally speaking, most electric pressure washers create 1100 to 1700 pounds per square inch of pressure at the nozzle tip.

This pressure will steadily decrease with an increase in the distance between the object being cleaned and the nozzle tip discharging the water.

This is why it is better to keep the objects directly in front of the nozzle of an electric pressure washer.

The average electric pressure washer discharges 1.5 gallons of water per minute (GPM).

Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 Max PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5-Amp Electric Pressure Washer

This is fine for a car or a garden gnome, for instance. But most experienced contractors usually recommend at least 2.5 gallons per minute at pressure levels between 2000 and 3000 PSI for some serious work.

More Is Not Always Better!

Simpson MSH3125 MegaShot Gas Pressure Washer 3000 PSI

Best Value – Heavy-duty Gas Pressure Washer

  • HONDA GC190 premium residential engine
  • Maintenance-free OEM Technologies axial cam pump
  • Note : Keep Maximum Fuel level 1/2 Inch(12.7 mm) below bottom of filler neck to avoid fuel spillage

Gas-powered models are available in several different sizes for both home and industrial use.  The smaller models tend to average between 2000 to around 2800 PSI while churning out a relatively sedate 2.5 to 2.8 GPM.

The larger gas-powered models can go all the way up to 3000 to 4000 PSI and discharge around 4 gallons of water per minute.

However, it is essential to understand here that “more is not always better” when it comes to pressure washers.

If you are not careful, an overpowered pressure washer can easily damage many types of hard household surfaces.

This is why it is vital to consider your house cleaning requirements very carefully. Sometimes, the high powered models may cost more than twice as much as the electric ones. This is a lot of power that you ‘don’t’ need.

On the other hand, a smaller or medium-sized gas-powered pressure washer may be just the thing for most household cleaning jobs, especially those that require concrete cleaning work.

You ‘can’ get a larger washer for cleaning your moldy fence or concrete driveway. But the odds are that the sheer pressure would be way too intense for most other household cleaning jobs.

It is a good idea to buy an electric pressure washer for your regular needs and just simply rent a larger washer when you want to go to town with your driveway and yard.

Check Out the Accessories

Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 Max PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5-Amp Electric Pressure Washer

When selecting your pressure washer for the very first time, you should always make sure that the right nozzles and accessories are included in the deal. And if they are not, it is a smart idea to go for a model whose accessories are commonly available so that you will be able to buy them separately.

Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 Max PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5-Amp Electric Pressure Washer

For example, to clean a concrete driveway or other structure, you will definitely need a high-pressure nozzle that will discharge a fine, strong spray.

Apart from that, you will also need a wide-angle nozzle that will be useful when you are rinsing the driveway.

Finally, you will also require a low-pressure nozzle so that you will be able to evenly apply detergent all over the surface.

You should also check to see if your home can support high-pressure water usage. Many homes are dependent on well water or hooked onto a low-pressure municipal supply network.

This is important because all pressure washers depend on a high water inflow to work properly.

If your home water pressure is too low, then your pressure washer will not have enough pressure to do its job properly. Not only will your machine become really ineffective, but the pump may also overheat and get damaged.

The Importance of Volume in Your Pressure Washer

While the raw pressure of the water provides the power required to break up tough stains and thickly packed dirt and grit, it is water volume that effectively flushes away all of the broken up filth.

If the volume is not adequate, the grime will simply reform again. And all that hard work will be wasted. 

This is why the higher the volume of the water that moves through the nozzle in a minute, the better and faster you will be able to clean any object or place.

Higher GPM (gallons per minute) capability means quicker cleaning because there is so much more water flowing over the surface. This leads to a better chance to lift and carry away all the dirt.

Example

Imagine that you are shooting a squirt gun at a large knot of dirt on your sidewalk. If you do it long enough, the clump will break apart, but the dirt will still be right there.

Now try pouring a full five-gallon pail of water directly on that dirt and see the result. The odds are that all of that dirt will be washed away.

Now, imagine combining the pressure of your squirt gun with the sheer volume of the bucket. Do you see where I am going with this? In a nutshell, this is what pressure washers are all about! 

