a pressure washer cleaning an ATV
Photo by Rocío Núñez Shea

My husband wanted a pressure washer to clean our nasty chicken coop. I told him we needed to save the $400. What he really needed was a bottle of bleach, some elbow grease and to quit complaining. He fired back a few days later with a very long list of things around our homestead that a pressure washer could fix. I gave in, and I’m glad I did. Our gas-powered, 3,100-pounds-per-square-inch (psi) Generac has been a time saver, and it’s fun to boot. If you’re on the fence, let Mr. Shea’s words persuade you.

Selecting the Best Pressure Washer

So, you’ve been convinced you need a pressure washer. Now the real decisions happen. Like most big purchases, selecting the right power washer comes down to three things. Function, the job you need it to accomplish, and price. Here are the questions you need to ask, along with some info to help you answer them.

Hot or Cold?

Hot-water power washers are standard equipment at big farms and trucking companies. The near-boiling water cuts grease and oil and is ideal for cleaning a tractor and implements or sterilizing a chicken coop without chemical agents. But hot-water washers are very expensive, starting around $2,500. They’re also bigger than cold-water units. They may require a tractor to move around. And they can be harder to maintain. A quality cold-water washer can cost as little as $400. That’s a huge price leap for hot-water models and might not be worth it for the small farm or homestead.

Gas or Electric?

If you opted for a cold-water washer, the next choice is the power behind all that water. Either a gas or electric motor. Electric models can be easier to start. They are often smaller, so a person with limited or weakened mobility may be able to run one. Gas washers are nosier (you’ll want to use ear protection) but have much more cleaning power. Water pressure is measured in psi, and a typical electric model might run 1,300 to 2,000 psi, while many gas units run at 3,100 psi or higher. As Consumer Reports put it, “Gas models were up to 10 times faster at stripping paint off vinyl siding” in a test used to simulate tough stains.

What’s the Job?

For light duties around the house, like washing a car or cleaning a small deck, an electric washer in the $200 range is probably enough. But if you also expect it to deep-clean animal stalls and machinery and clean up big decks, long fences or the whole house or barn before a fresh coat of paint, more power is better. That said, even a 2,000-psi washer can chip paint off a car or house if the wrong nozzle is used, so spend some time acquainting yourself with your new tool before you jump in and inadvertently sandblast your nice truck.

Here’s the bottom line: For farm and homestead work, go gas and get as many psis as you can afford.

A Must-Have Tool

Our Generac comes with a battery and charger. Just charge the battery and attach it to the gas pressure washer, and it’ll start with the push of a button, like a new car. It has a standard pull-start, but I liked the e-start option so I can get it running in the cold weather when my husband isn’t home. The 3,100-psi water pressure was enough to clean up our neglected chicken coop and was more than enough for pre-cleaning our big wrap-around deck before staining. This model comes with four different nozzles and has a power-control dial on the wash wand, making it very easy to customize the amount of water and power to fit each job. It also has a detergent tank, which is great when washing the cars, and a vertical cam pump that makes setup and storage for the winter a breeze.

This article is from the summer 2019 issue of The New Pioneer Magazine. Grab your copy at OutdoorGroupStore.com.

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