Water Works: How to Pick the Perfect Pressure Washer

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Old Man Winter is once again leaving us with a year's worth of salt, grit and grime. Tom Kraueter, co-host of the Money Pit radio show, offers some advice on how to blast away the past with the help of a pressure washer.

Every year, homeowners inherit a lifetime of salt, dirt and grit from Old Man Winter.

With a power washer, you can spend more time admiring your work than doing it.

"A pressure washer basically transforms an ordinary garden hose from a slow-moving stream to a canyon-cleaning river," said Tom Kraeutler, host of the nationally syndicated Money Pit radio show.

Finding a selection of pressure washers is easy. Selecting the right pressure washer, however, requires a little background.

Kraeutler recommends focusing on the "Three Ps" when shopping for a pressure washer - Water Pressure, Gallons Per Minute (GPM) and Price.

Water Pressure

How much water pressure you'll need depends on what you are trying to accomplish. For example, a typical garden hose emits 40 pounds per square inch (PSI) of water pressure.

"A garden hose can wash away winter dirt and dust, but it doesn't pack enough power to actually clean anything. You still have to resort to old-fashioned elbow grease if you want your car or home to shine," said Kraeutler.

The most basic light-duty (1300-2000 PSIs) pressure washer is 30 times more powerful and just as versatile as a garden hose. It can clean cars, boats, patio furniture, siding and sidewalks with less time, effort and water.

According to Kraeutler, you'll need a medium-duty (2000-2600 PSIs) unit if you plan to blast away grease and grime or a heavy-duty (2,700-4,000 PSI) model if you plan to remove stubborn concrete stains or strip surfaces for repainting or restaining.

Gallons Per Minute

According to Jon Hoch, founder of Pressure Washers Direct.com (http://www.pressurewashersdirect.com), pressure washer shoppers sometime focus too much attention on PSIs and overlook another key acronym - GPM or Gallons Per Minute.

PSI will help you break the chemical bond between the cleaning surface and the dirt. Once the bond is broken, the extra PSI does little to speed up the cleaning time.

As a general rule, the larger the GPM, the more surface area a pressure washer can clean. For example, a 2000-PSI model with a 2 GPM flow rate can clean approximately 5-7 square feet in one minute. On the other hand, if the same model had a 3 GPM flow rate, it could clean 8-10 square feet in the same amount of time.

"If you have a couple of mid-sized jobs, you'll definitely appreciate a larger unit with additional cleaning power," said Hoch. "You can't expect to clean large areas in a reasonable timeframe using a high-pressured water pick."

The Price is Right

The final thing to consider is the price, according to Kraeutler. Pressure washers can range from about $100 to more than $2,000. With proper research, homeowners can find the right pressure washer that fits their budget.

Kraeutler recommends starting at PressureWashersDirect.com (http://www.pressurewashersdirect.com) - an online pressure washer superstore. The Web site carries more than 60 pressure washers from the leading manufacturers and provides useful search tools, helping homeowners sort models by brand, style, price and PSI.

PressureWashersDirect.com ships the products for free directly from the factory to the customer's door, resulting in discounted prices.

"Purchasing a pressure washer online is a great way to save," said Kraeutler. "You don't have to pay sales tax. Plus, you don't even have to leave home to start your spring cleaning."

Pressure Washers Direct (http://www.pressurewashersdirect.com) is an online pressure washer superstore owned and operated by Power Equipment Direct, Inc. The company also maintains Electric Generators Direct (http://www.electricgeneratorsdirect.com) and Air Compressors Direct (http://www.aircompressorsdirect.com).

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Jon Hoch