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There are two main types of pressure washer available: electric-corded models that are generally suited to light maintenance and cleaning tasks around the home; and petrol-driven models which are more powerful but cost a lot more to buy and are mainly designed for industrial and heavy-duty use. Here we'll be concentrating only on the more affordable electric type designed for general household use.

The cleaning power of an electric pressure washer is measured in terms of PSI (pounds per square inch) and GPM (gallons per minute). PSI refers to the amount of pressure the water flow from the nozzle can generate, and GPM refers to the amount of water that flows through the unit itself. Washers rated at 1300-2200 PSI are enough to clean your car or get the algae off a small patio, while units rated at 2200-3000 PSI can handle tougher jobs like cleaning grime off the side of buildings, or preparing large surfaces for painting, etc. However, a PSI rating alone will not make cleaning easier unless combined with a reasonably high GPM, as the more water flows through the unit, the more efficiently it can clean. Some manufactures now combine their PSI and GPM figures into 'cleaning units (CU or UCE), which is the water pressure multiplied by the water flow, so the higher this number is, the more powerful in real terms the machine will be.

Small, hand-carried electric washers usually come with 'universal', or brush-based, motors that can handle most jobs around the home and are now fairly inexpensive to buy. So, if you only plan on using your washer every now and then, this is the type to go for, especially as they tend to be much lighter and easier to move around. But if you plan to use your washer more often, or for more arduous cleaning, then look at models with 'induction', or brushless, motors, which although more expensive, last a lot longer and are normally the heart of larger, more powerful machines that can tackle far tougher tasks than washers with universal motors.

Another consideration is that 'universal' models tend not to feature a built-in detergent tank that can add a measured dosage of special pressure washer detergent to the spray â?? you have to attach a bottle to the end and sort of 'guesstimate' how much to add, while most good induction models will have an integrated detergent tank on the unit itself, which you just fill up with the fluid as it needs it. If you're cleaning a filthy driveway, for instance, then a controlled dosage of detergent will produce far better results in a much shorter time than water alone, or by trying to regulate the detergent usage yourself.

Finally, look for a model that features a range of attachments that fit on the nozzle end to make different tasks easier. These include rotary brushes, water brooms and 'pinpoint' lances to concentrate the water flow still further for tougher jobs. You're unlikely to find much more than a basic water lance in the box with the cheapest of models, though, so check to see if they make aftermarket attachments that you can easily purchase as required.

Author R. Germain
date added Wed 19 08 2009

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