So, you finally set out to buy a pressure washer. After spending a few hours doing research one thing will become very clear to you, and that’s the eternal dilemma “do I get an electric or gas-powered unit”?
While both do pretty much the same thing, they look and function in different ways, not to mention the fact that price makes a difference as well.
When it comes to pure pressure, electric units have an upper limit of about 2000 PSI. This is because you can only get so much out of a 15-amp electric motor. Usually, the numbers are in the ballpark of 1500 to 1800 PSI, but that’s pretty much it.
Despite the power delivery there are several types of motors electric pressure washers have. For instance, you can get induction motors which are water-cooled because they circulate it around the engine before releasing it through the hose. Also, some feature axial cam design pumps while the more expensive (and heavy-duty) models have triplex plunger pumps.
As far as gas-powered pressure washers are concerned even the cheapest models beat the amount of PSI most electric pressure washers offer (at least on paper). With a gas-powered unit you’re usually looking at something between 2000 and 2500 PSI at the bottom end of the market.
Most models produce around 2800 PSI, and there are even some high-end models that deliver 4000 or more. I have come across some commercial-grade gas-powered pressure washers that churn out a massive 7000 PSI, but these are strictly for professionals.
Water Flow Ratings
Once again, gas-powered pressure washers have the upper hand here. Electric pressure washers generally deliver around 1.4 to 1.5 GPM, and you would be hard pressed to find a model which delivers more than that. I was a bit puzzled by this since it is possible to get more out of electric pressure washers. I suspect it’s because more GPM would require the use of more expensive materials, and that would drive the price up.
Gas-powered pressure washers deliver more than 1.5 GPM, although there are some units that deliver the same. However, in most cases gas pressure washers churn out about 2.5 GPM or more. They also feature stronger engines, heavy-duty pumps, brass parts instead of plastic and steel-threaded hoses all of which can handle massive water flow.
First of all, if you want a power washer for indoor use, electric is the way to go because gas produces potentially harmful fumes. However, most people buy a washer for outdoor use and there is no clear winner in this category.
Electric pressure washers have the edge when it comes to dimensions, weight, maintenance and ease of use. They are small, light, and a breeze to use. The only limiting factor when it comes to their portability is the fact they have to be hooked up to a source of electricity. Electric pressure washers are also clear winners when it comes to indoor use since they don’t produce any harmful fumes. They’re also much quieter.
On the other hand, gas-powered pressure washers are more durable so you don’t have to worry about replacing stuff like brass quick-connect couplers. Electric models use plastic ones which have to be replaced more often. It is also pretty much the same story when it comes to hoses.
Gas-powered pressure washers lose when it comes to powering up because they have manual starters. This means you have to tug the rope to get it to work, much like you would when starting a lawnmower. On the plus side, they are more stable and durable. However, you do need to change the oil and air filter.
Diesel/Kerosene/Electric Pressure Washer
These pressure washers use diesel or kerosene to heat up water, and electricity to power the unit itself. They are mostly used by professionals as they have the ability to clean surfaces using steam. Technically, electricity could be used to heat up water, but it would take a long time and would be very inefficient hence the hybrid design
Obviously I can’t tell you which one is better because it’s not that simple. Electric pressure washers have the upper hand when it comes to low price, compact dimensions, small weight, nearly zero maintenance and ease of use. They can also be used indoors.
On the other hand, gas-powered pressure washers are much more powerful and feature heavy-duty parts.
My advice is to first establish what type of jobs you want to do with a pressure washer. The only thing I will re-iterate is if you need to use one indoors electric is the way to go, but only because of the safety factor. For everything-else, it’s a matter of personal preference (and budget).