They allow you to combine high-pressure flow with a high volume of water to clean dirty surfaces in record time. This is why you should never forget the total GPM flow of the washer.

In the grand scheme of things, it plays as vital a role as the total foot-pounds of pressure generated by the pump of your pressure washer.

There are several more factors that you need to take into consideration when it comes to buying this tool.

 Since all individual units have different features, the ideal one will depend on your requirements as well as usage.

Let me walk you through some of the more essential things you need to consider before you make your final purchase.

Consider How Many Times You Will Need to Use the Pressure Washer

If you plan on using the machine regularly and you feel that your total annual usage will easily exceed 100 hours, then you might need to look at the top-end, heavy-duty commercial models.

However, keep in mind that you will need to use your machine at least twice or thrice a week on average to justify the high purchase cost of a really expensive commercial grade pressure washer.

However, if you intend to use the machine for a bit of spring cleaning and then simply store it away in the tool shed, then there is no need to spend that much.

Determine the Utility of Your Pressure Washer

As I said before, different applications will almost always require different levels of water pressure.  

Sun Joe SPX3000 2030 Max PSI 1.76 GPM 14.5-Amp Electric Pressure Washer

You should not use more than 700 PSI if the only item you want to wash is your car. But if you’re going to clean the patio or deck then 1500 PSI may not be ideal for the task at hand.

Apart from that, your yard, external walls, and concrete driveway will definitely need something in the 2000 + PSI range. While most pressure washers have variable pressure settings, it is better to decide beforehand just which tasks you need your machine to perform.

Would You Be Able to Fulfil the Energy Requirements of The Pressure Washer?

All pressure washers have energy requirements. Some of them are powered by gas, electricity, diesel, or even hydraulic power.

While hydraulic power is generally used for agricultural and mining applications, the various other types of fuel-using washers have different commercial and residential uses.

For instance, diesel is often used for heavy-duty commercial-sized pressure washers.

Smaller gas-powered options are an excellent choice for home use where there are extended pathways and fences. Moreover, such units can be useful in places where there is no electricity outlet, or the main power socket is too far away to be of any use.

While it is certainly possible to use a mobile generator to power an electric pressure washer, a generator and pressure washer combo is not really a good idea.

Not if you only want to wash the deck near the pool. It is important to consider the fact that your electric pressure washer will only be most convenient in areas where there are plenty of outdoor electric outlets.

Pressure Washer Vs. Power Washer: Do You Need Hot Water in Your Applications?

The main difference between a power washer and a pressure washer is that the latter uses only cold water. The power washer, on the other hand, can handle hot and cold water with equal ease.  

Many situations might require power washing instead of pressure washing.  For example, to sanitize and clean your pet’s cage or to remove the grime from your main gate, it is better to opt for a power washer. 

Both these applications can use hot water and detergent.

The addition of a powerful heating coil can turn a pressure washer into a power washer. But the machine also requires insulated handles, hose, and nozzles so that they won’t melt due to high heat and cause injuries to the operator.

However, most such units tend to be heavier than their simple pressure washer counterparts. This means that they have to be engine-based and liquid fuel-powered.

Fundamental Differences Between Pressure Requirements and Utility

If you have to spend $30-to$50 every few weeks to have your car washed or your house cleaned, then it would be a great idea to save all that money and buy a pressure washer to do the job for you.  

But without the correct pressure settings, it would be a very tall order indeed.

For example, a large and unwieldy 4000 PSI unit may look really impressive. But it can easily break the windows of your car if you turn it on full blast!

So which one should you use for such functions? Well, there is only one way to find out. Let us take a look and see for ourselves:

So How Much PSI Do You Really Need Anyway?

Since different pressure washer models have markedly different PSI ratings, it is imperative that you don’t get confused and use the wrong machine for the job at hand. The wrong pressure appliance can do more harm than good, such as stripping the paint off your car! 

Let us take a look at the most common PSI ratings and see how they work:

The 1,500 to 2,500 PSI Electric Pressure Washer

These are some of the lightest and least powerful models. They are also the least expensive ones. Most of these small and portable, light-duty models can generate up to 1,500 PSI only.

