What is a Good PSI for a Pressure Washer?
Have you ever had your car professionally washed at a car wash? How much did it cost? If it was somewhere in the range of $20 and $50, then you could rack up quite a bill at the end of the year. Why not consider investing in your own pressure washer to use at home? Not only can you wash your car, but you can power clean paved paths, driveways, and spray-clean gutters and downspouts easily.
However, you might’ve heard of the dangers of using pressure washers at home. These tools shoot a stream of concentrated, pressurized water at surfaces and could potentially cause damage. So if they’re so good, how come they’re so dangerous? Well, it’s important that you know what you’re getting, especially in regards to the machine’s PSI rating.
What is PSI?
PSI, short for pounds per square inch, measures the amount of pressure output is shot out of the pressure washer’s gun or lance. Obviously, a higher PSI rating equals more power, whereas a lower PSI rating equals a lower maximum amount of pressure output.
Different models come with different PSI ratings, but one way to determine whether you’re getting something overtly powerful or not is by its fuel source. If you’re shopping for a pressure washer, you’ll come across two types – electric and gas pressure washers.
Electric vs. Gas Pressure Washers
In a nutshell, electric pressures plug into a standard outlet, activating the motor to pressurize water that enters the machine. Gas pressure washers run on gasoline which powers a combustion engine which pressurizes water before its shot out of a spray lance.
In general, gas pressure washers are much more powerful than electric versions. Gas models can produce upwards of 3,000 PSI for heavy-duty cleaning. Electric models usually cap off at 2,600 PSI or so.
However, just because electric models produce less pressure output doesn’t mean they’re useless. In fact, for most cleaning applications, you won’t even need a super-powerful, mega-ultra gas model.
How much PSI do I need?
Seeing as to how pressure washers have different PSI ratings, it’s crucial that you use the right amount of pressure for the job. After all, you wouldn’t want to end up stripping the paint of your car by using too much pressure. Now let’s take a look at the most popular PSI ratings and what they’re designed to do.
1,500-PSI Electric Pressure Washer
Light-duty models that generate up to 1,500 PSI are mainly designed to wash things like BBQ grills, bikes, scooters, and cars. At this level, chipping the paint job on your vehicle is virtually impossible. If you need a pressure washer exclusively to wash your car, stick to a 1,500-PSI model.
2,600-PSI Electric or Gas Pressure Washers
Now let’s bump it up a notch and see what 2,600-PSI models are capable of doing. Essentially, they can do everything a 1,500-PSI model can but with the inclusion of effectively cleaning decks, patio furniture, and cedar fences.
3,000-PSI Gas Pressure Washers
3,000-PSI models and above are exclusively powered by gas-guzzling combustion engines. If you have a boat, an ATV, and/or an asphalt driveway, you’ll need one of these beasts to clean them quickly and effectively.
4,000-PSI Gas Pressure Washers
Pressure washer tanks can produce up to and beyond 4,000 PSI of pressure output. This is enough power to spray your face clean off so if you get one of these behemoths, exercise EXTREME caution. With 4,000 PSI, you can erase old graffiti and machinery. 4,000-plus-PSI models are mainly used by professionals or in industrial settings and rarely ever used for residential purposes.
What about GPM?
We’re glad we asked. You see, PSI measures how much pressure is shot out of the nozzle of the gun or lance. However, without water, pressure is useless, and this is where GPM (gallons per minute) comes into play.
The GPM rating, like PSI, varies from model to model, though they usually stick to a low figure. Electric models typically consume about 2 GPM max, whereas gas-powered models can use as much as 5 GPM.
Now, to the untrained ear, 2 to 5 GPM sounds like a lot, and over time it can be, especially if you use your pressure washer for the most trivial of cleaning jobs – e.g. washing dishes. But one thing you may not know is that a garden hose running from an outdoor tap uses way, WAY more water. For comparison, the average GPM of a standard garden hose in the US is between 20 and 24 GPM. The worst thing is that the spout shoots water at a rate of less than 60 PSI. Remember how we called a pressure washer an investment? You’re basically cutting your water bill by a whole lot if you get an electric pressure washer for your home.
So there you have it, ladies and gentlemen. A “good” PSI rating of a pressure washer depends on what you determine is “good.” It all comes down to what you want to spray-clean. For residential use, we recommend sticking to an electric pressure washer since, with the right accessories, you can clean patios, driveways, and even the windows of your home without running the risk of blasting them to smithereens.