New-Generation Pressure Washers

The latest electric pressure washers deliver more water pressure than ever before, but experts tell us that such models still are best suited to light tasks. Meanwhile, manufacturers added electronic push-button start and adjustable pressure control to gasoline models.

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When it comes to pounds per square inch (psi) of water pressure, electric pressure washers slowly are catching up to their gasoline- powered counterparts. We found three electric pressure washers (starting at $269) that deliver a maximum of 2,200 psi, compared with a maximum of 1,800 psi before. (Economy gasoline pressure washers typically produce 2,000–2,400 psi.)

Six experts tell Consumers Digest that the increase in water pressure shows that manufacturers are finding ways to tweak the motor that’s in their electric pressure washers to make it more powerful. However, experts tell us that the extra water pressure doesn’t mean that electric pressure washers now can handle tasks that they couldn’t handle before. Regardless of whether they have 1,400 psi or 2,200 psi, experts say, electric pressure washers are best suited to light tasks, such as cleaning automobiles, boats and recreational vehicles, because those pressure washers typically have a water-flow rate of 2.0 gallons per minute (gpm) or less. Gasoline pressure washers typically deliver at least 2.5 gpm of water pressure. That means that gasoline models shoot out enough water at enough pressure so you can remove oil stains from concrete and strip the paint off a fence.

“I’d rather have 1,800 psi and 4.0 gpm than 2,200 psi and 2.0 gpm,” says Kyle Ballweg of Clear Vision Cleaning, which is a cleaning service. “If they’re not pumping up the gpm, too, they’re not doing a whole lot for me as far as efficiency and quickness.”

Will manufacturers introduce electric pressure washers that deliver additional water flow? It doesn’t seem as though they can do that by tweaking the motor. Experts tell us that electric pressure washers can’t deliver much more than 2,200 psi or 2.0 gpm, because they already pull 12–14.5 amps, and most consumers have 15-amp outlets on the exterior of their home.

Amid the slight bump in psi, we also saw more manufacturers introduce electric pressure washers. Briggs & Stratton, Greenworks and Ryobi each added their first line of electric pressure washers.

RUNNING SMOOTHLY. In the past 4 years, four manufacturers introduced gasoline pressure washers (starting at $449) that have electronic push-button start instead of pull-cord start. Obviously, it’s much easier to push a button to turn on a pressure washer, turn it off and turn it on again, than it is to pull the starter cord on a conventional gasoline pressure washer. Ramon Burke of cleaning service Spray Wash Exterior Cleaning tells us that having push-button start also prevents an engine from overheating. He says he has heard of consumers trying to avoid using a pull start over and over, so they’ll leave a pressure washer running in between jobs, instead of turning it off.

“Having the starter technology to turn the machine off when you’re done and make it easier to turn it back on is one of the smartest things that manufacturers could have done,” Burke says. “People crank their pressure washer up, wash, set their gun down with the engine still going, and the pumps get overheated.”

Five experts tell us that they expect push-button start to become more common in the next 4 years and to trickle down to models that cost $400.

Briggs & Stratton, which added its first gasoline pressure washer that has push-button start in January 2017, uses the same push-button technology that it introduced 3 years ago in its lawnmower engines. That isn’t all that the company adapted for its pressure washers from its lawnmower engines. In January 2017, Briggs & Stratton also introduced three gasoline pressure washers (starting at $299) that have an engine that doesn’t require an oil change, according to the company. You should keep in mind that the oil level still must be checked and topped off, if necessary. However, Briggs & Stratton says the engine has a cooling fan and an overhead-valve design that reduce the oil temperature by about 10 degrees Fahrenheit and prevent the oil from breaking down into sludge. The engine also has a paper air filter, which prevents debris and dirt from fouling the oil.

We’ve used Briggs & Stratton engines that don’t require an oil change in pressure washers and lawnmowers, and we found that they were easy to use. When the feature was added to lawnmower engines in 2015, we wondered whether the lawnmower engine’s durability would be compromised. None of the pressure-washers experts whom we interviewed echoes that concern regarding pressure washers. In fact, every expert wonders when other engine manufacturers would add the technology. We haven’t heard of any other manufacturer that plans to do so.

ON THE FLY. In the past 2 years, most manufacturers introduced a feature that makes a pressure washer’s water pressure easier to adjust. Adjustable pressure control, which allows you to change the pressure of the sprayer without changing nozzles, can be found on premium and midrange electric and gasoline models that start at $449. Generac was the first manufacturer that introduced adjustable pressure control in a consumer model in 2013, and the feature has spread throughout the market.

We like this feature, because it allows us to move quickly between jobs: cleaning a deck, patio furniture, an automobile and a concrete sidewalk all in one afternoon. It also allows us to turn up the pressure easily to target tough oil stains and paint spots.

In other words, it saves a lot of time.

Chuck Bowen has written about outdoor power equipment for 9 years.

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