They are primarily used to wash different things such as your BBQ grills, bike, scooter, or car.  They are ideal for this work because it is virtually impossible for 1500 PSI to chip away the paint job on your car.

If this is all that you want and desire from your pressure washer, just stick to the 1500 PSI version.

The higher-powered 2000 PSI+ models pack more muscle, but there is not much that a 2000 PSI machine can do that a 1500 PSI washer won’t be able to handle.

Yes, you may have to work a bit harder, but even the lower PSI rating machines will usually get the job done.

2,600 to 3000PSI Gas Pressure Washers

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Now let us bump up the pressure game a notch or two and see what we get.  This type of pressure washer can handle everything that a basic or bare-bones 1,500 electric model can do. 

But apart from cleaning yesterday’s leftover gristle from the grill, they can also effectively clean patio furniture, decks, and your cedar fence too.

3,000 + High Powered PSI Gas Pressure Washers

There are no electric pressure washers in this range. In fact, the 3,000 + PSI is the exclusive domain of powerful gas-guzzling internal combustion engines.

They are pretty useful for people who own their personal boats and ATVs. They will also clean an asphalt driveway in no time at all. But it would not be a good idea to use them for light work.

4,000 + PSI Gas Pressure Washers

These are some of the most powerful pressure washers available to the home user. However, it is doubtful that you should get one of these beasts. It is very simple really. This is enough pressure to blow your face clean off!

So, if you get one of these monsters, you should exercise EXTREME caution. Apart from removing spray-painted graffiti, there are very few home-based applications for such an incredibly powerful machine. 

This is why almost all such machines are used by highly-trained professionals in carefully controlled industrial settings.

Which GPM Setting Is Right for You?

As mentioned above, GPM is every bit as important as the pressure of the unit. While the rating may vary from model to model, it is advisable to stick to a lower figure for various home-based operations.

Apart from the obvious benefits to the environment, you will not be able to accomplish much if you use a 2.0 GPM model instead of a 1.5 GPM unit.

While electricity-powered models generally consume about 2 GPM max, the gasoline-powered units can discharge as much as five gallons per minute.

Now, to the layman’s untrained ear, the leap from 2 to 5 gallons per minute can certainly sound like a lot.

But one thing you are probably not aware of is the fact that the regular garden hose that you use to water the lawn uses way more water than a pressure washer.

Caring for the Environment

The average gallon per minute consumption of your standard garden hose stands between an utterly massive 20 and 24 GPM! This is ten times as much as your pressure washer. And what makes it worse is that its total PSI is only 60.

This is precisely why your pressure washer is such a good investment. Not only can it bring down your water bills to a fraction of their former size, but the environment will also thank you for it!

However, keep in mind that you should never use it to water the lawn or the flowers. The pressure will be very harmful to the plants. 

So there you have it. A really “good” PSI rating of just about any pressure washer is almost entirely dependent on what “you” think is good for you.

Some Parting Advice

  • You should always read your pressure washer’s operating manual thoroughly before switching on the unit.
  • Always clear the immediate and surrounding areas. In case you are working on a sensitive surface, you should conceal it with protective coverings.
  • Always remember, even a 2000 PSI mid-sized pressure washer can easily cut unprotected skin and can even damage wood.
  • Always begin the cleaning process from the highest point so that the water will be able to drain away from the surface. This will save a lot of water in the long run.
  • You should brush or spray any loose debris off the concrete before using any detergent.

What I Think…

A pressure washer is an excellent spray cleaning device for most residential uses. If you own a single-story house, I would recommend sticking to a plain vanilla electric pressure washer.

This is because such a machine, especially with the right accessories, can easily clean, cars, patios, and even the windows of your house.

And it can do all of the above without running the risk of blasting your precious stuff into smithereens.

Hopefully, now know that you know the answer to the question “how much PSI do I need in a pressure washer?” you will put this information to good use to buy that perfect machine for your home.

How Much PSI Do I Need in A Pressure Washer?

Last update on 2019-11-13 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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